On March 29, 1973, U.S. ground forces withdrew from South Vietnam. The withdrawal officially ended years of war that forever marked a generation. The images on this page are of a handful of Vietnam veterans of Wisconsin and civilians who served in Vietnam between 1965 and 1973 – then and now.
Our Vietnam servicemembers, who were largely teens and young adults when they returned from their tour of duty, often faced public ridicule and hostility. With this exhibit, we move beyond the politics of the conflict and focus on the veterans who were owed a more supportive welcome home. We honor and affirm their service 50 years later.
We invite you to try to understand their experiences. Follow the links below to hear Vietnam veterans of Wisconsin tell their stories. Please be advised: these interviews may contain potentially disturbing content related to combat as well as sensitive material relating to trauma, sexual assault, and moral injury.
Timothy D. Bauer, U.S. Navy
Timothy D. Bauer of Hudson, WI enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1966. He enrolled in Hospital Corps School and Advanced Orthopedic Technician School at Great Lakes, IL. From 1969-70, Bauer served with Surgical Team Bravo on the USS Valley Forge (LPH-8) and the USS New Orleans (LPH-11) during Vietnam. He was honorably discharged in 1970.
Bauer re-enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves in 1975 as a Physician Assistant-Chief Warrant Officer, Medical Service Corps and transferred to the U.S. Naval Reserves as a Warrant Officer, Medical Service Corps in 1986. He was promoted to Lieutenant USNR in 1991 and left military reserve service in 1993. He retired from the Department of Veterans Affairs as the Deputy Associate Director-Education.
Richard "Rick" Berry, U.S. Army
Rick Berry grew up in Stamford, CT. After seven semesters of college, he enlisted the U.S. Army. In the fall of 1965, he joined a U.S. Army warrant officer program where he was trained to fly Bell UH-1 Iroquois “Huey” helicopters. After completing flight school, Warrant Officer and helicopter pilot Berry joined the A Company, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam from May 1967 through May 1968. He was awarded the following for his Vietnam service: Air Medal and 17 Oak Leaf Clusters, a Bronze Star Medal, a Bronze Star Medal with V Device and a Distinguished Flying Cross. Berry completed active duty with the 7th Engineer Brigade in Germany and was honorably discharged in December 1969.
He earned BA and MS degrees from the University of Connecticut. He served as a wildlife biologist and natural resource manager in Madison, WI, and retired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1995. He is a dedicated volunteer with the Wisconsin Veterans Museum. Read more.
Gregory "Greg" Buzzell, U.S. Army
Instead of waiting to be drafted, Delavan, WI native, Greg Buzzell, enlisted in the army in 1967 with the intention of being a helicopter mechanic. He did basic training at Fort Campbell, KY. While at Fort Rucker for helicopter mechanic training, he was asked to become a personnel specialist there for a year.
In January 1969, he joined the 4th Battalion, 60th Artillery in An Khe, Vietnam. In October 1969, Buzzell was assigned temporary duty to a unit setting up a school at Vung Tau. He became a teacher and taught conversational English to South Vietnamese soldiers as part of the Armed Forces Language School.
He returned to the U.S. in 1970, he earned an electronics degree and began working in television in Madison. After nearly 40 years as a chief engineer building and refurbishing television stations across the Midwest, he settled in Minocqua, WI. Read more.
Jeanne "Sam" Christie, American Red Cross
Jeanne “Sam” Christie, of Madison, WI, joined the American Red Cross in 1967 and served in Vietnam as part of the Supplemental Recreational Activities Overseas (S.R.A.O.) unit, which oversaw recreational activities at bases and occasionally visited troops in the field. Known as the "Donut Dollies," the women in the SRAO units brought comfort and "a touch of home in a combat zone." Between January 1967 and February 1968, Christie was stationed with the 1st Logistical Command in Nha Trang (February 12 to June 9, 1967), the 1st Marine Division in Danang (July 9 to September 27, 1967) and the 35th Technical Fighter Wing in Phan Rang. Christie returned home and served at the Great Lakes Naval Hospital from March 1968 to August 1969.
After her service, Christie earned a PhD. in Educational Leadership. She served as a White House Advisor on Women's Health on behalf of civilian women serving in Vietnam and as a consultant on the television program China Beach. Later, she was a lecturer at Manhattanville College and Western Connecticut State University. She is now retired. Read more.
Robert "Bob" Hesselbein, U.S. Army
Bob Hesselbein grew up in Maple Heights, OH, a suburb near Cleveland. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in on August 30, 1970 after graduating high school. He took basic training at Fort Polk, Louisiana. After basic, he left for a year of warrant officer candidate and flight school training in Fort Wolters, TX. He graduated and flew Hueys and Cobra gunships. In Vietnam, Hesselebein served with the United States Army Cavalry from January 2 - December 18, 1972.
After he was discharged from the U.S. Army in April, 1974, Hesselbein served in the Ohio Army National Guard while attending college at Kent State University. He entered the U.S. Air Force as a second lieutenant on January 20, 1978, and served on active duty until July, 1986.
Hesselbein moved to Wisconsin in 1986 to continue his military service as a traditional guardsmen with Wisconsin Air National Guard. He flew jet fighters part -time while flying full-time for Northwest, and later, Delta Air Lines. The lieutenant colonel retired in August of 2000. Today, he is one of our treasured volunteers at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum.
John Koeppen, U.S. Army
Milwaukee native, John R. Koeppen, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1969. After training he was assigned to the 6th Battalion, 31st Infantry "Polar Bears," 3rd Brigade, 9th Infantry Division as a indirect fire mortarman and rifle infantryman. While in Vietnam and Cambodia, Koeppen served with multiple units. While with the 6/31st he participated in the Cambodia Incursion. The 6/31st was awarded a Valorous Unit Award for the Cambodia Campaign. After the Cambodia Incursion, Koeppen was reassigned to 2d Battalion, 3d Infantry "The Old Guard" of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade where he did reconnaissance for two weeks. Next, he was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division "Tropic Lightning" and then as a driver in the 4th Battalion (mechanized) 23rd Infantry Regiment. Finally, he served with 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment "Wolfhounds" until he was sent home in March 1971.
Koeppen is a member of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 767 and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). Read more.
James A. "Jim" Kurtz, U.S. Army
James A. Kurtz graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1962 with a history degree and a 2nd lieutenant commission earned through the U.S. Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps. He attended law school at UW. Following his graduation in 1965, he began active duty at Ft. Benning, GA. In June 1966, after an assignment as a Basic Combat Training Company Commander at Ft. Benning, Kurtz reported to the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam where he served as an Infantry Platoon Leader and as the 1st Battalion Adjutant.
Kurtz returned to Wisconsin after Vietnam and served as an attorney for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. In his retirement he’s an active member of Post 8216, Veterans of Foreign Wars, in Middleton, WI. Read more.
Linda McClenahan, U.S. Army
In 1967, Linda McClenahan enlisted in the Women's Army Corps (WAC) in Berkeley, CA. She served in Vietnam at Long Binh Post near Bien Hoa, Vietnam during 1969 and 1970 with the 1st Signal Brigade. McClenahan rose to the rank of sergeant, E-5 working as a fixed station communications supervisor while in Vietnam. She then served with the U.S. Army Strategic Communications Command and was honorably discharged from active duty. McClenahan also served with the U.S. Army Reserves, rising to the rank of staff sergeant, E-6.
McClenahan later took vows with the Racine Dominicans in Racine, WI, and became well known as "Sister Sarge." She earned a master's degree in counseling. She served as a psychotherapist both at the Racine Dominicans-sponsored HOPES Center outreach as well as at Psychological & Counseling Services, Inc., in Racine. Read more.
Jąąpwakącąk - Owen Mike, U.S. Marines
Ho-Chunk warrior, Owen C. Mike, also known as Jąąpwakącąk in the Hoocąk language was a leader of the Buffalo Clan, Ho-Chunk Nation. He lived in Neillsville, WI. While in Vietnam, he served in India Company, 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, 3rd Marine Division from roughly December 1967 to February 1969. He was later discharged from the United States Marine Corps on October 1, 1971. He received the Silver Star Medal and Bronze Star Medal with valor device for his actions while under fire in Vietnam. Mike passed away on November 18, 2014.
His oral history interview provides a Ho-Chunk veteran's view of the Vietnam War and vocational calling. He also elaborates on enduring racial discrimination and the differences between European American and Native American worldviews regarding warfare, spirituality, race, and nationality. Read more
William "Bill" Rettenmund, U.S. Army
Bill Rettenmund graduated from high school in Black Earth, WI. The year after completing coursework for commercial art, he was drafted into the U.S. Army. After basic training, he attached to the 162nd Assault Helicopter Company in Fort Benning, GA and was later selected to be one of 23 crew chiefs in the 162nd where he was educated in crew maintenance and how to shoot an M-60 machine gun on support missions. The 162nd was sent to Vietnam in early 1966 to support the 1st Infantry Division.
While in Vietnam, his crew flew troop carrying helicopters, escorted by gunships, and dropped infantry soldiers. He was involved in two helicopter crashes during his tour, both a result of pilot error. In both cases the crew was not seriously injured. He earned the Air Medal and 22 Oak Leaf Clusters for meritorious achievement; he was awarded the Purple Heart after being hit by shrapnel. He also earned two valor awards for his actions in combat. Read more
Yong Neng Vue, Hmong Special Guerilla Unit (SGU)
Yong Neng Vue is a war veteran who fought with his father and brother in the secret war in Laos. He began his service in the army when he was twelve years old and became part of the Hmong Special Guerilla Unit (SGU). The SGU was considered a special force of the CIA.
After the Vietnam War ended, he was forced to flee into the jungle with the SGU and their families. Once they realized they were not going to be rescued by the U.S. they crossed over to Thailand and stayed in several refugee camps at Nong Khai, Ban Vinai, and Yong Neng. Vue arrived in the U.S. in 1979. He first lived in Oklahoma, but decided to move to Wisconsin where he could get an education. He now lives in the La Crosse area and is a father of nine children all of whom were born in the United States. Read more
Add a Wisconsin veteran's photo to the story
The Wisconsin Veterans Museum endeavors to collect a digital image of every Wisconsin veteran. Click on the button to upload a photo and tell us about the veteran. Images may be used in a future digital exhibit and will be retained in a digital archive.