By Jim Dickerson
They all volunteered for the draft together, left town together and went through Army basic training together.
The best part is, they all survived their tours of duty during the Vietnam War era and came home again.
Not a bad record for a conflict that claimed more than 58,000 American lives over a 20-year period.
Ten friends from the Lindsay area — nine of them classmates from the Lindsay Holy Family High School class of 1968 — met Wednesday night, Jan. 16, to mark 50 years since the day in 1969 when they left Lindsay together bound for basic training in Fort Lewis, Washington.
All were having fun at a party to celebrate the occasion at the Big Red Pub in Lindsay.
“At the time, we all knew we were going to have to go sooner or later, so we all volunteered for the draft,” said Ken Kurtenbach, one of seven who still live in or near Lindsay.
They were all farm kids except for Norb Drueppel, who lived at St. Bernard, where his father operated a mechanic’s shop, and Terry “Hook” Schaecher, who worked at his dad’s gas station, Lindsay Oil Co.
Nine were members of the largest graduating class in Lindsay Holy Family history (39 members) in 1968. One of the group, Terry Schaecher, is a 1967 grad of LHF.
After basic training, they all went their separate ways to specialized training. Six ended up in the infantry, and eight of the 10 served in Vietnam.
Those who served in Vietnam were Dick Weeder of Lindsay, Ed Luetkenhaus of Lindsay, Terry Schaecher of Lindsay, Norb Drueppel of Schuyler, Dan Jarecki of Lindsay, Alvie Korth of Lindsay, Kent Preister of Lindsay and Dale Gilsdorf of Humphrey. Most of them saw combat duty there.
Serving their tours in other locations were Kurtenbach and Jim Chlopek, now of Richland, NE.
Schaecher and Chlopek were both in artillery units — Chlopek in Germany and Schaecher in Vietnam. Kurtenbach became an instructor with a headquarters company in the U.S., and Korth was in a transportation unit in Vietnam.
Serving in the infantry were Weeder, Luetkenhaus, Drueppel, Jarecki, Preister and Gilsdorf..
Three of the infantrymen — Luetkenhaus, Jarecki and Gilsdorf — were wounded in action while serving in Vietnam, but recovered from their injuries.
After returning home, they all settled back into civilian life and raised families.
The group often sees each other at LHF class reunions. They got together for their 25th reunion in 1994, and met again in 2009 for their 40th reunion.
All are members of the Lindsay American Legion Post, and nearly all return to Lindsay each year in May for Memorial Day services, and in November to participate in the annual Veteran’s Day program at Lindsay Holy Family High School.
By Jim Dickerson