Ralph Steffens — U. S. Army
I joined the U.S.Army and was on active duty from 1963 to 1966. I maintained reserve duty from 1966 t0 1969. Without a parade, I was sent to Fort Leonard Wood ,MO for basic training. Uncle Sam gave me some of his designer jewelry which we call “dog tags”. I still wear them because no one told me to take them off. My overseas duty included Thailand and Vietnam for vacation. Because I traveled on a passport, I was able to wear my civilian clothes. I traveled all thru Thailand via train, airplane, boat and cycle. We had a Buddhist monk for a house boy. I saw an airport in Udorn that had hundreds of jet aircraft. Nobody would ever admit they even existed over there. They did all the dirty work in Laos, Cambodia and North and South Vietnam. When I left Thailand the temperature was 85 degrees and came home to minus 1 degrees in Milwaukee.
I spent the last few months of service at Fort Carson, CO. Both the mountains and beer were cold. I was attached to the 5th Army Headquarters. After I was discharged I drove straight home and started my new job the following Monday. Thinking back on my military experience the U.S. girls wanted diamonds and the Asian wanted $10. I didn’t own a diamond and I spent all my $10 bills. The Army taught me well.
Later in my life I went to the “Wall” 4 or 5 times. I found it to be a very emotional visit. Just to touch the names on the “Wall” brought tears to my eyes. There is also a “Women and Nurses” section of the “Wall”. I recently escorted a WWII vet on a Stars And Stripe Honor Flight. It was an experience I will always remember.