Steamboat veterans recount service | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat veterans recount service

Jim Patterson

Editor’s note: This article has been updated.

In the simplest possible terms, Veterans Day is defined as a holiday set aside each Nov. 11 to honor the men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces.

But sacrifice is hardly ever a simple affair.

The stories of how veterans found themselves willing to sacrifice so much for the nation they love are as varied as their recollections of the things they experienced while making those sacrifices.

Some volunteered; others were drafted; still others were drafted and then volunteered.

Some saw combat; some were spared. Some made and lost cherished friends along the way, and some returned to their homeland and the prospect of an ordinary life, only to find reintegrating themselves into the society they'd fought to protect was a daunting prospect.

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Different people with different stories. But each of them answered a common call — to serve.

Tony Weiss, U.S. Army, 1990 to 1994

Originally from Nebraska, Tony Weiss, operations manager for Ferrellgas, moved to Steamboat Springs in 1988, just before his senior year in high school. After graduating from Steamboat Springs High School, he enlisted in the U.S. Army in January 1990.

Veterans Day observances

All veterans are invited to all events

• 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. — Annual Veterans Day Breakfast: VFW Hall, 924 Lincoln Ave.

• 11:15 to 11:45 a.m. — Visitation with veterans: Doak Walker House in the Casey’s Pond Senior Living Center,

• 9:30 a.m. — Annual Veterans Day program: South Routt Elementary School, Oak Creek

• 9:30 a.m. — Veterans Day program: Soda Creek Elementary School

• 2:30 p.m. — Veterans Day program: Strawberry Park Elementary School

Coming from a military family — his father served in the Army and his uncle was a U.S. Marine sniper in Vietnam — Weiss said enlisting was something he'd always wanted to do.

"I always wanted to serve my country … and I wanted to do something hard," he said.

Weiss left Steamboat for basic training and Airborne School in Fort Benning, Georgia, after which he was stationed in Genhausen, Germany, where he remained until late 1990, when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded neighboring Iraq, setting the stage for the first Gulf War.

"It was actually on my (19th) birthday, Dec. 20, 1990, we arrived in Saudi Arabia," he recalled.

Having grown up in the northern United States, Weiss said the blisteringly hot days and unexpectedly cool nights of Saudi Arabia required something of an adjustment.

"It was a little shocking," he said. "Scary, and exciting … a little of all that wrapped up into one.

Weiss was stationed with the Third Armored Division, Fourth Battalion, 18th Infantry, and he remained in Saudi about six months. During that time, he saw one major battle, a fierce engagement with the Tawakalna Republican guard that continued for more than 18 hours.

Part of a mortar platoon, Weiss described his role as "indirect fire," similar to artillery, but at closer quarters.

"We were 200 yards away, so we were pretty close," he recalled

Up until that battle, Weiss said, engagements had involved mostly "stragglers."

"We would just basically take their weapons away, if they had any weapons, and just send them walking. … It wasn't even worth our time to mess with them, because they weren't wanting to fight or anything," Weiss said.

Weiss left the Middle East in May 1991 and was reassigned back to Germany.

"They were downsizing units in Europe at that time, especially in Germany, and they shut a lot of the bases down, so then I got sent over the the 82nd Airborne in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where I spent the next 2 1/2 years jumping out of airplanes,” Weiss said. “That was a good experience; that was a lot of fun.

Weiss was discharged Jan. 30, 1994, and returned to Steamboat, where he married Tanya, his wife of 24 years.

The Weisses have two daughters, Courtnee, 19, who is in her second year of college, and Shelbee, 14, who is a student at Steamboat Springs High School.

Upon returning to Steamboat, Weiss graduated from the law enforcement training academy and served for 10 years with the Routt County Sheriff's Office. He is now operations manager at Ferrellgas, where a large percentage of the employees are veterans.

"We like to mostly hire veterans," Weiss said. "We're over 50 percent veterans here at Ferrellgas in Steamboat.”

Mike Arroyo, United States Navy, 1965 to 1969

Besides his father and uncle, Weiss has another family connection to the military, this one through marriage rather than blood. His wife's father, Mike Arroyo, a Steamboat native, served in the U.S. Navy from 1965 through 1969, the core years of the Vietnam War.

But unlike his son-in-law, Arroyo was the first member of his family to join the military, and he didn't enter voluntarily — at least not at first.

"I got drafted," he said, "and I decided, well, you know what? I'm gonna go because I want to go and not because they want me to go, and so I went and joined the Navy."

Arroyo served as a gunner's mate on a Navy destroyer, completing three tours of duty in Vietnam from February to October 1966, August 1967 to May 1968 and October 1968 to August 1969.

Arroyo’s job was to take coordinates from the radar room, then aim and fire the gun, sometimes pinpointing targets as far as 10 miles away.

"You could sit in the middle of Steamboat Springs and pinpoint a target in Milner,” Arroyo explained. “10 miles, you might say."

His final two tours were aboard a PBR (Patrol Boat, River), clearing the way for supply boats delivering equipment and provisions to troops.

After being discharged in 1969 and returning to Steamboat, Arroyo didn't immediately move straight into a civilian role.

"I played for a few months," he said. "I had several job offers, but I told them, 'I just want to get my mind back together.' Then, … Peabody Coal Company got ahold of me and wanted me to work, and I was foreman at the mine for 31 years."

Though he retired from Peabody in 2002, Arroyo helps out two or three days per week at Ferrellgas, "just to give me something to do and get me out of my wife's hair," he said.

He has been married to his wife, Janet, for 43 years, and the couple has two daughters, Tanya, Weiss's wife, and Tara, as well as two granddaughters.

Tina Kyprios, U.S. Army, 1989 to 1992, active; 1992 to 2001, reserves:

Not all veterans saw combat, and not all are men.

Tina Kyprios, a native of upstate New York and a Steamboat resident since 2002, said she entered the military partly because her father and uncle had served, but mostly as a means to pay for college.

"My dad was Army and that was definitely a factor," she said. "But my family did not have money to pay for college, and I learned about the ROTC scholarship."

Though college tuition was the primary catalyst, Kyprios soon found much more.

"I grew to love ROTC very quickly and knew I wanted to go on active duty,” Kyprios said. “There were constant challenges — the camaraderie, the working together. I immediately built some lifelong friendships, because you have to figure things out together."

Kyprios was commissioned as a first lieutenant out of ROTC and entered officer basic training as military police.

"It's very interesting," she said. "The acronym of military police is 'multi-purpose,' because military police can go into all kinds of places without it being considered a combat operation."

In addition to providing base security, Kyprios said, MPs also perform convoy security, prisoner detail during combat operations and refugee processing, the last of which occupied much of her time while stationed in Germany.

"Probably one of the hardest things I ever did was when refugees (came in)," she recalled. "We had to clear all the refugees coming in. It's both a humanitarian issue and a security issue, because you have to find out if any of them are enemies. We had to clear them, and we're talking all the way from kids to adults."

Kyprios left active duty about a year after Desert Storm ended but continued for nine more years in the reserves, where she earned the rank of captain.

She acknowledged there were definite challenges associated with being a female in the military.

"I think you're constantly challenged, particularly in the military police … In terms of leadership. It's the same challenge for females as males,” Kyprios said. “But the physical challenges — just making sure you can keep up — that's different.

“But you know, that's why the 9mm and the M-16 are the great equalizers,” Kyprios continued. “If you can shoot good, you can shoot good; it doesn't matter how big or small you are. And I'm a good shot."

Honor veterans

What do veterans want on Veterans Day?

Despite their differences in life and experience, most offer a common answer.

"If they know a particular person is a veteran, just saying 'Thank you for your service,'" Weiss said. "That means a lot that they took time our of their day to acknowledge that you served."

Arroyo offered a similar reply:

"To me, it means thanking all the personnel that went into the service and gave years of their life to protect this country,” Arroyo said. “It's … a day to reflect back on the people that have lost their lives for this country.”

Kyprios echoed the sentiment.

"To me, it means honoring all who served,” Kyprios said. “We have folks right now in very dangerous places. There are people who are away from their families, who are giving up a lot, and doing it for a variety of reasons, but I think stepping up to serve in that role: I think those folks need to honored and thanked."

To reach Jim Patterson, call 970-871-4208, email jpatterson@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JimPatterson15

Veterans Day observances

All veterans are invited to all events

• 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. — Annual Veterans Day Breakfast: VFW Hall, 924 Lincoln Ave.

• 11:15 to 11:45 a.m. — Visitation with veterans: Doak Walker House in the Casey’s Pond Senior Living Center,

• 9:30 a.m. — Annual Veterans Day program: South Routt Elementary School, Oak Creek

• 9:30 a.m. — Veterans Day program: Soda Creek Elementary School

• 2:30 p.m. — Veterans Day program: Strawberry Park Elementary School