James R. (Jim) Unger
- E-4, Demoliton Specialist
- Served: February 21, 1966-
- Vietnam War
- Awarded: National Defense Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal
I would like to start out by thanking my six adult children and my oldest grandson for bestowing this honor upon me. It is a true honor to be put on the “Wall” with so many brave men and real wartime heroes.
My story about the time I spent in the Army is not one of heroism or acts of bravery. Like many young men in the 1960’s, I was drafted. I received my notice to report for a physical on February 3rd, 1966. I showed up at the Old Court House in Waukesha, Wisconsin on February 21st.
Shortly after that, I was notified that I would be going to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for basic training on May 18th, 1966. I think most people if they don’t know, can imagine what basic training is all about. Actually, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I thought it would be. Somehow, I got appointed to be a squad leader and things were a bit mellow for me.
After basic came Advanced Infantry Training. I was assigned to a Combat Engineer unit where I learned a lot. We got training in everything from bui9lding roads and bridges to lying and clearing mine fields and so many things in between. Graduation from AIT was on November 11, 1966 and we were all anxious to find out where we would be stationed next. Well, it wasn’t long and it was announced that we were all being sent to Vietnam to help out with the war effort over there. Not good news, but we were all in the same boat, so to speak.
There wasn’t much sleep gotten by anyone that night, and low and behold, at 0400 we were all told to grab our gear, that we were all going to South Korea. My first thought was, “where the hell is Korea?”
As it turned out, I was stationed about five miles south of the DMZ. Somehow, I ended up being kind of a “Jack” of all trades but a master of none. The biggest assignment the Company was given was to clear all the mine fields in certain areas of the DMZ and plant all new ones. When that was completed, we were in charge of building a wall, fence, barrier along the center of the DMZ to discourage the pesky North Korans from trying to enter the South. (Sounds a little familiar?). The northerners would go as far as firing their rifles at us to slow down our progress. Good thing they were lousy shots.
After my thirteen months in Korea were over, I returned home safe and sound. After a couple of weeks of leave, I was stationed at Fort Belvoir, VA.
There are a lot of memories both good and bad and a lot of stories that are best not told.
I served my country with pride and dignity and as it turned out, I was one of the lucky ones that didn’t have to crawl in fox holes or dodge bullets left and right. I honor and admire those who served in war zones. Those are the real heroes whose names are on the Wall
Thank you all for your service and God bless you all.