Deane Fisher, commander for American Legion Marion Memorial Post No. 1430, addressed Marion Elementary students on Nov. 12, wearing his Army khaki dress uniform for a program about the history and meaning of Veteran’s Day.

Deane Fisher, commander for American Legion Marion Memorial Post No. 1430, addressed Marion Elementary students on Nov. 12, wearing his Army khaki dress uniform for a program about the history and meaning of Veteran’s Day.

A Marion High School graduate, Vietnam era veteran and 39-year American Legion member, he asked the students to raise their hands if they had veterans in their families. Their positive response was nearly unanimous.

Fisher briefly traced the history of Veteran’s Day from its beginning following World War I as Armistice Day, through its renaming and date changes. In addition, he told the history of the Veteran’s Poppy program, enlightened the students about basic training, the concept of the draft and that there are many jobs in the military that do not involve combat duty.  

After his presentation the program became more personal. He fielded questions including one regarding his family’s military service.  

“My father was a B-17 pilot during World War II and my younger brother was a tank mechanic in the Army, and I also have several cousins who were in the service.”  

Students asked him about his service.  

“I went into the Army in December 1966, when I was 19 years old,” he said. “I trained to be a Field Radio Repairman and then went to Vietnam where I fixed field radios for a year.  When I came out in November 1968, my rank was Specialist E5, which is about the same as a 3-stripe Sergeant.”  

Another student asked if he “drove an airplane” or rode a horse.  

“No, I did not fly an airplane, but every time I went to work to repair a radio in Vietnam, I went in a helicopter because I had to go to where the radio was,” he said. “We didn’t use horses, but I do have a little story that is kind of related to horses. We didn’t get paychecks when we were in Vietnam. We were paid with military cash, and every payday, our lieutenant had to go into the nearby village to pick up the bags of money. One day when I wasn’t very busy, he asked me to go along to ‘ride shotgun’ which turned out to be a scary time.”  

When asked about basic training, Fisher said, “Boot camp, which is what we called it, was eight weeks long and it was very challenging.  We learned to obey orders without question and we learned to get up early because there would be times that we got very little rest.  We had twelve exercises to do every day and then we ran a mile — all before breakfast. We learned discipline, respect, how to take orders and how to get along with everyone.”  

One student asked if men and women worked together in combat.

“Not very much when I was in the service,” then Fisher explained that today things in the military are different and that depending on their jobs both men and women serve on the front lines.

During the Vietnam War there were 10 military personnel doing support work for each soldier in the combat zone, he added. As then, today some of the support people are here in the states while many are in combat zones but do not fight, such as truck drivers and mechanics, cooks, clerks, doctors and nurses, and like him, radio technicians and other communication personnel.    

His presentation was not without humor.  

“I remember my first and last meals in the service,” he recalled. “When I first signed up, I went to Syracuse to be sworn in. Then we were supposed to fly out to Fort Dix, N.J. to start training, but there was a bad snowstorm and our flight was cancelled and we had to ride a bus to Fort Dix, was a very long ride. We hadn’t eaten anything all day and got there late. After they gave us our uniforms and other things we needed, they got the camp cooks up to make something for us to eat before we went to rest up for our first day in basic training. The first meal was scrambled eggs, boiled hot dogs and coffee — no buns and no toast. I thought it was the worst meal I’d ever had.

“Then, two years later we returned home in another snowstorm. After a 28-hour plane ride from Vietnam, we were back at Fort Dix with no coats and we were freezing because we had just come from a country where it was 100 degrees. The seven of us that were going to be discharged were standing outside the barracks in freezing temperatures, and we decided we wanted to get our paperwork done that night so we could be leave for home as soon as possible.  

“Then we had our last meal in the military. We went into the same mess hall where we had our first meal and they gave us scrambled eggs, boiled hot dogs and coffee — no buns and no toast. After eating the food we had in the war, this time it seemed like the best meal I ever had.”