Greek-American Historical Museum of Washington State

A Military Historian
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A Military Historian

Constantine (Gus) Chamales
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Constantine (Gus) Chamales’ grandparents immigrated from Greece to America in the early 1900s. His father’s family (Chamales/Mihalareas) was from Kosmas in the mountains of South Kynouria on the Peloponnese, approximately 28 kilometers east of Sparta. His mother’s family (Caravaselis/Christopoulos) was from Tripoli, 57 kilometers north of Sparta.

THE FAMILY

coffee pot bar

Penelope behind “The Coffee Pot” bar. Bootleg whiskey was hidden behind the center shelf cabinet.

Louis Chamales

Gus’ paternal grandfather, Louis Chamales, immigrated with several brothers settling in Chicago. His older brother Tom bought a speakeasy in the Green Mill Gardens on the North Side and the business thrived during the ’20s and ’30s. Well-known gangsters including Al Capone and Machine Gun McGurn were among their clientele. Louis worked for his brother until he married Penelope Mihalareas, a much younger woman from the same village in Greece, through an arranged marriage courtesy of Penelope’s older brother, Mike. The two opened their own diner called “The Coffee Pot” in South Chicago in the late ’20s from which they sold coffee, sandwiches and bootleg whiskey during prohibition.

Louis was a hard man, very strict, and almost twice Penelope’s age when they were married. They bought a home on the South Side at 3208 East 93rd Street, a few blocks from where their diner was located, and together they had two children, a son George (Gus’ father), and a daughter, Irene.

Penelope & Steve Gotches on their wedding day

Penelope & Steve Gotches on their wedding day

Louis was struck by a truck and died of wound infection in 1930. The children were very young (George was 8 years old) and Penelope struggled to run the diner on her own. Eventually, she was forced to sell, and she provided for her children producing homemade wine which she sold to an elderly Greek gentleman in the neighborhood who would pay her $5.00 for a gallon every week. After about a year as a widow, her brother introduced her to another Greek gentleman, a very kind man named Steve Gotches who worked on the railroad near Penelope’s home. Penelope agreed to marry him but only after warning him, “If you ever hit my children I will kill you!” Steve acknowledged the threat and the two were married. True to his word he never struck the children, and the two lived happily on the South Side for many years, until moving to the suburb of Oak Lawn in 1971. There they lived out their lives until Steve died in 1973, and Penelope in 1990.

Gus in WW1

Gus in World War 1

Gus Caravaselis

Gus’ maternal grandfather, Gus Caravaselis (he later shortened his name to Carres), immigrated with two brothers at a young age and lived with an uncle in Gary, Indiana. He and his brothers shined shoes around the city and saved their money to bring their mother to America. After several years they raised enough money for her trip and upon her arrival, they moved to Chicago where the brothers owned and operated a pool hall, boxing gym, and other businesses. When WWI started Gus eventually joined the Army and was assigned to 7th Squad, Machine Gun Company, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Brigade, American Expeditionary Forces. This would later become the 1st Infantry Division. He was a machine-gun squad leader and received a Silver Star Citation for his actions during the Meuse-Argonne and St. Mihiel Offenses.

gus and athena

Gus and Athena were married and lived with Gus’ mother and a brother in an apartment in Chicago.

After the war, he returned to his family in Chicago and through an arrangement by his mother with a friend back in Tripoli, his future bride, Athena Christopoulos, immigrated to America. Shortly after her arrival Gus and Athena were married and lived with Gus’ mother and a brother in an apartment in Chicago.

George Chamales, Gus’ father

George Chamales, Gus’ father

After several months of maintaining a household for four adults, Athena insisted that she and Gus move into their own home, and Gus complied with her wishes. They had two daughters, Mary (Gus’ mother) and Tessie, and later a son named Nick. Their daughters worked in the family businesses as teenagers until they married. Their son Nick died at a young age. Gus and Athena lived in Chicago until their deaths in 1974 and 1985 respectively.

George Chamales

Gus’ parents, George & Mary

Gus’ parents, George & Mary

George Chamales graduated from High School and enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps during WWII. After the war, he returned to Chicago and worked in the steel mills. At the age of 30, he married a much younger woman from Mitchell, South Dakota and moved there to join his in-laws in the restaurant business. Together they had three children, Penny, Louie, and Gus, but after several years of marriage, they divorced.

A few years later he renewed contact with his high school sweetheart, Mary Carres, and they were married. Mary adopted George’s children and was a loving mother and wife until her death in 1996. George remained in South Dakota until his death in 2004. They are buried together at the National Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota.

GUS IN HIS EARLY YEARS

Ingrid and Gus in 1974

Ingrid and Gus in 1974

Gus attended elementary and junior high school in Huron, South Dakota until 1968 when the family moved to Pierre, the state capital. He finished high school in 1971 and followed his older brother and sister to South Dakota State University in Brookings, South Dakota. Gus was active in the Army ROTC program at SDSU and during a Pershing Rifles ROTC Drill Meet in Stevens Point, Wisconsin in February of 1972, he met Ingrid Andenas, a member of a coed affiliate drill team at the University of South Dakota. The two entered a long-distance relationship until Ingrid transferred to SDSU in her junior year. Ingrid majored in French literature and graduated in May of 1975. Gus graduated in December 1975 with a BS Degree in history. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army and entered active duty.

GUS MARRIES AND BEGINS HIS MILITARY CAREER

1976 wedding of Gus and Ingrid

1976 wedding of Gus and Ingrid

Gus and Ingrid on the border between East and West Germany

Gus and Ingrid on the border between East and West Germany

The two were married in May 1976 and after completing his basic officer training, they moved to Bad Kissingen, Federal Republic of Germany for their initial military assignment. Bad Kissingen was the home of the 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, a unit tasked with patrolling the East/West German border during the Cold War. Gus served 14 months as the 2nd Platoon Leader, in E Troop, and then 20 months as Executive Officer of G Troop, 2/11.

The unit spent a lot of time in the field conducting maneuvers, gunnery training, and patrolling the border for weeks at a time; thus, Ingrid went to work at the Schweinfurt Army Medical Clinic as a medical secretary. That would ignite a flame of passion for medicine and lead to a very successful career as an obstetrician/gynecologist.

After completing their initial assignment in Germany, they moved to Fort Benning, GA. Gus attended the Infantry Officer Advance Course in preparation for future command and staff assignments, and Ingrid embarked upon the long road of studying and preparing to apply for medical school.

INGRID’S EDUCATION AND THE BEGINNING OF THE CHAMALES FAMILY

The Chamales Family

The Chamales Family

The couple moved to Fort Bliss, Texas in the summer of 1980 where Gus was assigned a three-year tour of duty with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR). Gus served as the Operations Officer in the Support Squadron, and then as the Commander for Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, and I Troop, in 3rd Squadron, 3RD ACR. Ingrid attended the University of Texas, El Paso (UTEP) where she enrolled in science courses that would help her prepare for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). During this time, they were also blessed with their first child, Steve, who was born at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas in March of 1982.

Ingrid continued her studies and was eventually admitted to the University of South Dakota Medical School. She then was awarded the Army’s Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP), whereby medical students served as officers and physicians in the United States Army upon graduation. Ingrid began the laborious undertaking to becoming a physician in the fall of 1983.

Ingrid Chamales

Ingrid Chamales

Gus completed his tour at Ft. Bliss, TX in December 1983 and then joined Ingrid and Steve at the University of South Dakota. Gus was accepted into an Army program that allowed him to complete an advanced degree and in return, he would serve as an assistant professor of military science in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program for three years at that same university. He chose to work on a master’s degree in political science/international relations at the same university where Ingrid was attending medical school.

Living in South Dakota enabled Ingrid and Gus to be close to their parents who lived a few hours away. Their parents were thrilled to have their grandchild close by and their years of parenting experience proved extremely beneficial to a young couple struggling to meet their military obligations, go to school, and raise a child.

Ingrid and Steve holding new baby Kristoffer

Ingrid and Steve holding new baby Kristoffer

A second son, Kristoffer was born in 1986. Ingrid was able to arrange her medical rotations during her third year so that she had Kristoffer during the only 3-week period of free time she had that year. Her remarkable determination enabled her to become the first medical student at the University of South Dakota to have a baby and still complete medical school without having to take a leave of absence.

Two young boys and demanding work schedules led them to hire the first of three live-in nannies who cared for the children and managed the household. These nannies would move with the family to two additional stateside locations, and one overseas tour to Germany.

Ingrid graduated from medical school in 1987 and was promoted to the rank of captain. Shortly thereafter she moved back to Ft. Bliss, TX and began her internship year at William Beaumont Army Medical Center. Gus still had a year of obligation left on his ROTC assignment, so he remained behind with the two boys and the nanny for an additional 10 months. It was very difficult for Ingrid to leave her children and her husband in South Dakota, but the army physician’s internship year was consumed by very long hours and very little sleep. The time went by quickly and in May of 1987 Gus, the boys, and the nanny moved to Texas and reunited the family.

THE FAMILY AROUND THE WORLD

Gus and Ingrid Chamales

Gus and Ingrid Chamales

Gus was now a major and spent his first two years in Texas working as the Chief of Inspections at the Ft. Bliss Inspector General’s office while Ingrid began a residency program in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Upon completion of his second year as an IG, Gus was reassigned as the Operations Officer for the 2nd Squadron, 3rd ACR. He always considered himself fortunate to have served with great officers and non-commissioned officers in the cavalry and the command team of the 2nd Squadron, Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Ed O’Shaughnessy and Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Hubert Swann, ranked among the very best. Two months later the unit deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield, and after retrieving their equipment at the port of Al Jubail, the entire Regiment moved out to the desert.

LTC O’Shaugnessy & his Bradley gunner

LTC O’Shaugnessy & his Bradley gunner

3rd ACR encamped in the desert with the mission of guarding south of the Saudi/Kuwait border while the remainder of the US forces deployed into Theater. After several months, the senior officers from the Regiment were summoned to the Headquarters and told that Operation Desert Storm and the air war would commence at 0200 hours the following morning. Later that day the 3RD ACR began a convoy movement approximately 150 kilometers to the west led by the 2nd Squadron. The advanced guard led by Gus and CSM Swann moved near the border with Iraq and selected an assembly area for the squadron to occupy. The assembly area facilitated the disbursement of its troops along a protective screen line south of the border, while the remainder of the Regiment prepared for the ground war.

2nd Squadron processing POWs

2nd Squadron processing POWs

When the ground war began LTC O’Shaughnessy led the 2nd Squadron as it attacked approximately 80 kilometers north into Iraq, and then reoriented its attack to the east heading toward Basra. It encountered sporadic resistance the first couple days until it approached the Ramallah airfield and Oil Refinery. There it encountered dug-in infantry, artillery, and tanks from the Iraqi Republican Guard. The battle that ensued lasted several hours with the squadron commander directing the fight over a wide front with three armored cavalry troops attacking on line. While some Iraqi soldiers surrendered quickly, others fought with determination. As the smoke from the battlefield cleared and the firing stopped, the men of the 2nd Squadron saw many Iraqi soldiers waving white flags, and dead Iraqi soldiers scattered around the battlefield. This was the largest battle for the 3rd ACR and it resulted in the destruction of a defending Republican Guard Infantry Battalion in prepared positions, reinforced with artillery and tanks. The Squadron captured over two hundred prisoners of war and a large logistical base with hundreds of tons of supplies and ammunition.

Gus and his Bradley crew with captured T-72 tank

Gus and his Bradley crew with a captured T-72 tank

The Squadron remained in that area for several days destroying the captured supplies and burying the Iraqi dead. The Squadron had to remain vigilant in the event of a counter-attack by enemy forces so LTC O’Shaughnessy directed Gus to conduct a reconnaissance forward of the Squadron with a small armored force. That reconnaissance resulted in the capture of an Iraqi Battalion Commander and his staff, and several Iraqi vehicles. One of those vehicles was a Russian T-72 tank which was towed back to friendly lines and later shipped back to the States as a war trophy. The tank was given to Holliman Air Force Base in New Mexico in appreciation for their A-10 Warthog close air support during the war.

Homecoming for Ingrid, Gus and Steve

Homecoming for Ingrid, Gus and Steve

The Regiment was later directed to withdraw back to Saudi Arabia and destroy any Iraqi equipment it encountered along the way. As the 2nd Squadron crossed over the Saudi border late in the evening Gus played the William Tell Overture was over the command radio frequency, and many of the combat vehicles began firing off their pyrotechnics into the air. It was a glorious firework display of star clusters and parachute flares of all colors from the many vehicles belonging to the squadron. Afterward many prayed and thanked God that they survived the war and prayed for their comrades that were killed.

The Regiment was one of the first units to deploy for Operation Desert Shield, therefore it was one of the first units to return to the States after Operation Desert Storm. It was a memorable homecoming as the airplane landed at Biggs Army Airfield in El Paso, TX and the soldiers disembarked into the arms of family, loved ones, and friends.

Gus and Marco Vialpando at the NTC in the Mojave Desert

Gus and Marco Vialpando at the NTC in the Mojave Desert

A few weeks later an award ceremony was held to recognize the accomplishments of the soldiers in the 2nd Squadron, the most highly decorated unit in the 3rd Cavalry Regiment. LTC O’Shaughnessy and CSM Swann presented many awards for valor to soldiers of the 2nd Squadron. Gus was awarded an Army Commendation Medal for valorous action while rescuing wounded Iraqi soldiers during an engagement at revetments in the desert, and a Bronze Star for valorous action during the battle at the Ramallah Air Field.

The family remained at Ft. Bliss until 1992 when they were transferred to Ft. Irwin, California, the home of the Army’s National Training Center (NTC). The family lived on Ft. Irwin and the boys attended elementary school on the installation. Ingrid served as the Chief of OBGYN at the Ft. Irwin Medical Clinic while Gus served as Dragon 03, an Observer/Controller on the Dragon Live Fire Team Living on a small installation in the middle of the desert was a great experience and the boys played with their friends in the largest “sandbox” anyone could ever imagine.

After approximately 18 months, the family was reassigned to Germany in December 1993. They lived in Schweinfurt for their first two years where Gus served as the commander of 3-4 Cavalry in the 3rd Infantry Division, and Ingrid was the Chief of OBGYN at the military hospital in Wurzburg Germany. After completing his command tour the family moved to Heidelberg, Germany where Gus was the Deputy Crisis Action Team Chief for United States Army Europe during the Army’s deployment into Bosnia, and Ingrid was a member of the OBGYN Department at the Army hospital in Heidelberg. This assignment was to be their last so after 9 years on active duty Ingrid resigned her commission in September 1996, and Gus retired on 1 February 1997 after 21 years of service. The family then returned to their home state of South Dakota where they began the next chapter of their lives.

BACK TO SOUTH DAKOTA

Steve’s commissioning as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps

Steve’s commissioning as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps

South Dakota is a great place to raise a family and Ingrid and the boys adapted quickly to civilian life. Ingrid went to work for the Brookings Medical Clinic in Brookings, South Dakota, and for several years was the clinic’s only OBGYN physician. Her reputation as a physician became well known and women would drive from a hundred miles around to see her for their medical care. She was an outstanding physician and was greatly respected and admired by the Brookings community.

The boys loved living in Brookings where they were active in Boy Scouts, soccer, and hockey. Thanks to the outstanding educational system at Brookings High School, Steve graduated high in his class and accepted an appointment to the United States Naval Academy. After four rigorous years, he graduated with a degree in Engineering and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.

The Chamales family

The Chamales family at Kris’ commissioning as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army, May 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kris also excelled academically in high school and was offered an appointment to the United States Military Academy. He decided instead to accept a 4-year Army ROTC Scholarship and attended Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. He graduated from Tulane with a bachelor’s degree in business in 2008 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Infantry branch of the United States Army.

Gus was a stay at home Dad until Steve graduated from Hight School, much to the chagrin of both boys. On more than one occasion the boys expressed a desire to have their nanny back and for their Dad to get a job, but instead Gus became a Boy Scout leader, soccer coach, and hockey dad, and kept a close eye on both. After Steve went to the Naval Academy, Gus joined Greenleaf Assisted Living, Inc., one of the larger independent assisted living corporations in South Dakota. After working for the corporation for a few months he was offered the opportunity to become a partner and he became the company’s chief operations officer. The corporation had five assisted living centers in eastern South Dakota and Gus managed the company for five years. During this time several of the owners decided to branch into the assisted living business in Minnesota and Gus, along with four others formed Minnesota Greenleaf Assisted Living, Inc., and opened a facility in Thief River Falls, MN.

After both of their sons went off to college Ingrid and Gus lived as empty nesters in Brookings. A former Army colleague of Ingrid’s contacted her in 2009 and asked if she would be interested in working for the Department of the Army as a civilian physician at Madigan Army Medical Center at Ft. Lewis, WA. About this same time their older son was stationed at the Marine Corps’ Mountain Training Center in California and their younger son was attending the U.S. Army’s Ranger School, with follow-on orders to Ft. Lewis, WA. Steve already had one Iraq deployment and they suspected that Kris would soon deploy as well. Gus and Ingrid saw this as an opportunity to be closer to a military community that understood the stress of sending family members to war, and for Ingrid to work once again with military physicians and soldiers. They decided they would try it for five years, and afterward, they would return to their home in Brookings, SD.

Chamales family home in Gig Harbor, WA

Chamales family home in Gig Harbor, WA

GIG HARBOR

In September of 2009, they moved to Gig Harbor, Washington,  and after living in an apartment for nine months, they purchased an old cabin.  A year later they tore down the cabin and built a new home, where they have lived ever since it’s completion in 2012.

Ingrid and Kris

Ingrid and Kris as he was preparing to depart for Iraq

Kris deployed to Iraq in 2009 so the hope of being close to their sons was short-lived. He returned in 2010 and one year later, in 2011, the Army transferred him to Ft. Bragg, NC. Six months later the Marine Corps transferred Steve to Camp LeJeune, NC. Both boys were now serving in the military on the other side of the country while Ingrid and Gus were putting down roots in Washington.

Ingrid and Gus loved South Dakota but winters there are cold and miserable. After their first winter in Washington, Gus was no longer interested in moving back to South Dakota, and they were in Washington to stay.

Steve Chamales

Steve Chamales

Steve served a second tour in Iraq and then one in Afghanistan. After commanding three different infantry companies in the Marine Corps with one in Iraq and another in Afghanistan, he exited the Marine Corps in 2014. As of this writing in 2018, he resides in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle and is employed by a tech company in California. He serves today as a Major in the United States Marine Corps Reserve.

Kris Chamales

Kris Chamales

Kris is still serving as a Captain in the United States Army. He commanded an Airborne (Paratrooper) Infantry Rifle Company at Ft. Bragg, NC, an Airborne Cavalry Headquarters Troop in Iraq, and the Headquarters Detachment for the Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate at Ft. Bragg, NC. He will be attending advanced schooling in 2019 and subsequently will serve wherever the Army needs him.

Ingrid is still serving with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Madigan Army Medical Center on Jt. Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, WA. She will be retiring in June of 2019 after over 20 years of combined government service, and an additional 13 years of civilian medical practice.

Gus Chamales today

Gus Chamales today

Gus is semi-retired and still, an owner in Minnesota Greenleaf Assisted Living, Inc. He tells people that his full-time job is keeping the home fires burning and doing everything he can to keep Ingrid, the love of his life, happy.

Together they are active parishioners at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Tacoma, WA. Gus serves the church as an administrator for its military ministry and as a member of the church council. Ingrid serves as a member of the Daughters of Penelope. They were married in the Greek Orthodox Church in 2011 and Ingrid was chrismated in September 2018.

Posted in February, 2019
PHOTOS from Chamales family collection
VIDEO SEGMENTS
SOURCES
Narrative by Gus Chamales; video interview by John and Joann Nicon