By DAVID KRIER
The year was 1968 and the Vietnam War was at its peak following the launch of the Tet Offensive by the Vietcong on Jan. 30. Thousands of miles from home, Boscobel soldiers had boots on the ground—including Dick Pitzer, Terry Gilbertson and Dick Young. Young made it home; Pitzer and Gilbertson did not.
“Taps were sounded in the Boscobel cemetery Tuesday afternoon for Boscobel’s first fatality of the war in Vietnam. And a conflict in a far-off place was suddenly brought close to home,” the Dial wrote on March 14, 1968 of Gilbertson’s death. “The flag-draped casket was driven to the Boscobel cemetery following the funeral a St. John’s Lutheran Church, where a hushed group of mourners stood on a sunlit slope beside the grave as Rev. Andersen pronounced the committal rites.
“The rifles of the Legion honor guard shattered the stillness and then the American flag was carefully folded and removed from the casket.”
On the same front page was a story saying that Pitzer had been declared missing in action following a firefight with the enemy. Two weeks later, Pitzer’s funeral was held at the Boscobel Methodist Church.
“Dick Pitzer was one of my best friends, and Terry was a good friend too,” Young said last week.
Young, now living in Kewaunee, recently returned from the first Yellow Ribbon Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. with 114 other Vietnam veterans—the first to be held for veterans of that war. The Wisconsin group was selected from more than 500 applicants.
“It was an awful big honor to be selected, but I took the Honor Flight more to honor those guys,” Young said. “All gave something, those guys gave it all.”
Co-sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association, the Aug. 2 flight for Vietnam-era veterans was a special one-time event that flew from Oshkosh as part of the Salute to Veterans celebration at EAA AirVenture.
Leaving Oshkosh at 6 a.m., the group arrived in our nation’s capital and toured a number of monuments and memorials—including the Vietnam War Memorial—where Young took a pencil rubbing of Pitzer and Gilbertson’s names from the memorial’s Wall, which lists the names of the 58,195 American service men and women killed in Vietnam.
“We did a lot of stuff in a hurry, but that was definitely the most important,” said Young, a veteran of the Army’s 25th Infantry Division. “It was quite a day.”
The group arrived back in Oshkosh the same day at 5:30 p.m., where they were greeted by a huge crowd of supporters, a dramatic contrast to the reception they received when they came home following the war.
For Young, the trip to “The Wall” was a shattering experience he will never forget.
“It opens you up. You don’t see names at the wall, you see people,” he said. “You hear them laugh, you see their faces. It is very eerie.”
This Veterans’ Day Young will be remembering his fallen comrades, friends who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.