The Oklahoma Military Academy Alumni Association has announced the recipients of its Hall of Fame and Distinguished Alumni Awards for 2001.
The recipients will be honored at the annual Oklahoma Military Academy Reunion June 8-9 at Rogers State University in Claremore.
The Hall of Fame and Distinguished Alumni Awards represent the highest honors that can be bestowed upon an alumnus of the Oklahoma Military Academy. Currently, there are more than 1,500 active alumni of the academy.
On June 8-9, more than 300 Oklahoma Military Academy alumni, spouses and guests will return to RSU’s “College Hill” to attend a variety of reunion activities.
Alumni inducted into the Oklahoma Military Academy’s Hall of Fame will include Matthew Braun, who lives and works throughout the western U.S., and Bob Brashear of Tulsa. Col. Charles Kegelman, who lived in El Reno, Okla., will be named to the Hall of Fame posthumously. Charles Smith, Col. Kegelman’s nephew, will accept his award.
This year’s Distinguished Alumni are Randy Vierling of Edmond, Okla., and John Tatroe, who lived in Arizona and will be honored posthumously. Helen Tatroe, Mr. Tatroe’s wife, will accept his award.
“We are honored to present the Hall of Fame and Distinguished Alumni awards to these men who have brought honor to the Oklahoma Military Academy through their many years of dedicated service to their communities and country,” said Danette Boyle, Vice President for Development at RSU.
Matthew Braun attended high school (1949-1951) and junior college (1952-1953) at the Oklahoma Military Academy. After graduating from OMA, he attended Florida State University, where he earned a bachelor’s of science in journalism in 1955.
While at the Oklahoma Military Academy Braun was recognized as a ROTC Distinguished Military Graduate, Interim Corps Commander – Lt. Colonel, and achieved permanent rank of Captain. He was named to Outstanding Company, the Honor Roll, and Honor Committee. He also served in Student Senate, was a member of Chevron Society and Saber Society, and lettered in college football, boxing, and fencing.
Braun was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant, Armor, in the U.S. Army in October 1955. He served two years of active duty in the Army and was promoted to 1st Lieutenant. During his duty he was a platoon leader and executive officer, Company B, 64th Tank Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Georgia. His military education includes the Armor School Basic Course, Fort Knox, Kentucky, and CBR Warfare School, Advanced Course, Fort Benning, Georgia. He received the National Defense Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Meritorious Unit Citation, and Division Letter of Commendation.
After serving in the U.S. Army, Braun became a journalist and then an author of western novels. He currently has 48 published novels with 40 million copies in print. Among other honors, Braun won the Western Writers of America Golden Spur award for his book “The Kincaids,” which deals with the settlement of old Oklahoma Territory. He also received lifetime appointment as an Oklahoma Marshall and won the Festival of the West Cowboy Spirit Award. His novel “Black Fox” was produced as a six-hour miniseries by CBS and his book “One Last Town” was made into a movie on the TNT Network.
Today, Braun lives in a remote section of mountains and continues to travel the west gathering material for his novels.
Col. Bobbie J. Brashear
Colonel Bobbie J. Brashear, Army of the United States, Retired, began his military service during World War II with the U.S. Coast Guard. When the war ended, he returned to Broken Arrow, Okla., and enrolled at the University of Tulsa. He soon realized that TU was not what he was looking for and began scouting other institutions of higher learning. His search came to an end after a meeting with Col. King, Professor of Military Tactics at the Oklahoma Military Academy. “I knew I found my place,” Brashear recalls. And in 1947, he enrolled at OMA without looking back.
He immediately put his leadership skills to work and became very involved as a member of the New Cadet Detail, Guidon Staff, Drill Team, Saber Society, Vedette Staff, Disciplinary Committee and the Rifle Team. His hard work and dedication earned him awards such as the Military Achievement Ribbon, Good Conduct Ribbon, and Distinguished Military Student.
In 1950, Brashear was commissioned 2D Lt. Armored Cavalry Reserve and began a long, distinguished career with the U.S. Army, while maintaining a civilian position of Project Manager for General Signal Corporation and General Manager for Norberg Industries. He first served with the U.S. Army 95th Infantry, 1st and 2D Armored Divisions and then with the 10th Field Artillery Battalion, 3D Infantry Division during the Korean War. During his extensive combat service in Korea, he assumed duties as Battery Executive Officer, Battalion Radar Officer, and Battalion Intelligence Officer.
Post-Korea assignments included service with units of the XIX Corps Artillery including duty as Operations Officer (S-3) of the 805th Field Artillery and 4th Battalion, 32D Field Artillery; Commander, 4th Battalion 32D Field Artillery, and Deputy Commander, 401st Artillery Group. He was charged with the reorganization of the National Guard before being assigned to the 4156th U.S. Army Reserve School where he served successfully as Assistant Commandant, Command and General Staff College Director and Commandant. This tour of duty included collateral assignments as Project Officer to establish the 4th U.S. Army Non-Commissioned Officers Academy, Deputy Project Officer for the U.S. Army Redeye Missile Training programs, and consulting faculty of the Command and General Staff College.
By his retirement in 1980, Col. Brashear had many achievements to his credit. He received his bachelor’s of arts degree from Columbia College in Columbia, Mo., and was a graduate of Field Artillery School, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and Industrial College of the Armed Forces. His personal awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the U.S. Presidential Unit Citation, and the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation. His regimental honors include the Presidential Unit Citation, the Valorous Unit Citation with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Meritorious Unit Commendation with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters and the French Fourregere.
As a retiree he was appointed Honorary Colonel of the 32D Field Artillery Regiment based at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma (1988-1994). He is currently serving as Honorary Colonel of the 10th Field Artillery Regiment at Ft. Benning, Georgia.
He and his wife Charolette, reside in Tulsa. They have three children and two grandchildren.
Col. Charles C. Kegelman, Posthumous
Col. Charles “Sonny” Kegelman (OMA ’34), the first member of the American Forces in Europe to be decorated for his gallantry in action against the enemy, received his wings and commission in the Army Air Corps at Randolph Field in 1936. Before his entry into the Air Corp, he attended junior college at the Oklahoma Military Academy and then the University of Oklahoma to prepare himself for a medical career. His first assignment after graduation was to Barksdale Field, Louisiana, and later he was assigned to Savannah, Georgia. Attending a bomber pilots school in Nevada, Kegelman left the transition school in May 1942 for a overseas assignment in England.
He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by General Dwight Eisenhower, who praised his “superior airmanship and extraordinary gallantry and coolness in saving the lives of his crew” following his first mission of the American Air Forces in Europe on July 4, 1942. With the engine of his A-20 knocked out by savage anti-aircraft fire, the fuselage ripped open, and the right wing damaged, Kegelman led his bomber formation over the target and back to its British base. General Jimmy Doolittle ordered the first Distinguished Service Cross for Kegelman’s participation in this first aerial blow against Germany by the Army Air Forces.
Kegelman led aerial assaults on channel ports and Nazi airfields for nine months as a squadron commander until ordered to Tunisia to support the African campaign. At that time, the only American Air Force group in Africa was Kegelman’s squadron of A-20s and a P-38 fighter group.
Kegelman, a native of El Reno, Oklahoma, came home in 1943 and was honored with a citywide celebration which was attended by such notables as Governor Robert S. Kerr. He remained in the U.S. training airmen for more than a year.
In 1944 he was requested to return to combat and was sent to the South Pacific in September, 1944. While leading his group of B-25’s on a routine bombing run over the Japanese-held island of Mindinao, in the Philippines, Kegelman’s wing man lost control; the two planes collided and plunged into the jungle. At the time of his death, Kegelman was 29 years old, the El Reno VFW Post 382 was named in his honor.
Randy Vierling attended high school and junior college at the Oklahoma Military Academy. He graduated in 1963 and then attended the University of Oklahoma. Vierling was very active throughout his time at the Oklahoma Military Academy. Some of his many activities include: member of the Saber Society, Chevron Society, Judges Bench, Honor Committee, Honor Court, MC Cadet Capers, and the Drill Team. He also was an Assistant Commander, speaker for Ambassadors of Americanism, delegate for the Oklahoma Youth Conference in 1961, Company Commander “C” Company, and Battle Group Adjutant (S-1). In addition, he lettered in track in 1959, received an Outstanding Cadet Identification Disc Merit Ribbon, an Athletic Ribbon, and was the Secretary/Treasurer of his junior college sophomore class.
While working on his degree at OU, Vierling worked for TWA part-time. It was then that his dream to become a TWA pilot began and he took initial flight training through the University of Oklahoma ROTC program. In 1965 he took a position with TRAEX Aviation at Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City while continuing his flight training. He soon earned his commercial, multi-engine, instrument, flight instructor, and advanced and instrument ground instructor certificates. For a short time he was the youngest certified airline transport pilot in the United States. Since that time he has worked for several corporations including Christmann Corporation, Furrs Inc., Avtech Aviation, Jetwind Sales, Inc., Cherokee Services, Inc., Jones and Pellow Oil Co. and TWA. He is currently a captain for TWA and responsible for many training aspects within the company.
Vierling has 22,000 accident free hours in over 25 different model aircraft spanning a 35-year professional flying career. He is designated as an FAA Accident Prevention Counselor, and belongs to the Airline Pilots Association, the National Business Aircraft Association and Air and Space Foundation. He lives in Edmond, Okla., and has two adult children, Tracy and Andrew.
John Tatroe, Posthumous
John A. Tatroe, known to his friends as Jack, entered the Oklahoma Military Academy in the fall of 1935 as a high school junior. He had a passion for horses and the military cavalry. Tatroe also was a very talented musician so he was assigned to the band troop. In 1939, his last year at the Oklahoma Military Academy, he commanded the first squadron which was composed of Troops A and B and achieved the rank of Cadet Major. He was an honor student for four years, received the first alternate appointment to West Point (which he declined when the primary appointee accepted), and graduated from OMA with honors. He continued his education at the University of Tulsa earning a bachelor’s of science degree in business administration.
On September 7, 1941, he married Helen Berg, who had been his first squadron sponsor at OMA when he graduated in 1939. Two months after the Pearl Harbor attack, December 7, 1941, Tatroe was called to active duty. He had been commissioned a second lieutenant U.S. Cavalry, October 11, 1940. His first duty station was Fort Riley, Kan., to join a cavalry unit. That assignment lasted only 10 days when he was ordered to Fort Lewis in Washington as an aide to a general. He was snowbound in Flagstaff, Arizona, and was late in reporting to Fort Lewis. The general had left for the Pacific and was killed in action shortly thereafter. Tatroe was assigned to a regular army unit that were sent to a mechanized training center. Upon completion of this course he joined the 899th Tank Destroyer Battalion. For his World War II combat experience he received a bronze star medal and five battle stars for service in Tunisia, Naples-Foggia, Normandy, Northern France, and Germany. After more than two years in the European theater he was released from active duty as a major and settled with his family in Tulsa.
Along with Don Ruggles, OMA ’39, Tatroe founded Ventaire Corporation in Tulsa. They manufactured aluminum awnings and later expanded into canopies for QuikTrip Corporation, Git-n-Go, and other chains in the convenience store industry. He also built a 200-space adult mobile home park with a par-three golf course in Mesa, Arizona. Both of these corporations were highly successful and eventually were sold when he retired and moved to Phoenix.
John Tatroe exemplified the highest standard of the Oklahoma Military Academy in portraying courage, loyalty, and honor as a model cadet and as a battled-tested officer during four campaigns in Europe. After those successes he became a highly successful businessman. He died July 8, 1994, and is survived by his wife Helen. Other survivors include his son John, daughter Sheila Puls, brother Paul Tatroe, OMA ’43, sister Guyla Classick, four grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
For more information on the Oklahoma Military Academy Reunion, call the RSU Office of Development at (918) 343-7773.