Juan Ulep selected as Veteran of the Year to lead parade

Sean C. Morgan

Juan Ulep of Sweet Home is one of three 2010 Veterans of the Year who have been selected by the Veterans Commemoration Association to lead the annual Veterans Day Parade in Albany on Thursday.

Ulep was selected as a representative of the U.S. Army. Veterans of the year also were selected for the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy and Marines. The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3437, Sweet Home, nominated Ulep.

Ulep was born, the oldest of five boys, in 1928 in the Republic of the Philippines. He served in the Philippines Army, he said.

“I got involved in the Philippines service at the end of the war during construction to rebuild the war-damaged areas.”

Ulep was discharged in 1947 after serving for a year, and he moved to Guam, where he worked until 1951 as a contract worker.

In 1951 he moved to Portland and then to Los Angeles where he completed high school. He attended the University of the Pacific and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science.

Ulep joined the U.S. Army in 1962, he said. “During the Korean War, I wanted to volunteer, but the recruiting panel told me you’re doing fine – go back to school.”

The Korean War ended, but the Vietnam War was starting to boil, he said, so he enlisted.

He served a one-year tour of duty in Vietnam in the central highlands, where he was an infantry “scout dog.” His unit used trained dogs to detect enemy booby traps, explosives, equipment and personnel.

He served in the Army for 21 years, stationed in Germany, Hawaii and the Philippines. Among the many medals and awards he received while in the Army were the Army Commendation medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Presidential Unit Citation and the Parachutist Badge. He earned some 18 awards while serving in the Army.

He retired from the Army in 1983 as a Sergeant First Class. In 1988 he joined the Oregon State Defense Force (Oregon National Guard reserve) where he became the Command Sergeant Major. He and his wife, Donna, were discharged in 2001.

He worked for the Bureau of Mines in Albany until 1996, when he retired.

Serving in the Army was a career choice, Ulep said.

“It’s a good profession if you’ve got the intestinal fortitude. We have to protect and defend our freedom, our way of life, our way of doing things.”

Ulep has been active in the community affairs, such as the Rotary Club, where he raises funds and equipment for a well-drilling program for fresh water in the Philippines, said VFW Post 3437 Commander Harry Smith.

“He also arranges the shipment of books and equipment for the local schools and hospitals there. He has worked with the local Habitat for Humanity, Chamber of Commerce and VFW Post 3437, where he is a valued member serving on the funeral details and with fund raising. He is willing to donate his time and money for such events as required. The VFW Post would be hard pressed to get along without him.”

He also is involved in the Lebanon Elks Club and has participated in the Sweet Home beautification effort in the past.

Ulep was named Sweet Home Distinguished Citizen in 2009.

He was Frontier Sportsman’s Holiday grand marshal this year.

He was named Oregon Soldier of the Year and received several awards while serving in the National Guard,

He has lived in Sweet Home since 1985, Ulep said. He enjoys the space, the lack of congestion and the people.

“It’s just a fine town,” he said. “I’m happier here than in Salem and every place I have lived.”

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