STOCKTON — Ted Salisbury and Jennifer Vollbrecht are living proof that military veterans come in all shapes, sizes, and genders.
He is a 94-year-old Stocktonian who earned three Purple Hearts during World War II and in Korea. She is a 31-year-old Mantecan who served in Iraq and became the one of the few women in the Marines to earn a Combat Crew Insignia.
The common thread between them is a love of the and pride in serving their country.
Vollbrecht and Salisbury participated in the ceremonial puck drop at the Stockton Heat’s annual Military Appreciation Night on Friday at the Stockton Arena. The event honors military personnel and their families and benefits the Welcome Home Heroes Foundation, an organization that helps local veterans readjust to civilian life after leaving the service.
Vollbrecht, who also made a television commercial for the event, said she enjoys coming to events that celebrate the military and looks forward to the chance to meet other veterans.
“It doesn’t matter what service or generation you are, as soon as you meet a veteran, you are connected,” Vollbrecht said. “It’s why I love coming to these things.”
Salisbury also enjoys a chance to get together with other veterans and said he appreciated the invitation. He still lives in Stockton and is in demand as a speaker at military-related events. He was the guest of honor at the Ball in Lake Tahoe in November. On Friday, he showed up on the ice in his dress blues.
“You bet I did. It’s a good excuse to pull them out,” Salisbury said with a laugh. “I’m honored.”
Salisbury, who grew up in Stockton, joined the Marines on Dec. 14, 1941, exactly a week after Pearl Harbor was attacked, drawing the United States into WWII. He’s very clear about the reason he enlisted.
“My country was attacked, and I wanted revenge,” Salisbury said. “I wanted to help.”
A gunnery sergeant and leader of a rifle squad, Salisbury participated in several major battles in the Pacific Theater — Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Guam and Iwo Jima, where he witnessed the famous raising of American Flag atop Mount Suribachi.
He was wounded by shrapnel at Guam and Iwo Jima, and of the nine members of his original rifle squad, he was the only survivor.
“I remember all their names, and I will never forget them as long as I live,” Salisbury said. “We were family, and then I was all by myself.”
He stayed in the Marine Reserves and was called back to active service in Korea, where he suffered an injured shoulder from a grenade explosion. When he left the service, he became a building contractor and he and his late wife, Patricia, raised three children.
“I always say the best thing about war is when it’s over,” Salisbury said. “It’s when you come home.”
His family was in attendance Friday, as was Vollbrecht’s family.
She grew up wanting to be a Marine and joined at the age of 18. She would go on to become the seventh woman to earn the status of helicopter crew chief and served as a mechanic and a door gunner in Iraq.
“I can’t describe the honor of wearing the uniform and earning the combat wings and the combat insignia,” Vollbrecht said. “It’s something that stays with you. There are no former Marines. You are always a Marine.”
She left the service in 2009 as a sergeant and works as a project manager at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories. Her husband, Nathan Vollbrecht, also served in the Marines and is a member of the Stockton Fire Department. They have two children.
Jennifer Vollbrecht said she attends about six Heat games a season and was asked to play a drill sergeant in the Heat commercial, screaming at players to pick up their workout routines.
“It was a ton of fun,” she said. “They were great, and they didn’t know what to do when I just started screaming at them.”
— Contact reporter Scott Linesburgh at (209) 546-8281 or email@example.com. Follow him at recordnet.com/sportsblog and on Twitter @ScottLinesburgh.
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