Be All You Can Be, Hero to the Heroes

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"Meat" the Veteran: Tony Helbling Proudly Sponsored By, Ebner Meats

Veteran Tony Helbling

The U.S. Army’s recruiting slogan from 1980–2001 was “Be All You Can Be.” Anthony “Tony” Helbling, “Cold War” Army veteran, has embraced that slogan like no other. He was born into a military family. His grandfather was in the Navy and fought during World War II. His uncles were in the Army, Air Force and Coast Guard. His father was a career Army officer, and his brother, a career NCO.

Born in Germany, where his father was stationed at the time, Tony moved 11 times during his youth, yet there was never a question that he’d follow in the hallowed footsteps of those in his family who had served before him.

So dedicated was he to this ideal, Tony even wrote a paper in eighth grade regarding his aspirations of becoming an Army helicopter pilot. And that’s exactly what he did. Attending the ROTC program at the University of Oregon, he graduated as a Second Lieutenant Medical Service Officer in the U.S. Army, specializing in air and ground ambulances. From there, he went to flight school in Alabama, taking his wife, Pam, with him. Soon after, he was assigned to the 54th Medical Detachment in Fort Lewis (now JBLM), where he acted as both a Platoon Leader and Medical Evacuation Pilot.

He was so adept in his position he was selected to become an Aide-de-camp to a General Officer (a coveted position for such a young soldier). Following that, he got back to flying for the 54th Detachment until returning to Alabama for the Officer’s advanced course. He was then assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado, where he acted as Staff Officer in the Division Medical Operation Center for the Fourth Infantry Division until he left full-time active duty.

That wasn’t the end of his military journey, however — far from it! He brought his family back to the West Coast and joined the Oregon Army National Guard as an Air Operations Officer. He quickly moved up the chain to become Commander of the 1042 Medical Company/Air Ambulance out of Salem. During that time, he flew numerous missions during the 1996 floods. From there, he was transferred to Commander of Charlie Company, 141st Support Battalion.

Tony has kept an active profile throughout, not only volunteering for a number of civic organizations — The Canby City Planning Commission and Council, Canby Business Development, The Rotary Club of Canby, The Providence Willamette Falls Medical Foundation (of which he is a board member) — but doing so while also working a second career at Wilson Construction Co. where he has been for more than 25 years! He and Pam enjoy spending time with their three children, all married, and seven grandchildren.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Tony and he was one of the most accommodating, amiable and sharp-witted gentlemen I’ve had the good fortune to meet. His military experience and what that has meant to him can’t be separated from the man himself. It’s who he is, but it can all be summed up in one straightforward, incredibly profound phrase that he said he has repeated often. When thanked for his service he simply responds, “Well, thank YOU for being worth serving for!”