Less than 850-thousand of those veterans are still living.
Larry Schoenwald is a Minot native, and he is also a Vietnam War veteran that served in the United States Army.
“I was in the Vietnam War towards the end of it. I was there in 1972 and that was after, a lot of things where Americans were starting to go home a lot. I served with two helicopter companies. One went home before I had enough time in to go with them, so I had to stay,” said Schoenwald.
Schoenwald had many pictures from his time in the Army, but he lost them during a move.
He comes from a family of military service members.
“My dad was in the Navy in World War II, and my uncles were in the Army. One of them was in Korea, the other was in Germany. And then I think I was the next one. I went to Vietnam. And my son was in the Navy, and he was in between wars, which I was glad of,” said Schoenwald.
Schoenwald worked as a mechanic for two helicopter companies during his tour from October 1971 to October 1972.
He says sometimes, he was able to fly.
“When we’d fly, we’d fly so low to the ground that it was almost like driving or riding a motorcycle because the North Vietnamese, the Russians had given them a bunch of heat seeker missiles so they’d start shooting our helicopters down with those. So in order to avoid that, we’d start flying very low,” said Schoenwald.
Not only did these soldiers experience a difficult time in Vietnam, their welcome home was anything but easy.
After the Vietnam War, many Americans were upset and did not give our military personnel a warm welcome.
“When I came back, people weren’t all that enthused to see us, but I understand the situation. And I don’t hold anything against anybody,” said Schoenwald.
He thanks the veterans that came after him for making it okay to be a veteran again.
“I have to give a real shoutout to the veterans that came after us Vietnam veterans, because they really made it okay to be a veteran again,” said Schoenwald.
Schoenwald also says he recommends military service, because it teaches good values, and it allows you to experience new things.
One of the most common reasons people join the military is because they feel drawn to serving their country.
This sense of duty, or a calling to service, can arise from patriotic family values or the desire to do something meaningful, just like Schoenwald did.
According to the state, more than 15,000 North Dakotans served in Vietnam.
198 North Dakotans never made it back home.