Veterans Day is an opportunity to reflect on the service and sacrifices veterans have made throughout the nation's history. Touchmark in the West Hills resident Ray Kiemel, who served the country for 23 years, is one such veteran. In 1948 at the young age of 17, Ray enlisted in the U.S Marine Corps. A "Mustang" in military terms, Ray started his career as an enlisted service member before becoming an officer. Ray explains, "you are a Mustang when you work your way up from [an] enlisted [member] to an officer. You have done everything you ask your troops to do as you continue to work your way up the officer ladder." This spirit of teamwork and dedication runs throughout Ray's entire career.
Ray was stationed in the Philippines for his first two years of service until the Korean War started in June of 1950. In Korea, he served as a machine gunner in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. Ray recounts this harrowing time: "It was considered the Battle of the Bulge of Korea. The North Korean and Chinese were at war, but the Chinese could not destroy the First Marine Division. The Marines turned and fought down a narrow road through several mountain passes until they reached transport ships waiting at the coast. It was a rough battle."
After the Korean War, Ray continued his service and worked as a drill instructor, recruiter, and in the Electronics and Radar Division of the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. His time stateside ended in 1958, when he was stationed at the Marine Air Control Squadron (MACS) in an old Japanese Marine Corps air station in Atsugi, Japan. "We were assigned to go on a three-week maneuver to an island in the Philippines, which turned into three months." He maneuvered in Taiwan and the Philippines for two years. In Vietnam, Ray was commissioned as a second lieutenant and was tasked with setting up an electronic wall that worked to detect enemy infiltrators.
In addition to his service overseas, Ray spent many years serving at home. In 1959, he met his wife, Carlyn, in Barstow, California, while he was monitoring the rebuilding of marine radar equipment. He also taught students in the Marines how to maintain crypto machines such as teletypes, telephones, and radios. This equipment can be used to collect and analyze digital network signals for intelligence purposes, and at the time, was a critical component of national security.
As Ray's story and the epigraph on his plaque at the Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial show, "Mustangs do it all." Thank you for your years of devoted service, Ray! On Veterans Day and every day, Touchmark is proud to be home to some of the many men and women who have served our country.