Jeff Van Havel tells of Iraq experiences

Written by David Green.

Did you shoot rubber bullets?

By DAVID GREEN

Most of the time when Jeff Van Havel goes to work, he pilots a 727 airliner fitted for cargo delivery for United Parcel Service.

“It’s overnight delivery for UPS,” he told Morenci’s first grade students last Thursday morning. “We fly packages all night long.”

van-havel-visiting But every now and then, he gets a call from the U.S. Air Force and then he’s flying a  totally different aircraft with an entirely new mission.

That’s what happened a few weeks ago when Major Van Havel was called to duty in the Middle East.

“My friends and I were almost on the other side of the world,” he said. “We shot and bombed the Iraqi army most every day for two months.”

“Did you shoot rubber bullets?” asked a first grader.

It was the real thing, he explained. They fired depleted uranium bullets.

“Did they shoot at you?” a student wondered.

“I think I got shot at more than anyone in my squadron,” he answered. “There were four missiles shot at me and hundreds of rounds of bullets.”

However, it was two other members of his group that were shot down. Neither of the pilots was injured.

“Who won?” a student asks.

“Military, we won,” answered the guest. “The hard part is to make peace after the war. Did we win the fight and get what we wanted? It will take years to know.”

“Did you go to bed in Iraq?”

Major Van Havel explained that most of his flights were out of Kuwait, but for 10 days he lived at a captured air base in Iraq.

“It was dry and dirty. There was no running water, no electricity, 100° outside,” he said. “We pretty much lived in tents.”

“Did you have mines?” asked a youngster.

The major explained that as a member of the Air Force, he wasn’t on the ground much, but that wasn’t the case when he fought in Afghanistan. There were still areas not cleared of mines in that country, and some fighting went on quite close to his base.

“How do you take off?” asks a young scientist.

“It’s a matter of physics,” he responded, and attempted to explain the principle of thrust to seven-year-olds.

Someone wanted to know what the world looks like from a jet fighter.

“At night,” he said, “it almost looks like a giant black and white map,” as streets and cities are illuminated.

Special goggles are worn to assist night vision, and pilots often use binoculars to home in on targets. Otherwise, they have to fly low and risk attack from the ground.

van-havel-reading Van Havel said he called home most every day to talk with his wife, Teresa, and his three children—first, by using his cell phone, and later, through the military phone system once it was put back into operation after the early days of the battle.

Major Van Havel was introduced to a first grade student named Justice Richardson, whose father is about to be called to duty.

“I know you’re going to miss him,” Van Havel said, “but you should be really proud of him.”

Van Havel looked at the cards made by students and he said how much cards and letters mean to a soldier stationed away from home.

He wrapped up his visit by telling the students what he expected from them in the future.

“We live in a rich, free country where we can speak our minds,” he said, “but it doesn’t mean it will always stay that way. Some day it will be your responsibility. When I’m an old man, I want you guys to protect me.”


- May 28, 2003

  • Front.pokemon
    LATEST CRAZE—David Cortes (left) and Ty Kruse, along with Jerred Heselschwerdt (standing), consult their smartphones while engaging in the game of Pokémon Go. The virtual scavenger hunt comes to life when players are in the vicinity of gyms, such as Stair District Library, and PokéStops such as the fire station across the street. The boys had spent time Monday morning searching for Pokémon at Wakefield Park.
  • Front.drum
    on your mark, get set, drum!—Drew Joughin (black shirt), Maddox Joughin and Kaleea Braun took the front row last week when Angela Rettle and assistants led the Stair District Library Summer Reading Program kids in a session of cardio drumming. The sports and healthy living theme continued yesterday with a Mini Jamboree at Lake Hudson State Park arranged by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Next week’s program features the Flying Aces Frisbee show.
  • Girls.on.ride
    NADIYA YORK and Aniston Valentine take a spin on the Casino, one of the rides offered at Wakefield Park during Morenci’s Town and Country Festival. This year’s festival remained dry but with plenty of heat during the three-day run. Additional photographs are inside this week’s Observer.
  • Front.softball
    Angela Davis (2) and teammate Allison VanBrandt break into a jig after Morenci's softball team won its third consecutive regional title.
  • Front.art.park
    ART PARK—A design created by Poggemeyer Design Group shows a “pocket art park” in the green space south of the State Line Observer building. The proposal includes a 12-foot sculpture based on a design created by Morenci sixth grade student Klara Wesley through a school and library collaboration. A wooden band shell is located at the back of the lot. The Observer wall would be covered with a synthetic stucco material. City council members are considering ways to fund the estimated $125,000 project and perhaps tackling construction one step at a time.
  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.soccer.balls
    BEVY OF BALLS—Stair District Library Summer Reading Program VolunTeens, including Libby Rorick, back left and Ty Kruse, back right, threw a dozen inflatable soccer balls into the crowd during a reading of “Sergio Saves the Game.” The sports-themed program continues on Wednesdays through July 27.
  • Front.art.park
  • Front.drum
  • Shadow.salon

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