Band of Brothers Part 1: The Willie Rose Story
By Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong, Public Affairs
/ Published September 12, 2016
MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --
“I remember the winter of ’72 being one of the worst,” said Tech. Sgt.(Sep.) Willie Rose. “The snow drifts were as high as the telephone poles.”
Rose smiled as he recalled memories of his time spent stationed at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, in the 70s. We sat at a kitchen table covered in news clippings and photographs spanning across the years. Like puzzle pieces, they connected Rose’s story.
Willie Rose was born July 4, 1946, in Springfield, Massachusetts and raised in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He enlisted in the Air Force with his twin brother in October of 1963.
“I was 17 and irritated with school,” said Rose. “I was too young to enlist, so my mom and dad had to sign a waiver.”
Rose enjoyed his Air Force technical training much more than his high school’s curriculum.
“I was aircraft maintenance before crossing over into corrosion control,” said Rose. “After that, I cross-trained into civil engineering where I got to drive the big equipment.”
Rose loved learning maintenance and operating the equipment but most of all, he valued the relationships he built here.
“Minot is the best kept secret in the Air Force,” said Rose. “Once you get used to the cold, the people are awesome.”
Minot is also where Willie Rose met his wife. He said he would have gladly served another 20 or 30 years if he had been given the opportunity.
Unfortunately, it only took a split-second to cut Rose’s almost 20-year-career short.
“I was working on what we called a ‘foam truck’. They were used to spray foam at the missile sites to keep the missiles dry during the snowy winters.”
“I was supposed to fix a valve – they put the wrong valve on, which was holding back 75 lbs. of pressurized nitrogen.”
He motioned outwards with his hands.
“That’s when it blew off. I couldn’t see. Everything was yellow.”
The chemicals from the blast had affected his nerves so badly that he ended up being medically discharged from the Air Force. But that doesn’t stop him from enjoying life and giving back to the community. He currently works as a bus driver for the Edgewood Vista assisted living facility, where he takes individuals out to experience the local community who couldn’t ordinarily do so.
In his spare time, Rose also plays guitar as a part of the Dakota Rose Band.
The members consist of Rose on the guitar, Larry Nelson on vocals and guitar, Karen Martin on the keyboard and Floyd Borud on the bass guitar. All of the members have been inducted into the North Dakota – South Dakota Music Hall of Fame.
Three of the four members of the Dakota Rose Band share another bond. Rose, Nelson and Borud are also veterans, having served in Korea and Vietnam.
“When we first started 13 years ago, it was just Larry and myself having fun jam sessions in the basement,” said Rose. “We were all friends before, which is why we’ve stayed together so long.”