While it’s appropriate to thank service members for their sacrifices, it is also important to acknowledge their varying stories and see them not as one entity, but as individuals who left a lot behind to serve our country. In celebration of National Veterans and Military Families Month, we spoke to local service members from different walks of life. These are their stories.
Joseph D. Bublick
Special Forces U.S. Air Force Officer
Commissioned August 8, 2003
& 180th Air National Guard
Joseph Bublick was first interested in joining the military due to his natural inclination to serve others, as well as his “curiosity” (as he puts it), and a deep sense of gratitude.
“I’d always felt I had some sort of debt to repay because I had such a good life,” he said. “I wanted to do my part.”
With the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001, Bublick was eager to serve, so he resumed the training to become an Air Force officer that he had put on hold while attending Bowling Green State University.
In 2009, four months after the birth of his first son, Bublick was deployed to Iraq. “It was very difficult leaving him as a new baby,” he says, but it wasn’t as difficult as leaving his son as a toddler when he had more of an understanding of what was going on. Bublick returned home after serving in Iraq, and was then deployed a second time, allowing him only two days to say goodbye to his family before undertaking a Special Forces mission, which didn’t permit him to say where he was going or what he’d be doing.
“We were flying over Libya, helping the rebels march to the capital to get rid of Gaddafi,” Bublick recalls. “We went over there, did our jobs, and came home. Then it was time to think about my future.”
After returning from those missions, Bublick joined the Air National Guard in Swanton. His work there offered a much slower pace than his service as an officer in the Special Forces, where he had been assigned to lead a few hundred troops. He is proud of his service, but happy to now be working in the civilian sector— he is the owner of Bublick Construction, Inc., a family business his father had wanted him to take over for years.
“As my kids get older, they ask more questions” about his service, he says, adding that he has always hoped his children and future generations won’t have to put their lives on the line. One of his favorite quotes is by Thomas Paine: “If there is going to be trouble, let it be in my day so that my children may know peace.”
“I had the opportunity to be part of things that my kids will read about in history books.” says Bublick. “A lot of people don’t get to say that.”
Air Force Fighter Pilot
Served in 180th Air National Guard
from 1993 to 2018
When Rebecca Ohm first joined the 180th Air National Guard in 1993, women weren’t allowed to fly in combat. Even so, she didn’t give up on her dream of being a fighter pilot. When the ban was lifted the following year, she interviewed to fly F16s— also known as Vipers— and was told that she’d likely be an alternate. To her surprise, she received a call saying she had earned a primary slot. She served as crew chief until 1997, then began flying jets.
Ohm says that one misconception about the Guard is that they don’t ever go anywhere. “It’s so untrue,” she says. “If something were to happen, we get ready to deploy, and both full and part-timers go into combat.”
After training in Mississippi and Arizona, Ohm found herself being deployed to several locations, three of which were combat missions in war zones— in Northern and Southern Iraq no fly zones, along with being a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005 after the U.S. took control on the ground.
“It was a lot different,” Ohm says of her final combat deployment. “We flew over Iraq to help the guys on the ground, which was our primary mission— to help those who were trying to make a difference.”
Ohm and her husband, John, have three children, and they own Flying Joe Coffee in Levis Commons. She remembers how difficult it was after the two of them decided to start a family, considering that she was a fighter pilot.
“You can’t fly from the minute you find out you’re pregnant. It was a difficult process. I was the first female fighter pilot at the base, and I went through that in front of lots of men,” she says with a laugh. “They didn’t know how to handle it, and neither did I.”
From carrying a business through the recession to raising a family and surviving cancer, Ohm feels that her experience in the military has guided her in how she handles many aspects of her life. She first felt called to join when her high school invited an Air Force cadet to talk about his experiences.
“It sounded amazing to me— serving for a bigger purpose other than yourself,” says Ohm, who retired last year after 25 years, inviting her employees and some friends to see her final flight at the 180th base. She even brought a couple of them into the air with her. She feels that, if all civilians could witness a day in the life of someone in the service, it would build a greater understanding of what the job entails.
“Just to see the environment we’re in, to see a day in our lives— that would be something really special for anyone who hasn’t served.”
Theodore Joseph Douglas Blanford
Master Sergeant with
Michigan National Guard— 1988-2012
How and where did you serve? My military career spanned over 22 Years, beginning in Fort Rucker Alabama in a special class of enlisted flight students and completed as a Master Sergeant with the Michigan National guard. I participated in Desert Storm/Shield with C TRP 1/17 (air) Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division flying the OH-58D Kiawa Warrior scout helicopter as an Aeroscout Observer. I earned two air medals and several other awards.
I had a mission and occupation change to Medical Lab Specialist through George Washington University School of Medicine Lab Sciences, where I operated as NCOIC of Autopsy services for the 121 General Hospital USFK South Korea.
My third mission and occupation change came as I transitioned from active Army to the Ohio National Guard, serving a year in OIF 2004-2005 as a platoon sergeant B Co. 216th Engineer BN. I was also the training and vertical construction/tactical advisor for route clearance to ensure troop safety and civilian transport throughout the region.
As a platoon sergeant with the 1434th Engineer Co. attached to the 101st Engineer Battalion from 2009 to 2010, I had my final tour into combat with my platoon. We focused on bridge and tactical construction for operation facilities inside the area of Operation Baghdad. I retired in February 2012.
What inspired you to enlist? My inspiration to serve came from my family tradition. My father and uncle were both soldiers, and both had special careers. My uncle Raymond earning the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest award a soldier can earn. He was a true hero in every sense of the word. Several books have been written about how he commanded and earned his legend and call sign “Shotgun 6.” My father rose in rank from private to colonel without a high school diploma. Both men served with distinction, and I wanted to honor them with my service.
Are there any moments that stand out to you most? I had many memorable moments in my military career. One of the most impactful was sitting in the cockpit running up for a mission with my pilot and platoon leader, Eric Waldorf, and him looking over to me and asking, “Are you scared?” I paused and smiled and said, “No sir, we are the best at this, and I am flying with you.” I meant it. I knew in my heart that what we were doing was good, and we were good at it. I trusted that man with my life, and he felt the same about me. It changed the way I look at people, even today.
One thing that you wish civilians understood: What I did was my choice, and I appreciate their saying “thank you.” But what I really want to do is thank them for being the Americans that deserve those who risk their lives. And I expect them to live up to the service members’ expectations.
Served in U.S. Navy Reserve from 1993-2015
Timothy Jon Stratton has always had the greatest respect for the military and has many family members who have served, including his father during World War II. He’d always been interested in joining the service but enlisted relatively late in life at 33 years old.
“I knew that I wanted to be a police officer, and that I wanted to get married, so it just didn’t have the draw for me at that time,” he says of his post-ROTC days at the University of Toledo. After working as a police officer in Maumee for 11 years, he learned that the Navy Reserve had a program for people with more developed skill sets— people his age. He embarked on a fast-track boot camp followed by an eight-year commitment to the Navy Reserve.
“That commitment expired in April 2001, so I could walk away when the coast was clear,” Stratton recalls. “For some reason I thought, ‘I’m going to play this by ear.’” He decided to commit to 20 years instead of stopping at eight.
“I stuck with it, and 9/11 happened a few months later.” Being in the Reserves, he wasn’t sure if he’d ever be deployed, but he knew immediately on that day that his call would come soon, and he was right. By the end of September, he found himself in Egypt training with Special Forces troops.
Stratton came back home for a couple of years before doing the first of three tours in Iraq in 2004. His tours there involved training Iraqis— assisting them in their everyday lives through the development of infrastructure and rebuilding.
“I never looked back or wished I’d walked away when I could have,” he says. Stratton found himself seeing the full span of the war in Iraq, from the more offensive years, to the defensive ones when “we were letting them [the Iraqi troops] resolve the differences. I was at the end of things,” Stratton says. “I saw the war basically kick off and then wind down.”
Throughout all of his time in the Reserve, even during these active duty times, he was able to continue employment with the Maumee Police Department, where he worked for 35 years before retiring.
One of the most impactful moments Stratton can recall of his 22 years in the service was when he got to swear his son into the Navy. His son graduated from Maumee High School in 2008 and was not deterred by the fact that there was a war going on. “I thought, you don’t have to do this— no one’s making you,” Stratton recalls. “I was so proud that he did that.”
United States Navy 2005 through 2010
How and where did you serve? I was stationed on the USS Theodore Roosevelt but did voluntary deployments on other ships, such as the USS Bainbridge and USS Carl Vinson. I was a radar operator, air combat controller, and I had many other collateral duties such as community relations and mentorship.
What inspired you to enlist? Initially, I just wanted to serve because I didn’t really love school, and I knew that I wanted to get out of the small-town environment and spread my wings. I truly wanted to travel and, by enlisting, I visited more than 20 countries by the time I was 22 years old.
Are there any moments that stand out to you most? A really impactful moment that is probably still the best moment of my life to date (other than being a parent) would be stepping off the ship after a nine-month appointment to the Middle East. There were more than 10,000 people cheering for us, holding signs and balloons, cheerleaders and marching bands. Knowing my family was somewhere out there waiting for me— and knowing that I was finally done with the most grueling deployment— I was so proud that I got to be a part of something so big.
Serving in a humanitarian relief deployment was pretty incredible also. We arrived in Haiti 16 hours after the earthquake in 2010 and, although it was pretty traumatic, it was also powerful to be part of a mission that was helping people who literally lost everything.
One thing that you wish civilians understood: When you serve, it changes you forever. In many cases, military qualifications mean absolutely nothing in the civilian world. For instance, somebody could be a combat medic which quite literally is like a doctor in a frontline mission saving limbs, treating gaping chest wounds, and saving people‘s lives (while being unable to save others), but not even be considered a STNA when they discharge. The other thing that most people just don’t get is that female veterans generally do not get the same amount of respect or gratitude that our male counterparts receive.