Gold Star Dad- Dale Schrock
By Les Whittle
With his hands held to his head he said, “I am sorry, but it still gets to me, even today after 33 years, I just can’t help it” as he wiped away the tears. The anger has faded some but the tenderness and love for his son, Vernon Earl Schrock, has not dimmed in this “Gold Star Dad” Dale Schrock.
The Schrock lineage of farmers began in Oregon, when Dale’s Grandfather Joseph moved from farming in Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado. When Dale’s father David was 14 years old, the family moved to Oregon settling in Linn County in 1909. The original Schrock family farm was located on what is known today as Seven Mile Lane just across the I-5 Freeway bridge going east on Highway 34.
David, who was in time to be Dale’s father, grew up on the family farm with the tradition of farming being well entrenched in the family bloodline. David married Bena Roth who lived in Albany, Oregon and they had six children, Vernon, Irene, Pearl, Opal, Earl and Dale. Hard times and hard long hours of work were common with the times. The children were to carry their weight with chores and all other farming duties and if time would permit they could go to school. David was a veteran of WWI spending most of his time at Fort Lewis, WA.
In 1943 Dale’s dad moved the family from Linn County to a farm near Greenberry in Benton County. Most local folks no longer remember the lumber mill that was along the railroad spur at Greenberry but it was not far from the Schrocks’ home. Dale grew up on this farm attending Greenberry Elementary School and Corvallis High School. Again, school had to fit into the farming schedule and with harvesting crops, would sometimes mean entering school as much as two weeks late. The Schrock family was well-known in Linn and Benton Counties as being hard working farmers.
When Dale was 10 years old, he had been riding on a tractor on a steep slope with his older brother when the tractor turned over on him putting him in the old Dr. Anderson’s Hospital. He had suffered a broken pelvis and leg. Dale was put in a cast and in a few days sent home. Older sister Pearl came into the house and was telling Dale about the big red rooster they had just gotten. Well, as the story goes, big sis picked Dale up to carry him out to see this new red rooster. All was fine until she started back towards the house with Dale in arms. The rooster decided to attack… Pearl couldn’t put Dale down because of his cast and all she could do was to kick at the red rooster. Pearl (Kotyo) still carries a scar on her leg from where the old rooster flogged her. Needless to say, the Schrocks had fried chicken the next day!!!
Dale remained in Benton County purchasing their current farm on Smith Loop in 1955. At the peak of Dale ’s farming career he farmed as many as 3200 acres. Grass seed was coming into it’s own where up to that time it was considered weeds. Dale had four children, 2 boys and 2 girls, when he remarried Virginia who had two girls. Dale and Virginia had one girl of their own making a total of seven children. The family grew together to become very close. Their farming at that time was mostly row crops of sweet corn, beans, raspberries, and strawberries. The oldest son was named after his Uncles Vernon and Earl, Dale’s older brothers. Vernon Earl Schrock was a natural farmer and loved farming. He enjoyed being on the tractor working the soil. When Vernon was around 14 he would ride his bike out to his Dad’s farm to help drive the equipment. Regardless of how punishing the ride would be, he would stick with it when others would beg off to do something else. Vernon was not afraid of hard work and the long hours it took to be a good farmer.
The Viet Nam War is now in full gear. Young men and women were entering the armed services to fight for Viet Nam ’s freedom from Communism. This was in the 1960s when times were rapidly changing about protesting the government’s involvement in Viet Nam. Young Vernon, like many other patriotic Americans, joined the Army and following basic training was sent to Viet Nam. While there farming was still in his blood and he sent several pictures home to his Dad of the farming and agriculture activities that he saw being done by the Vietnamese.
On this day, to never be forgotten, a U.S. Army sedan pulled up in front of the Dale Schrock home and instantly Virginia knew what that meant. It happened to be that Dale’s sister Pearl was there in the yard visiting with Virginia when the two young Army Officers asked to talk to Dale. Dale was plowing a field that had a car lane up to where he was plowing. The Army Officers, along with Virginia, broke the news to Dale that his son Vernon had been Killed in Action on May 26, 1970. Vernon had been operating a track personnel carrier with a plow blade on the front of it for grading roads and ditches. They had made a pass down the road with the blade and were returning to make another pass when the vehicle hit a land mine. Vernon was given a burial with full military honors from the U.S. Army Honor Guard from Fort Lewis, WA. Today, Vernon is listed on the Benton County Veterans Memorial wall and a white granite bench carries his name. The memorial is located at 1100 NW Kings Blvd. on the south lawn of the Army National Guard Armory.
Life had to go on with the Schrocks, even though at times it was very difficult. In 1974 Dale made a decision to run for a Benton County Commissioner position. Dale was very well liked and was known to keep in contact with all of his Departments. Dale’s philosophy as a Commissioner was simple but with sincere and deep commitment, “to make things a little better for the residents of Benton County …better than when I first took office.” Dale went on to serve 4 terms for 16 years of service to Benton County, retiring in 1990. He and Virginia still work on their farm but son Mike has now pretty much taken over the family operation. This leaves Virginia a little more time to bake her wonderful apple pies and Dale a little more time to pull his chair up to the table and say, “I’ll have a little ice cream on mine.”