This story was submitted as part of Minnesota Remembers Vietnam. We have faithfully reproduced each story as it was originally submitted for the Story Wall, and have not corrected any spelling or grammar errors.
By George Saumweber | Lima Co., 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Div. 1968-1969 | An Hoa, Vietnam
I was born in St. Paul in 1950 and grew up on the East Side. In 1968 during my senior year at St. Paul Johnson High School, I enlisted it the U.S. Marine Corps and left for boot camp in San Diego two weeks after graduation. I was just 17 years old and needed my father’s signature to enlist.
The trip to California was my first time on an airplane and the farthest I had ever traveled from home. I was looking for adventure and without much money, saw the military as my ticket to see the world.Also, Like a lot of young men my age I had grown up fascinated by World War II. You did not have to look far to see the men and women who had participated in or been affected by that war. They were all around you. They were your own dad, your uncles, your neighbors and your friends’ dads. Veterans were everywhere. They were special and heroic to me even if they talked little about their experiences.
Television, movies, books and magazines were other sources that drew my attention to their exploits. I wanted to be like these guys. I also did not want to miss witnessing the war in Vietnam. It seemed to be the most significant worldwide event taking place in my lifetime, and I wanted to experience it myself. I wanted in on the action. This all seems pretty dumb to me now, but remember I was just 17 years old. At boot camp I met many other young men from all across the country who were there for much the same reasons as I was. For many boys and young men the military and war has a great appeal. I think it always has.
Ten months later in May of 1969 I was in Quang Nam Province Vietnam serving as a rifleman assigned to Lima Company, Third Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment. I had been in Vietnam just two months when I was involved in a violent incident along a dirt road bordering a rice paddy. I was seriously wounded and medevaced out along with five of my buddies. Two Viet Cong were killed. It was just one of many such encounters that happened everyday across Vietnam. Most were completely inconsequential to the outcome of the war but profoundly affected the lives of those involved.
I spent the next five months in a series of military hospitals recovering from my injuries and returned home in time for my 19th birthday. I guess I got the adventure I had been looking for. Not a day goes by that I do not think about the thousands of other young men who did not come home or came back with devastating wounds.
Attached is a copy of the telegram my mom and dad received on a Sunday morning regarding my welfare. It must have been shattering to them and a source of great anxiety. Thousands upon thousands of such telegrams were delivered to families across Minnesota and the nation over those long, sad years of the war in Vietnam.
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