Former Green Beret is Memorial Day speaker

May 23, 2014
Lupe Rangel

Lupe Rangel

By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief. 

LUDINGTON —Memorial Day means many things to many people. Officially it’s a federal holiday set aside to remember the men and women who died while serving in the Armed Forces.

For Ludington veteran Lupe Rangel remembering those who died is a frequent occurrence. But, those memories escalate on Memorial Day. Lupe will be the keynote speaker in Monday’s Memorial Day service at Stearns Park. The service is organized by the Mason County Allied Veterans Council.

Lupe was 18-years-old when he joined the Army in 1992, just three months after graduating high school from Mason County Central. He eventually made his way into the Army Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets. He was assigned to the Special Forces First Battalion in Okinawa, Japan.

“We worked in southwest Asia,” he said. “Our work was counter intelligence, gathering intelligence, counter drugs and counter human trafficking. We worked a lot with the DEA and CIA.”

Lupe, 40, said Special Forces work differently than the regular Army.

“I think a lot of people don’t understand what the Green Berets do,” he said. “They are experts in guerrilla warfare. They go into countries as small units; four, maybe eight soldiers. They build a rapport with the locals. Often it’s a situation to disrupt a government.”

Most of the work of Special Forces don’t make the news. But, that doesn’t make the work any less important and certainly not any less dangerous.

“We did a lot of direct action work,” Lupe said. “We would go into a location and go after high valued targets.”

But, Lupe’s speech will not be a time to talk about himself. Instead, it will be a time to talk about others. Those who aren’t there. Those who paid the ultimate price. It will also be a time to talk to those who still struggle with war.

“I want to talk about how important it is for us to observe Memorial Day. I want to honor those who have died, especially those in the most recent conflicts. I feel Memorial Day means different things for different people, even among those who have been in the military or have had family in the military.

“For me, it’s a touchy subject,” Lupe said. “I lost a lot of very close friends during my time in the Army. These were people who were closer to me than my own brothers. I lost these friends in battle. There are times and days I remember them. In fact, I believe just remembering them is a way of honoring them and through honoring them they stay alive.”

Lupe also hopes to spread a message to those veterans still living. He wants to know that there is help for those who struggle with the memories of their experiences.

He said he understandings. Lupe served in the Army for 11 years. He was honorably discharged with the rank of E-7, SFC, Sgt. First Class. He and his wife, Ning, met when he was stationed in Thailand. When he left the service Lupe landed a dream job. He is a trumpet player and got a job as an instrument tester for Yamaha’s instrumental music plant in Grand Rapids. But, that job ended when the Japanese company decided to move the operation to another country.

After going through some different jobs, the family decided to move back to Mason County, where Lupe spent most of his childhood and where much of his family, including his parents and his sister and her family live.

Moving back to Ludington has helped him face his issues and also helped him understand that he can help others.

“I know that I’m not alone. I know that there are other veterans out there who live with these constant memories. I also know it’s not easy and if there is another point I can make on Monday, it is that those who face those issues are not alone.

“I think the most important thing I struggled with after coming home is this view point that nobody understands what I was going through. But, that’s not true. There are others out there who have done the same things, had the same experiences. Knowing this and understanding this can make the transition so much smoother. It’s tough and you feel like you are alone, but you’re not. There are people here in town willing to have you have for dinner and hash it out. It’s made me feel like I am much more a part of this community being involved with veterans groups, like the American Legion. That has been a tremendous help.”

For more information on Monday’s Memorial Day service in Ludington, click here. 


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