Marinus Nielsen of Orient shared a slideshow with the public in a presentation Saturday, Jan. 21 at the Orient Community Library that showed what it was like serving in the Army during the Vietnam War.
Nielsen first showed these slides to one of his vocational ag classes years ago at Orient-Macksburg. Jim Frederick of Orient was in that class. Jim’s wife, Julia, is the current library director.
“It was a class that had a lot of discipline problems. They were a real problem class,” Nielsen said. “I thought maybe that they should see what guys like me had gone through.”
Frederick got Nielsen thinking about the slides again in recent years.
“I didn’t ever want to [show them or look at them] again. I contemplated throwing the slides away,” Nielsen said. “When my wife died two years ago, I went through all the stuff. My son wouldn’t let me throw them away.”
Nielsen said the presentation he gave at the Orient library, to a full room of interested people, was ultimately for Frederck.
“Jim’s been hounding me, so I suppose I better do that for Jim,” he said.
Three other Vietnam War veterans were present for the slideshow, including Eugene Hardisty, Galen Schwochow and Dick Blazek. They were able to share a time discussing their service after the slide show was finished.
The slides show everything from the Vietnamese landscape to the vehicles service members used to get around. It showed the tanks, helicopters and other equipment used during the war and the living quarters Nielsen had that were moved from place to place while he was there.
Nielsen served in the Army from September 8, 1966 to June 8, 1968, when he received a hardship release to go home and put the crop in at home near Royal, in northwest Iowa, because his father had a heart attack.
He graduated with his bachelor’s degree in 1971 from Iowa State University, taught for one year in Cresco, in northeast Iowa, before arriving in Orient, where he has been since.
Nielsen only taught at O-M for two years, then his second heart attack forced him out of the classroom, and he began building Wick Buildings.
“It was good remembering some of the guys I was over there with and the things that I saw. But there were also a lot of memorable things that came to mind that I didn’t talk about because I didn’t want to talk about them,” Nielsen said. “There were a lot of things I couldn’t bring up with that mixed session of people — drug-related problems, abuse problems that were better off not mentioning.”
There were things Nielsen was asked to do in the military that he isn’t as proud of, but one of the main roles he has was cooking for those he served with. One of the slides showed the kitchen he had to work with, and it was so portable that it could be torn down and moved to another location in just a couple hours’ time.
“I don’t do any job half way. If I’m going to do a job I’m hard core at it. I do my job seven days a week. Most military people don’t do any more than they absolutely have to do and don’t do anything extra, and I was exactly the other way around,” Nielsen said. “Most of the draftees don’t do anyhting they don’t want to do because they want to get out. I did everything I could do help everybody.”
Nielsen said he hopes those who saw his slides took away that serving during Vietnam was not a pleasant experience at all, and that freedom isn’t at all free.
As soon as he got his orders for his release, it became evident to Nielsen that the North Vietnamese were preparing for what was known as the Tet Offensive. He said they were preparing very hard to “kill all of us.”
“There were some beautiful things that went on over there. It was a beautiful country to look at. Those people had a tough life over there and we didn’t do them any favors,” Nielsen said. “You live for those orders that say you’re on your way home, but from the time I got those orders until the time I got home, it was pretty scary. The Tet Offensive was the day that the big war effort began for the North Vietnamese.”