John Mort is the December 2020 Kosciusko County Veteran of the Month. He was honored at Tuesday’s County Commissioners meeting. Pictured (L to R) are: Rich Maron, County Veterans Affairs officer; Bob Conley, commissioner; Mort; Cary Groninger, commissioner; and Brad Jackson, president of the commissioners. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
By: David Slone, Staff Writer
(Times Union Online) John M. Mort was honored at the Kosciusko County Commissioners meeting Tuesday as the December Veteran of the Month.
In presenting the honor, County Veterans Affairs Officer Rich Maron said it’s probably the longest biography he’s ever prepared and read up to this point.
Mort was born Dec. 15, 1955, in Denver, Colo., to Dan and Betty Mort. He lived there until it was time to start school and then moved to Anaheim, Calif.
At 14, his family moved to Indianapolis, where he completed school. His family then moved to Pensacola, Fla., where he enlisted in the U.S. Navy on March 26, 1974.
He was processed through Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS), Montgomery, Ala., then onto Orlando to start his recruit training.
Mort enlisted with a guaranteed assignment to be an aviation ordnanceman so for advance infantry training he was sent to the Naval Air Technical Training Command in Millington, Tenn. There, he started his first fleet assignment and Fleet Readiness Aviation Maintenance Program (FRAMP) training on the VA-128. The VA-128 was an attack squadron of the U.S. Navy, nicknamed the Golden Intruders, using the (A-6 Intruder aircraft) located at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington.
Mort’s first assignment was on the VA-115 called the Arabs (A-6 Intruder aircraft), located aboard the USS Midway, which was home ported in Yokosuka, Japan, for 3½ years.
Maron said, “Up until now, everything had been pretty normal, but having just turned 19 and now in a forward deployed to an aircraft carrier in a foreign country, he was definitely in for the experience of a lifetime.”
With only three months onboard, they got the call to head to Vietnam for Operation Frequent Wind. Saigon was falling to the North Vietnamese; Mort’s unit was sent with a lot of other ships to help evacuate the embassy. They were on station for 30 hours and managed to evacuate over 3,000 American and Vietnamese allies.
Mort worked and climbed to the rank of E-5 second class petty officer and as his first enlistment was coming to an end, he decided to get out. But he was talked into re-enlisting. The bonus he received for signing up again helped, and he got his choice of orders.
He was assigned to Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., for some aircraft intermediate maintenance training where he met his wife, Georgia, and they have three daughters, Rachelle, Cheryl and Carla.
Mort’s shore duty took him to the NAS Miramar (Top Gun) for two years, working the ordnance equipment from the F-14 Tomcat Fighter aircraft. This was the time he got married and started his family.
Georgia was a social worker for San Diego County. Little did Mort know that he would spend half of his career in San Diego, Maron said.
Mort’s next assignment was USS Ranger CV-61, home ported in San Diego, Calif. After a year onboard, he was promoted to E-6 first class petty officer and selected as Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department Ranger Man of the Year. He also submitted for Aviation Ordnanceman of the Year.
He again had shore duty as the senior instructor for aircrews in the loading of ordnance and small arms qualifications. Then it was sea duty for him again aboard the USS Kitty Hawk CV-63, home ported in San Diego, Calif., as bomb assembly crew. After only a year onboard, Mort was promoted to E-7 chief petty officer and became the chief in charge of bomb assembly overseeing the handling, storage and assembly of all ordnance aboard an aircraft carrier.
In 1987, the Kitty Hawk would be sent to Philadelphia, Pa., for Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) to add 15 years to her life. To get to Philadelphia from San Diego meant the ship had to make a world cruise. They headed west out of San Diego.
Mort went back to San Diego to get his family. They settled in Wilmington, Del., till they could get on the base at the Naval Shipyard. Mort was assigned as a liaison between the ship and the shipyard for work to be done on the tanks and voids, magazines and radars.
Mort’s next assignment would prove to be “very interesting,” Maron said, as it was The Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
He was promoted to E-8 senior chief petty officer and was assigned as enlisted detailer, making the transfer and training of aviation ordnance personnel happen.
Georgia also worked in officer assignments for helicopter pilots.
One of the more notable things that happened during Mort’s time there was a call from George H.W. Bush. From time to time, Mort would get congressional inquiries from service men and women or concerned parents, which had to be answered. Bush knew the answer but just wanted to confirm; mostly they talked about their time in the military.
Being the one that got to say where everyone got to go, Mort detailed himself back to the Kitty Hawk for a second tour as the leading senior chief in charge of bomb assembly in San Diego.
After two years, he was at the 20-year (March 1994) point and he decided to retire and moved to Oklahoma. They bought a farm and Mort got a job as a mill operator in a rubber plant making automotive and commercial belts. Georgia got a job as a 911 dispatcher.
He put his military career on the shelf and thought this is how it was supposed to be, Maron said.
In 2007, Georgia was diagnosed with a failing liver and would need a transplant at some point. Over the next year, her kidneys failed and she went on dialysis that put her at the top of the list for a liver/kidney transplant and she was fortunate enough to get that in December 2008.
Mort retired for the second time to help take care of Georgia. Fast forward to 2011, she was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer and after a 2-½-year battle, she passed. They had 36 years of marriage.
Mort decided to return to Indiana in 2015.
Mort worked at Menards in Warsaw for three years. He soon found out that working and trying to support activities that he wanted to was not going to work.
Retiring for the third time, he became more involved in the American Legion and VFW and started out as a trustee and quickly became more involved in trying to make a difference with veterans in and around Warsaw, Maron said.
Mort and his girlfriend Kathy enjoy working with veterans and their families in many different ways. Kathy is the president of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 49 in Warsaw. Mort is the commander of American Legion Post 49. He is also the vice commander for American Legion Department of Indiana Second District.
Mort is involved in many different organizations around northern Indiana: American Legion Post 49 and VFW Post 1126 joint Honor Guard, vice commander of Sons of the American Legion Squadron 49, life member of the Vietnam Veterans of America St. Joseph County Chapter 1027, life member VFW Riders Post 1126, member of American Legion Riders Post 286 and ride captain of northeast region Indiana Patriot Guard and ABATE (American Bikers Aimed Toward Education) Region 1.
“This guy has done a lot for veterans and he is a wonderful veteran,” Maron said. “After reading this for a long time, it’s probably the longest bio I’ve ever read, but I understand because you have a lot to say. All those years of service to our country and doing your part.”
Source: Times Union Online in Warsaw, Indiana.
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