Comment from Julie McDonald: Saying goodbye to a SEAL and welcoming a new CEO of the port


The Navy SEALs lost some of their living history on September 30 with the passing of Master Chief Petty Officer Peter Paul Slempa Jr., a board owner (or member) of the original SEAL Team One, which formed on January 1, 1962 .

Slempa, a strong advocate of military rights and curator, served on the board of directors of the Veterans Memorial Museum in Chehalis while he and his wife, Linda, lived in Lewis County before moving to Kalama, where they were closest medical appointments.

Slempa served aboard the USS Worcester CL-144 before qualifying for the Underwater Demolition Team. He worked as a Provincial Reconnaissance Unit Advisor on six tours of Vietnam and then taught in Portland. He served from 1954 to 1983, retiring as Chief Petty Officer. He was buried Thursday with full military honors at Willamette National Cemetery in Happy Valley, Oregon.

I had the honor in 2009 to listen to Slempa recall part of his story for a Chronicle article before speaking at the Veterans Memorial Museum for Vietnam Veterans Appreciation Day. Five years later, I helped him publish his memoir, Why Me, Lord? It is available for sale at the Veterans Memorial Museum.

During our interview, I was left in awe as he recounted that he had dived 25 feet from a cruiser at night in the Pacific Ocean, tying the legs of his elephant-leg overalls and filling them with air to stay afloat. He ruptured both eardrums when a two-man open-cockpit submarine lost control and plunged 200 feet. A semi hit him at 70 miles an hour during training maneuvers and threw him a dozen feet. He suffered an underwater concussion and injuries to his spleen, stomach and gallbladder after heavy mortars exploded, killing his Vietnamese interpreter. Twice he was subjected to waterboarding.

He was the son of a coal miner from northeastern Pennsylvania, one of five children in the family. He left school after ninth grade to help support his family and enlisted in the Navy, where he earned his GED. He requested a transfer to an underwater demolition crew every month for two years, and after being afloat in the dark waters of the Pacific Ocean for half an hour, he finally received his transfer and got his training diploma in underwater demolition in November 1957.

Four years later, he was one of 50 enlisted men and 12 officers handpicked by the commander to serve in a special navy warfare group, which turned out to be SEAL teams, meaning Sea, Air and Land. . They wore khaki fatigues without badges. SEAL Team One, an unconventional elite commando group, formed on January 2, 1962 on the West Coast, while SEAL Team Two formed on the East Coast. The members had top secret security clearances.

He shared stories of training to survive the arctic cold, jungle swamps and scorching desert heat. They trained in light and heavy weapons, diving, demolitions, parachuting, hand-to-hand combat, intelligence gathering and more. They learned to survive torture without revealing information.

Slempa, who received three Purple Hearts and many other medals and decorations for his service, saw a lot of action in Vietnam, but he retained a sense of humor, which he showed by sharing his experiences. He spoke about skydiving, skydiving and scuba diving.

He and his wife, Linda, who married in 1971, raised two children.

Although he’s passed away, I’m so happy that Slempa shared his experiences in a book so others can learn the history of SEALs and a board owner’s journey.

New CEO of the port of Chehalis

Congratulations to Lindsey Senter, Chief Operating Officer of the Port of Chehalis, nominated as the top candidate among 30 candidates to replace Randy Mueller as Managing Director of the Port. Mueller leaves after seven years to work as CEO of the Port of Ridgefield.

Senter, 33, has been working at the port since 2019, first as Director of Finance and Administration before moving to her role as Director of Operations three months ago. She plans to earn her BA in Business Administration and Finance from Centralia College this year.

Senter has worked for the Centralia-Chehalis Chamber of Commerce, the Lewis Economic Development Council, and his social media and web design company, Vulcan Create.

After interviewing the top three candidates, the three port commissioners voted unanimously to offer the job to Senter. A seven-member community panel also participated in the interviews. The work earns between $ 100,000 and $ 130,000 per year.

I hope that as CEO of the port, Senter will continue the refreshing transparency of his predecessor, keeping the public informed of potential property purchases and controversies.

Mueller’s transparency was refreshing, though it should be the norm among officials overseeing taxpayer dollars at ports, schools, libraries, fire stations, town halls, county courthouses and more. other public bodies. Unfortunately, transparency is often overlooked as decisions are made before the public even knows what is going on.

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Julie McDonald, personal historian of Toledo, can be reached at [email protected]


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