Chief Warrant Officer 5 Terry Rollie, a Wykoff native, addressed the crowd during the Wykoff Veterans Memorial Park groundbreaking. PAULA BARNESS/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Terry Rollie, a Wykoff native, addressed the crowd during the Wykoff Veterans Memorial Park groundbreaking. PAULA BARNESS/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE

Wykoff native Chief Warrant Officer 5 Terry Rollie was the featured speaker as the Wykoff Veterans Memorial Park Committee held a groundbreaking for the memorial park during last weekend’s Fall Fest.

Now living in Chugiak, Alaska, with his wife Terri, Rollie and much of his family made the journey home to visit friends and family, and to celebrate the memorial.

Prior to his speech Rollie took time to speak about his 36 years in the Army and how it all began.

“I was born and raised in Wykoff and graduated with 33 kids. The Army recruiter walked into the school one day, it was me and two friends of mine, and he said hey I’ll take you out to lunch.  Well, we were in Wykoff so he took us to Rochester to McDonald’s and we got to talking about flying.  I had been wanting to be a pilot since I was a kid, so I asked him what he could offer me.  He said I can’t do that, but I can send you to helicopter mechanic school and just to sweeten the deal I’ll send you to Korea after that,” Rollie recalled. “I had never even heard of Korea, but it sounded cool. So I enlisted on Veterans’ Day 1976.”

During his career Rollie received quite an education, beginning with basic training, then moving on to more training to become a helicopter repairman, warrant officer flight training, warrant officer advanced courses and warrant officer senior staff courses.

“It’s mandated by federal law that only 3 percent of the warrant officer 4 (W4) can be warrant officer 5 (W5), so it is extremely difficult to make that rank, but when I got promoted in 2001 I was the youngest W5 in the Army at the time,” Rollie explained.

In 1981, Rollie was accepted into flight school and graduated in 1982. Many of his years were spent in the air being the eyes for those troops on the ground during various missions.

Rollie said one of the smartest things he did was get his airplane ratings back in the late 1980s.

“When the guard in Alaska (Alaska Army National Guard) found out about that they said we need to fly an airplane,” he said. “So I was one of a handful of guys that was flying a helicopter one day and flying an airplane the next.”

Though Rollie can’t talk about many of his missions, as they are top secret, he did say, “We did some pretty amazing things. We got to see some things people shouldn’t see. But, I would do it all over in a minute if I could”

In 2012, Rollie was injured and Medevac’d out of Afghanistan. After that he was in the Wounded Warrior program for two years before retiring last year.

Rollie left the Army as quite a decorated veteran with such honors as the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Air Medal, Joint Forces Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Ribbon, Iraq Campaign Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Service Ribbon, Korea Defense Service Medal, Army Armed Forces Reserve Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Army Overseas Ribbon with number six, Army Reserve Overseas Training Ribbon and NATO Afghanistan Ribbon, along with numerous awards from the state of Alaska.

“I’m a true believer that the man upstairs has been guiding me in the right direction,” Rollie said of his career.

After hearing about the committee’s work to create the veterans memorial in Wykoff, Rollie decided to donate two flags, one that has flown over Iraq and another that flew over Afghanistan.  Prior to giving his speech Rollie presented these to Wykoff Mayor Al Williams.

In his speech Rollie touched on how his Wykoff roots helped mold him into the man he became.

“The one thing that to this day I still hold near and dear to me are the morals that this community, and this part of Minnesota in particular, instilled in me. Living in a small town like this, the values that you learn as a child – the belief in God, moral courage, integrity, respect for others – all of that I have carried throughout my entire career,” Rollie told the crowd. “I’ll leave you with this; I don’t know whose idea this project was, but this is a marvelous idea and I think this will put Wykoff on the map.”