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Veterans Day

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Maple Lake Messenger Page 12 November 13, 2013 them in the event that you'd be found with an address in a letter. Through the radio, Hanoi Hannah could ruin you." While those hardships were occurring, the veterans said they tried to help the kids they encountered. "Kids would come and we'd share our rations with them," Brutger said. "Some of them had toothaches, ear infections and things like that and we'd try to help them. Sometimes, we relocated villages out of harm's way." In addition to sharing their wartime memories, the veterans were also asked to give advice to students who were considering joining the military. "Stay out of trouble, keep a good record and good grades because they're picky now," Heibel said. "In Vietnam, we were next to guys who could either go to jail or join the service." Using Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as an example, Bolvine said it's important to talk to others about problems. "It hurts a lot worse to hold it in," Bolvine said. "Talk to a vet. A lot of us will understand what you're going through." "Part of the reason we're together is to take care of one another," Yanish said. "When we came home, not a lot of people wanted to help us. We became a band of brothers." The group continues to march and speak on behalf of those who went to war and are unaccounted for. To that end, Yanish presented POW MIA flags to MLHS Principal Dave Hansen and Maple Lake Elementary Principal Kris Harlan for the schools to display as they see fit. The elementary program also featured readings and a performance of "Yankee Doodle." Following both programs, students took turns shaking the veterans' hands and thanking them for their service. The veterans, in turn, were thankful for the warm reception. "We got more 'thank you's and 'welcome home's this morning than in the previous 45 years," Yanish said.

Members of the VFW firing squad take aim at the conclusion of the second Veterans Day presentation on Monday morning. (Photos by Gabe Licht) "We decided they should never be forgotten," he said. "It could've been any one of us. We keep their hope alive." Yanish and five other members of the group made up a panel that answered questions that students and school staff had submitted, such as the difference between the Vietnam War and current wars. "One of the biggest things was the weapons used," John Bolvine said. "There were rifles, airplanes with bombs and handto-hand combat. Now there are drones, smart bombs, etc." Bolvine also contrasted the jungle terrain of Vietnam against the urban setting of World War II and the desert terrain of recent wars in the Middle East. He added that many people opposed the Vietnam War. "If there could be a popular war, World War II would be a good example. People got behind the troops," Bolvine said. "Imagine being proud of what you did and having people turn their backs on you and call you names." "We never lost a battle but when we came back we were told we didn't win," Paul Heibel added. Al Brutger talked about some


of the hardships soldiers faced. "The toughest obstacles we faced were weather conditions," Brutger said. "When it would break out raining, we could never keep dry or clean. The heat was terrible, so we'd take salt tablets. After the rain, the mosquitos were terrible. In the rice paddies, leeches were bad to deal with." According to Yanish, a different kind of obstacle was not knowing who the enemy was. "The Vietcong could take over a village with young men and turn them into fighters, some of them as young as 10 or 12 with AK47s," Yanish said. "When we got home, a lot of us were known as baby killers because someone killed a 10- or 12-year-old boy with an AK47. You could talk to them and they'd smile at you during the day and they'd be out to kill you at night." Communicating with loved ones was also difficult. "We had no Skype or cell phones. We didn't even have a good mailman," Yanish said. "My wife would send me letters and sometimes they wouldn't reach me for 10 days, two weeks or more. I'd get 10 at a time and would sort them out. After reading them, we were told to burn

Mike Yanish salutes after lighting a candle in honor of soldiers who are POW or MIA.