Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Oldest ROTC Grad Thanks Sig Ep for His Success

Oldest USU ROTC graduate remembers
By: Arie Kirk

As a student, Dode Rees studied business, was a member of the ROTC, a fraternity and the football team. Retired Air Force veteran Dode Rees may not think he was a star during his time at USU, but as today's oldest known USU ROTC graduate, he certainly is leaving his mark.

Rees is still involved on campus, and at 99, he isn't letting age slow him down."That's damned old, but I don't feel any older than you look," Rees said.

He has received a number of awards from USU and, with the help of fellow USU and ROTC graduate, retired Army Col. Vernon Buehler, financed the building of the Russell L. Maughan memorial. They also fund a scholarship for ROTC members bearing their names.

A self-described "plain old country boy," Rees said he attended the Utah Agricultural College (USU) because it was affordable, and he joined the ROTC because it was required. Now, however, he said his education and career have been some of the greatest experiences of his lifetime.

"I've had some wonderful experiences," he said. "My college education there was always of great help to me."

Rees was born in 1908 and graduated in 1932 with a second lieutenant ROTC commission and a degree in business, but Rees said that wasn't the only focus of his studies.

"What did I study? Football mostly," he said.He played positions defensive end and tackle.

He was also a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, where he said his fellow brothers really educated him and helped him smooth out his rough edges."It was a wonderful experience for me," Rees said. "I learned a lot. I was just a country boy and had a lot to learn. They knocked off some of the rough corners."

While the ROTC hasn't changed much in the last 75 years, Rees said there is one tradition the military should have continued-sponsors. Girls were made sponsors of the members of the ROTC. They would befriend the boys, providing food and company.

"Oh hell yes. That was an important part of the ROTC, you bet. In the fall, we elected them and I made one little girl my sponsor," he said. "She was very cute and very nice looking. Today she is 96. I am 99 and we still correspond."

He also said sponsors "gave cadets a little more interest in the military. I don't know why the military did away with sponsors."

Rees said he has witnessed a lot of history since his training on the Quad. After attending law school in Washington, D.C., Rees was called to active duty in 1941 in North Carolina, where he saw the integration of troops, something he wasn't used to as a boy from Cache Valley. "They had colored troops, which was unusual for a lot of us boys from the West," he said.He called the time of segregation terrible.

Rees said he still remembers the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. That moment, he said, changed everything."Everything stopped then as far as my family," he said. "I got up the next morning and kissed my daughter goodbye. I didn't think. Everything was in such an uproar we didn't know what the hell was ahead of us. We took the medicine as they gave it to us.

"Rees said he was transferred to the headquarters of the Pacific Command at Pearl Harbor, serving in Hawaii until Japan's surrender.

During his military service, Rees was also assigned to Roswell, N.M., where he investigated UFOs. Whether or not a UFO really visited the area, Rees said he doesn't know. During his time there, he said they never found any answers. He said he continues to receive phone calls today from people who are still puzzled by the occurrence in Roswell and are looking for information. But Rees said he has nothing to offer them.

"I didn't know any more about that than either one of you," he said.When Rees left USU, he said he was "hardly dry behind the ears," but even now, with so much behind him he said, "I'd like to be your age again."
-arie.k@aggiemail.usu.edu