The Good Life Magazine – July-August 2020

TheGoodLife

In this special 7 year anniversary issue of The Good Life Men's Magazine we honor our veterans and military heroes, sharing their remarkable stories once more. We are forever grateful to those who have sacrificed so much for our freedoms.


CELEBRATING 7 YEARS OF THE GOOD LIFE

Dear readers,

It doesn’t seem long ago that we (Dawn and Darren)

took the risk and created the first issue of The Good Life

Men’s Magazine. We noticed a need for a publication

dedicated to the good work being done by great men in

our community. We wanted to encourage and inspire other

men by showcasing these accomplishments. What we

didn’t realize is how far it would personally take us.

Through this magazine and our business, Urban Toad

Media, we’ve had the privilege of meeting some of the

most incredible people. It’s been such a reward to become

their friends. Learning more about who they are, what

they do and how they impact the lives of others has stirred

our souls, and we couldn’t be more excited to share their

stories.

Over the years, there have also been a number of

surprising opportunities. We’ve had beer with the bishop,

seen service dogs in action, spent time with Matt Cullen

and ate donuts from the Stanley Cup, flown in the Sanford

helicopter, been a SWAT team’s fake hostage, met Santa

Claus and famous musicians (not simultaneously), toured

haunted houses and funeral homes—the list goes on (and

on). We’ve been allowed to have behind-the-scenes access

to events and professions that have given us a perspective

most people don’t get to see.

It’s a little overwhelming to think of how much has

happened in 7 years and how much we’ve grown, both

personally and as a business. There is no doubt we’re

incredibly fortunate. It started out as a mission to give

something good to our community, and our community

has given us so much in return.

As many of you know, our writers ask each of our

interviewees what living the good life means to them.

When we asked ourselves the same question, we realized

we’re already living it.

For us, living the good life is enjoying the freedom to have

our own business and run things as we see fit. It’s being

able to experience the unique opportunities and adventures

we’re given through our work with the magazine. It’s

receiving love and support from our family and friends and

meeting new friends along the way. And there is no good

life without the good people in our community.

We are blessed and grateful to be able to do what we love,

which is why we want to say thank you.

Thank you to our talented, award-winning writers whose

individual personalities shine through the stories they

craft for every issue. Your people skills and respect for

2 / THE GOOD LIFE


CELEBRATING 7 YEARS OF THE GOOD LIFE

others and their life experiences always leave a positive

impression on us and your subjects.

Thank you to our advertisers for believing in the

effectiveness of our publication. Aside from the incredible

exposure your business receives both in print and online,

you’re supporting the positive messages included in each

issue of The Good Life.

Thank you to our readers for picking up an issue and

spreading awareness about our publication. Whether you

have been with us from the very beginning or just grabbed

your first magazine, thank you for encouraging us with

your kind comments and for supporting us as a local

business.

7 years a blessing, an honor and a humbling experience.

Thank you.

We would like to dedicate this special issue to our veterans

and military heroes. In our “Local Heroes” feature, we’ve

included many military men. This issue is all about

honoring them as we share their remarkable stories once

more. We are forever grateful to those who have sacrificed

so much for our freedoms. •

Dawn and Darren

Thank you to our interviewees for being willing and brave

enough to share your personal story with the world. You’re

the entire reason we started this magazine, and we’re so

thankful for all the work you do to make our community a

better place. You inspire us to live better lives and remind

us that living “the good life” is all about helping others and

making the world a better place.

Whichever category you fall into, please know that you

have made The Good Life possible. You have made the past

Dawn Siewert

Darren Losee

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 3


CONTENTS

JULY-AUGUST 2020

Volume 8 • Issue 1

2

6

10

14

18

22

28

34

38

42

48

LETTER FROM THE EDITORS

THANK YOU TO OUR READERS

ERIC MARTS

ARMY MASTER SERGEANT

BRYAN KUTTER

MN NATIONAL GUARD STAFF SERGEANT

ART WILLIAMS

ARMY VETERAN

BRIAN RICHTER

SERGEANT FIRST CLASS

WILBERT SCHEFFLER

ARMY CORPORAL

JOE WALLEVAND

ARMY SPECIAL FORCES GREEN BERET

SHANE TIBIATOWSKI

NAVY VETERAN

JASON HICKS

ARMY VETERAN

MIKE GRUCHALLA

VIETNAM MEDIC

WAYNE CASEBEER

MARINE CORPS VETERAN

HONORING OUR MILITARY HEROES

4 / THE GOOD LIFE


PUBLISHED BY

Urban Toad Media LLP

www.urbantoadmedia.com

OWNER / PHOTOGRAPHER

Darren Losee

darren@urbantoadmedia.com

OWNER / GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Dawn Siewert

dawn@urbantoadmedia.com

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS

Soo Asheim

Meghan Feir

Alexandra Floersch

Brittney Goodman

Danette Nicoloff

Wanda Perkins

Alexis Swenson

ADVERTISING INQUIRIES

Darren Losee

darren@urbantoadmedia.com

READ A PAST ISSUE

yumpu.com/user/thegoodlife

FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK

facebook.com/urbantoadmedia

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER

@urbantoadmedia

FOLLOW US ON INSTAGRAM

@urbantoadmedia

The Good Life Men’s Magazine is distributed six times

a year by Urban Toad Media LLP. Material may not be

reproduced without permission. The Good Life Men’s

Magazine accepts no liability for reader dissatisfaction

arising from content in this publication. The opinions

expressed, or advice given, are the views of individual

writers or advertisers and do not necessarily represent

the views or policies of The Good Life Men’s Magazine.

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 5


LOCAL HERO | ERIC MARTS

Original publish date:

July-August 2013

PHOTO SUBMITTED BY: BOBBIE MARTS

www.yumpu.com/user/

thegoodlife

Where

is he now?

Retired Army Master

Sergeant Eric Marts has

lived a lot of life since

his story was published

in July-August 2013.

Through Home for

Our Troops, Marts and

his wife were gifted a

beautiful, mortgagefree

smart home. The

increased space and incredible technology

have proven life-changing for Marts.

Marts and Corporal Deacon were invited

to the 2014 State of the Union Address

followed by several more trips to the White

House to advocate on behalf of veterans.

Marts strives to show that despite being

hurt, he (and other veterans) can accomplish

challenging endeavors. As such, he’s kayaked

the Yellowstone River, downhill skied, and

completed elements of the Mountain Phase of

training for U.S. Army Rangers which includes

repelling down waterfalls and tackling a sheer,

granite-faced mountain (Mt. Yonah).

Furthermore, Marts and his wife have

established the Sergeant’s Time Foundation

to host retreats in Park Rapids, MN where they

envision veterans and non-veterans gathering

to help one another through difficult times.

Corporal Deacon has since passed away

though he left an imprint on individuals on

Capitol Hill and beyond. Marts is excited to be

working with Meadow, his new seeing-eye

dog.

ERIC MARTS

A Hero of the Heartland

WRITTEN BY: DANETTE NICOLOFF

PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA

Persevering to Help Others

“On your feet … at ease.” This is how retired Army Master

Sergeant Eric Marts opens his radio show every Saturday

morning on 970 WDAY AM. During the hour-long program called

“Heroes of the Heartland,” Marts features area service men and

women so they can tell their stories. He wants people to know

what soldiers overcome and conquer when they serve. He said

most who serve, “Are busy telling other people that they are

heroes, but won’t accept the title themselves.” That’s especially

true for Marts himself.

His Story

Marts spent 20 years in the Army, 16 of which were spent active

duty. He was a Gulf War veteran and went back again with the

34th Infantry Division when the United States invaded Iraq after

9-11. In May of 2006 his unit was near Fallujah, Iraq when he

and his men encountered a roadside bomb. Although he was

several yards away, the explosion was so powerful it knocked

him on his back. He got up, shook it off, and went back to work.

6 / THE GOOD LIFE


ARMY MASTER SERGEANT

A few days later, he noticed the sight in

his right eye seemed fuzzy, so he had

it checked out by an Army doctor. He

was told he would be sent to Germany

for treatment. Marts refused. Not only

did he refuse treatment but he talked

his way back into combat. He told

the doctor that regulations permitted

him to stay if he had 50 percent of his

vision. Marts said, “I had people to take

care of. You don’t leave your men.”

Over the next several months, Marts

encountered eight more explosions.

Each time he got up and brushed

himself off. He said, “You just don’t

complain about getting knocked around

when your buddy loses his legs.” What

he didn’t realize, is that he had suffered

many concussions that were damaging

his optic nerves beyond repair.

“You just don’t complain

about getting knocked

around when your buddy

loses his legs.”

By the fall of 2008 he had lost all vision

in both eyes. He spent nine months in

a rehab center for the blind in Illinois,

where he learned to adapt to his new

life. He was even elected the unofficial

mayor of the facility. He said, “I act like

it hasn’t affected my life. The more I act

like it hasn’t affected my life the closer

I am to normality.”

“I act like it hasn’t affected

my life. The more I act like

it hasn’t affected my life the

closer I am to normality.”

His Unlikely Career Path

Marts was career Army and wanted to

achieve the rank of Sergeant Major. His

goals were cut short when he lost his

sight. He was forced to retire and found

himself sitting on the couch feeling

useless. He didn’t want to retire. He

loved serving his country and felt an

obligation to take care of soldiers.

One day while listening to the Jay

Thomas show on 970 WDAY AM, Marts

heard an interview with a veteran.

Corporal Deacon

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 7


LOCAL HERO | ERIC MARTS

When asked what the

good life means to him,

he said, "I'm living it."

Thomas ended the conversation by saying he could talk

to veterans all day. Marts knew a lot of veterans and

thought if Thomas wanted people to interview he could

hook him up. So he emailed Thomas letting him know

just that. He had no idea that one email would change

his life forever. Thomas called Marts and told him that

he liked the idea of doing a show about veterans, and

invited Marts to the station to pitch the idea. The next

thing he knew he was a radio talk show host.

On his first show his guest didn’t show up. The rough

start didn’t stop him from continuing on with his new

career. With his trusty seeing eye dog Deacon or as he

calls him “The Corporal” sitting next to him, Marts takes

command of the microphone like he took command of

his men while serving in Iraq. He uses the airwaves to

tell the stories of those who served. He said, “There’s so

much history out there that will never be known. The

show isn’t about me it’s about them.” He also wants to

set an example for the men and women who come back

from war, “You are still viable. Move forward for the

guys who didn’t come back.”

Adapt And Overcome

“Adapt and overcome” is a saying Marts uses, but they

are also words he lives by. He has never lost his sense

of humor. He heard his dog snoring and joked, “Just like

a soldier. Give him 10 minutes and he will fall asleep.”

He laughed as he told the story about when he was

brought up to the stage at a function and was turning

his head towards a voice asking him questions. He later

found out the announcer was behind him and he was

talking to a speaker.

Marts lives with no regrets. His wife Bobbie and their

five children may disagree with his decision to stay and

serve out his tour, but he said he would do it all again.

He simply said, “It’s where I needed to be.” •

8 / THE GOOD LIFE


ARMY MASTER SERGEANT

PHOTO SUBMITTED BY: BOBBIE MARTS

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 9


LOCAL HERO | BRYAN KUTTER

Original publish date:

March-April 2014

BRYAN KUTTER

Sniper Cuts Military Career Short

WRITTEN BY: SOO ASHEIM • PHOTOS SUBMITTED BY: BRYAN KUTTER

www.yumpu.com/user/

thegoodlife

Where

is he now?

MN National Guard Staff

Sergeant Bryan Kutter’s

story first ran in the March-

April 2014 edition of The

Good Life.

Since then, Kutter has

transitioned roles to Director

of Construction at Designer

Homes where he manages

field operations and home

building projects. Kutter

has continued to stay active

with the Wounded Warrior

Project through which he

and his family were invited

to attend a St. Cloud State

University / University of

North Dakota hockey game

where he was honored as

Veteran of the Game.

Other highlights over the

past six years include lots

of family time. Most notable

were several family cruises

with his family to Alaska, the

Caribbean, and Mexico. With

both of their kids heavily

involved in hockey, Kutter

and his wife spend much

of their time traveling to

games and practices as well

as attending as many Fargo

Force, UND Fighting Hawks,

and MN Wild hockey games

as possible.

10 / THE GOOD LIFE

In 1996 Bryan Kutter was

still in high school when he

made the career decision that

ten years later placed him

in the sites of a sniper. One

bullet changed Staff Sergeant

Bryan Kutter physically for

the remainder of his life and

ultimately determined the

end of a long planned and

hoped for twenty-year career.

With a waiver approved and

signed by his parents, Bryan

joined the Minnesota Army

National Guard when he

was going into his senior

year of high school. Joining

his company for weekend

training and drills, Bryan

graduated from Fergus Falls

High in 1997 and for the

next several years between

continuous training with the

Army National Guard and

deployments to Bosnia and

Kosovo in 2002-2003 he

worked for Menards, where

he met a pretty co-worker

named Amanda who became

his wife in 2005, three weeks

prior to shipping out for a sixmonth

training in Mississippi

followed by what he expected to be a sixteen-month

deployment to Iraq.

As a gunner on a Bradly Vehicle, Staff Sergeant

Kutter was with his battalion in Iraq only seventyfive

days into their mission of clearing areas of

IED’s and securing a village from insurgents when

he was taking the place of Commander Eric Marts

seat up-top, purveying the area behind what the

military refers to as the “Pope Glass.” Call it bad

timing or just bad luck, but as he stood behind

the Pope Glass with his arms folded, watching

the action and movement below he heard and

recognized the sound as the sniper’s bullet rang

out from inside a Mosque hitting SSG Kutter in

the left elbow, traveled up and through his arm into

his neck and finally exiting inside the collar of his

body armour. Suddenly the excruciating agony of

being hit combined with the gush of blood bursting

from his arm hit within nanoseconds.


MN NATIONAL GUARD STAFF SERGEANT

Kutter’s screams of torment brought his driver up from

the second tier of the Bradley and within seconds Gunner

Mike Felt pulled Kutter down into the bottom tier while

attempting to stop the profuse bleeding with pressure and

tourniquets as he called the Medevac’s for more help. One

tourniquet broke, but Gunner Felt managed to apply the

second tourniquet, then their Bradley driver drove to an

outpost about a mile away. Amazingly with unimaginable

proficiency, SSG Kutter was lifted aboard a helicopter

within 14 minutes to fly him to Camp Taqaddum, Iraq,

where his medical team attached an external fixator (metal

bar) in order to keep Kutter’s arm stable. From Taqaddum

he went on to Balad (Iraq) then into Germany where he

stayed for three nights and two days.

Staff Sergeant Bryan Kutter’s long journey of pain,

surgeries, physical and occupational therapies for the next

several months were just beginning. After Germany, Kutter

was flown to Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C.,

then on to Augusta, Georgia’s Ft. Gordon’s Eisenhower

Army Medical Center to face more surgeries and months

of therapy.

DEAR, GUESS WHAT HAPPENED?

Not wanting to frighten Amanda any more than necessary,

Kutter practiced how to ‘understate’ his condition yet let

her know he needed her with him. There is a seven hour

difference between Minnesota and where SSG Kutter

was able to call Amanda from and knowing that he would

awaken her at that hour of the morning, SSG Kutter tried to

sound as “upbeat as possible” in order to not send Amanda

into a frantic worrying frenzy. Amanda was happy to hear

the voice of her far away groom as she shook off her sleepy

fog. As Kutter calmly said, “Well, there’s good news and

some bad news.”

“Well, there's good news

and some bad news.”

PHOTO BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA

Now fully awake, Amanda asked for the bad news first. “I’ve

been shot” Kutter said still trying not to alarm Amanda

any more than he knew she already would be. Amanda sat

listening then finally asked “what’s the good news?” And

just as Kutter began to tell her “I’m coming home,” the

phones went dead on both ends. While it was only a matter

of minutes before their satellite feed was re-engaged and

they were able to hear one another again, for Amanda it

seemed an eternity! Once back on the line Bryan was able

to finish his sentence and said “I’m coming home.”

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 11


LOCAL HERO | BRYAN KUTTER

Amanda Kutter, Bryan’s mother (Tamrie Kohoutek of Detroit Lakes, MN.,)

and Bryan’s father, (Keith Kutter of Breckenridge, MN.,) all flew to Ft.

Gordon to be with Bryan. Amanda was the first to arrive very late the same

night that Kutter was flown to Eisenhower Medical at Ft. Gordon. It was

after the surgery two days later that Bryan’s parents arrived. As an only

child not being with him was extremely stressful coupled with Kutter’s

medical team still were not able to determine definitively whether they

would be able to save his arm or not. At this point, all anyone could tell

them was that they were doing all they could. And after the first surgery at

Ft. Gordon, the doctors inserted two plates, one pin and some 25 screws

into his arm.

As the second surgery required more blood to be transfused into Kutter,

he started to feel the worst he had felt since the beginning when he had

been shot. At one point Kutter said “for the first time I thought I just might

die.” As the medical experts prepared Kutter for his second surgery, this

one to graft skin from his leg to the gaping wound on his bi-cep, Kutter was

getting the last of five extra pints of blood needed for the surgery. He began

to react violently with jerks and gasps. The medical team began checking

all the lines hooked to Kutter one by one. Whatever was going on inside

him was not getting better, only worse. Finally after several questions and

checks with rechecks were going on a doctor in the surgical room simply

said “when all else fails, return to the original path.” And with that the

doctor grabbed the blood transfusion line being pumped into Kutter and

unplugged it. Within mere minutes, Bryan Kutter felt his life had been

saved yet again. They found the blood Kutter was having pumped into him

for the surgery had bacteria in it that was causing him to basically shut

down.

their very first wedding anniversary

together when Amanda flew back to

Ft. Gordon to be with Bryan.

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE

HOME

In November of 2006, Bryan was

able to transfer home through the

Army Community Based Health

Care Initiative. During his continued

rehab, Bryan went through Merit

Care in Fargo (aka Sanford). Kutter’s

Some five months later, after being in an active-duty rehab unit at the Augusta

Veterans Hospital and also in an out-patient wing at Eisenhower, Kutter

was sent back home, to Minnesota. In August, Bryan and Amanda spent

12 / THE GOOD LIFE


MN NATIONAL GUARD STAFF SERGEANT

PHOTO BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA

last surgery was in 2007. Bryan was awarded the Purple

Heart for and Bronze Star Medal for his service in

combat.

Today Brian Kutter is retired from the Army with an

Honorable Medical Disability and while he would never

want to go through any of his ordeals ever again, when

asked if he misses the Army, he doesn’t hesitate to

answer “Yes. I miss my friends in the service and I think

the mission we were on had merit.” When asked about

the injuries he sustained and how they have affected

him, Bryan says due to the limitations and obvious

disability of his left arm he’s not as physical as he once

was. Basketball, a sport he played often and loved he is

not able to push to the competitive level he once could.

Golf is another sport he enjoyed but he rarely plays

anymore nor does he go hunting as he did prior to the

deployment to Iraq.

Yet, even with his disability, Bryan understands that he

escaped what could have been a much worse fate in Iraq

and has learned to appreciate a much calmer and sane

lifestyle.

Living the good life for Bryan today is enjoying the

extra time he has to spend with Amanda and their two

children, Avery and Madison. •

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 13


LOCAL HERO | ART WILLIAMS

Original publish date:

November-December

2014

ART WILLIAMS

Has Learned to Love The Good Life

www.yumpu.com/user/

thegoodlife

Where

is he now?

Army Veteran Art Williams

was the Local Hero in the

November-December 2014

issue of The Good Life.

In the span of six years,

Williams spent two years

doing mission work with

his wife in the Pacific

Islands through the Church

of Jesus Christ Latter-day

Saints, has recovered from

knee replacement and

shoulder reconstruction

surgeries due to injuries

attributed to his time in the

service, and has continued

to maintain involvement

with United Patriot Bodies

(collection of all local

veterans organizations).

WRITTEN BY: SOO ASHEIM • PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA

No one is ever promised life will be

easy. Or, that when we make decisions,

we may want to consider the over-all

cinemascope of our life. And not hastily

decide a life-long changing decision

when it is based on a few of our past

performances. Or, during a time that

might not have been our brightest or

best moments in life.

For better or worse, often many of us do

make decisions that eventually will affect

us for all eternity. When we look back,

usually many years later, we eventually

recognize what led to that one all-time

and life-altering choice shaking our head

as we wonder what in the world was I

thinking?

The Best Intentions

Art Williams was a Math major at

Central State College in Ohio when

he graduated in 1964. Art joined the

ROTC while he attended college, so

when he graduated and decided to join

the Army, he knew that decision was

one of the “right” choices he made as a

young African-American man about to

join the thousands of other young and

eager college grads in the mid-1960s

who believed in righting the wrongs of

the world; where good always would win

over evil and when necessary, fight for

the idealistic causes of the day. Believing

with every fiber in their bodies to what

President John Fitzgerald Kennedy said:

“ask not what your country can do for

He recently started working

with the Honor Guard to

honor individuals at the

Fargo National Cemetery.

Currently, Williams is in

the process of joining back

up with StarForce MEPS

Transportation Service

where one of his duties

will be to drive new recruits

to various locations for

fitness and other required

testing.

14 / THE GOOD LIFE


ARMY VETERAN

you, but ask what I can do for my country.”

Like a pied piper, President Kennedy

convinced an entire nation that “giving and

volunteering” was the noblest and most

patriotic ideal any generation of collegeage

people could ever offer to do and pay

forward in the name of democracy, apple

pie and all that is wholesome in the world.

It was if some new brainwashing gimmick

befell an entire generation of young

people. Some slightly over 18-year-olds

or barely over twenty-one year olds and

just out of college graduates could be

found standing in long lines at malls and

in neighborhood parks began signing up

to join President Kennedy’s newly formed

American Peace Corps. A naïve and

very young diplomatic core of volunteers

offered their many talents and skills to

cross southern borders into other lands as

far away as Chile and Peru or fly across

the seas and oceans in an effort to “reach

out” to the masses of sick and often dying

children, parents and elderly people.

With only the very best intention and

usually with back breaking effort to teach

foreigners how to farm, grow gardens,

develop and build infrastructures within

their villages and tiny towns.

Within a year, thousands had boarded

buses and trains, drove in car pools or

hitch-hiked to the nearest Peace Corps

recruitment office to sign up for as long as

three and four year “tours of volunteering”

abroad. Many went to countries and

cities they had never heard of before to

lend their raw labor, talents and often

minimal skills to the poorest of the poor

who lived in filthy squalor, rampant with

contagious diseases, drinking and cooking

with polluted water. The infrastructure

consisted of dirty, dusty streets half

the year during dry periods and muddy

pits when it rained. The Peace Corps

volunteers worked tirelessly attempting to

teach and train their host countries people

how to function in a modern world so they

too, might live beyond the age of forty-five.

During the same time frame, Vietnam

was growing far beyond a mere political

conflict. By the end of 1964 and into

1965, Vietnam was a hotbed of blown up

villages and under-ground tunnels with a

neverending cycle of North Vietnamese

soldiers holding one single focus: take over

the land growing the main food supply for the southern hemisphere,

rice, while simultaneously enslaving civilian women and children.

Those Who Defend Go

After graduation from Ohio’s Central State College, as a Distinguished

Military Graduate, both the Air Force and the Army wanted to claim

Arthur Williams among their bravest and brightest. And while it wasn’t

a split second decision for Art to make, because Art’s dad was who he

was and Art wanted to be sure whatever he became it would be because

he earned it himself. Art opted to stay “Army All The Way.” Life was

complicated enough in those days for a black or multi-ethnic person.

Art recalls with bittersweet irony why he opted to take his ROTC Army

Commission after he graduated from college and explains it this way:

“My father was a well-known and respected Air Force Colonel who was

a Tuskegee Airman” during World War II. I needed to be sure whatever I

did, I would have earned it and it wasn’t given to me because of who my

dad was. If I had joined the Air Force, especially before my father retired,

I’m not sure I would have been totally certain something didn’t come my

way because of who my dad was.” Art felt he could do well in the Army

and he did.

For those who are not familiar with WW II history, Art Williams's father

(also known as “Art”) was among an elite group of Officers from World

War II. As a Tuskegee Airman, Colonel Williams went beyond his comfort

zone to become a Logistician and advisor within the US Government

and to other governments at the request of our government.”

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 15


LOCAL HERO | ART WILLIAMS

The Tuskegee Pilots were the only

African-American pilots in World War

II. Afterward the Tuskegee Squadron

disbanded in 1949 and those who

stayed with the Air force were shipped

over to Europe and elsewhere around

the world. After the Second World

War was over, Colonel Williams was

stationed in Germany. The Colonel,

Art, his mother and siblings lived in

Germany from 1949 until 1952. From

1954 until 1958 they lived in France,

where Art attended a French School as

the only American private boys school,

until 1958 when another move was

made. This time the move was back

to the United States capital city where

Art graduated from a Washington, D.C.

high school in 1960.

Ohio Coeds and Co-mingling

Art moved with his family when his

father was transferred to Wright

Patterson Air Force Base after Art

graduated from High School. Four

years later, Art finished college at

Central State and joined the Army.

Colonel Williams, Art’s mother and

siblings moved to Taiwan.

Art said, “I’ve been called a survivor”

due to having “bounced around so

much as a kid and as an adult,” while

explaining as to how he views himself

as well as life.

Art explained what he thinks by

saying, “What I found is that many

of us who have traveled and moved

away from friends and family tend to

become very flexible or wind up really

broken. I learned to become kind of

flexible.” Thinking about Art as an only

son of a higher ranking military man,

graduating with a degree in Math and

then becoming a twelve-year military

person himself, one might presume

that Art might have a much higher

tendency to be a bit ‘rigid.’ Art is a

Mathematician. Generally speaking

often there is no flexibility when

computing the numbers end of

anything. The answer is either correct

or it’s wrong! Yet in interviewing this

soft-spoken man, I never got a vibe

that he is someone who is incapable of

looking beyond or outside the scope of

“procedure and protocol” so to speak.

16 / THE GOOD LIFE

Flexibility means having the ability to

reach an alternative plan that yields

the conclusion hoped for.

Three Tours Into Hell

After his college days at Central State

College in Ohio, Art spent twelve years

in a soldier’s suit. During those twelve

years, Art spent three years in Vietnam.

He volunteered to go with the Ninth

Infantry Division into Vietnam his first

time and second tours; from 1966 until

1968. Art said, “as a Commissioned

Field Artillery Officer, he needed to

see it and experience what the troops

experienced in order to understand

what the soldiers he was commanding

were going through and how they

dealt with what they had to endure.” It

was his way of learning how he could

become a better Field Commander.

His second tour was during the Tet

Offensive, known for having the “worst

fighting.” As the Battery Commander

in the Mekong Delta, his Division

was Staff Headquarters during the

planning of the invasion into Cambodia.

When his tour was completed after

the second tour, he was shipped back

stateside to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma to train

for the Officers Advance Course.

Fourteen months later, Art decided to

go back once more. The Invasion of

Cambodia was during his third tour

as he served with the Cavalry Division-

Airmobile. Art described it as the team

that “does everything by air; helicopters

primarily. The simple answer is to

watch the movie Apocalypse Now.”

“After my third tour I served as

an Assistant Professor of Military

Science at Virginia State College

where I completed requirements for

a Masters of Education degree. I was

then assigned to Germany where I

Commanded a Nuclear Capable Field

Artillery battery.”

At the end of his third tour, Art decided

it was time to leave active duty to

return to civilian life. Art liked many

of the places he adopted and made his

home. One of them happens to be a

suburb of Minneapolis-St. Paul where

Art and Marie, his wife of the last

twenty-nine years met. Art also liked

Denver during most of the fourteen

years he, Marie and their two children

lived there. By the time they left, Art

said he was definitely ready to move

away. Too many people had moved into

his little mountain town where he did

more IT Tech and consulting work for

many companies around the country.

Art and Marie moved to Fargo

approximately four years ago. Art’s last

gig was with Corelink Administrative

Solutions as a Project Manager in

2010.

When I asked Art “so have you found

where or which area or city you liked

the most?” He smiled from ear to ear

and said, “FARGO! It’s just the best

place!” According to Art the West

Fargo, Fargo and Moorhead people are

“A-number One’s” in his opinion.

Art Williams is a Vietnam Vet and

because of his experiences in Vietnam

as well as the PTSD he’s suffered

with, he feels for anyone who has

the misfortune to have so much

trauma in their lives regardless of

when it happened. Art also visits and


ARMY VETERAN

volunteers at the Fargo Veterans Hospital as often as

he can because he understands why some of the men

he has helped get into counseling have waited for so

many years. More often than not he believes many of

the soldiers returning from conflicts and wars need to

deal with their disorders immediately. Especially PTSD;

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Knowing what he went

through, Art believes this is a disease that will never

completely leave someone and it most certainly can be

fatal.

Art and Marie Williams are also members of the Church

of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Art, a grandson

of a Presbyterian Minister and who was brought up in

the Catholic Church, I wondered how such a radical

“switch” occurred. Art’s simple answer was that for

nearly 41 years he wandered around asking “why?”

and feeling he was missing something. Then, during a

job interview with the Vice President of a company in

Minnesota, who happened to be a devoted member of

the (Morman) Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints.

Art and the VP began conversing about how they felt

and what was important in life for each of them. After a

very long conversation, Art decided he wanted to at least

go to a service and hear what they do. Art realized when

the service was over the first time, he felt more at peace

than he could ever remember. That was thirty years ago.

Art believes what many people feel; God just wants us to

be as good as we can be and to treat one another with as

much kindness and understanding as possible.

Art Williams believes he has found the good life. A

military veteran who not only believes in his faith but

lives it by the good deeds he does for others. Now he and

Marie are living in a place Art says is the BEST EVER. •

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 17


LOCAL HERO | BRIAN RICHTER

Original publish date:

May-June 2015

www.yumpu.com/user/

thegoodlife

Where

is he now?

Sergeant First Class

Brian Richter’s story was

originally published in the

May-June 2015 issue of

The Good Life.

In 2019, Richter married

his wife, Tina. They first

met one another in Junior

High and had reconnected

in 2016 after losing touch

around 1993. Tina’s three

kids and Richter’s two

sons remain in the Fargo

area finishing high school,

attending college, or

working.

Currently, Richter is serving

as the Company First

Sergeant (1SG) for C Co

834th on a deployment to

Iraq supporting the 34th

Combat Aviation Brigade.

Upon his return, he’ll

continue working full time

for the MN Army National

Guard as the Readiness

NCO for C Company 834th

Aviation Support Battalion.

18 / THE GOOD LIFE

BRIAN RICHTER

A LOCAL MILITARY HERO SHARES ABOUT HIS DEDICATION

TO HIS FAMILY, COMMUNITY AND COUNTRY

WRITTEN BY: WANDA PERKINS

PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA

Most of us have the luxury of awakening

refreshed after a peaceful sleep in a

comfortable bed. We sip our favorite cup of

morning brew, listen to the morning’s news

and enjoy a warm shower before beginning

the day. Amidst the usual morning traffic

frustrations and lengthy lists of errands,

overloaded schedules and appointments,

we sometimes take for granted the daily

freedoms we enjoy and the great sacrifices

our dedicated military heroes make each

day.

Born in Fargo, SSG Brian Richter grew up

in Hunter, N.D. and attended Dakota High

School. Just two days after graduation, he

left for Basic Training. “I decided early in my

junior year of high school that I wanted to go

into the Army,” SSG Richter recalled. “My

first thought was to become a police officer

and this would give me experience. I first

I LOVE SERVING MY

COUNTRY. I HAVE BEEN

THROUGH MANY THINGS,

SOME GOOD AND SOME

BAD. MOST OF THE BAD

THINGS YOU FORGET.

I’VE TRAVELED AROUND

THE WORLD, SPENT MY

21ST BIRTHDAY ON A

BEACH IN HONDURAS AND

SNORKELED IN PANAMA.

I WOULDN’T TRADE ANY

OF THE EXPERIENCES

THAT I HAVE HAD.

BRIAN RICHTER


SERGEANT FIRST CLASS

PHOTOS SUBMITTED BY: BRIAN RICHTER

served in a Combat Support Unit instead

of a Garrison Unit that normally performs

regular police work on post.”

The training and schooling SSG Richter

has received is extensive beginning with

Military Police School in 1989. In 1992,

he was no longer on active Army duty.

He attended Combat Engineer School in

April 1993 and also served in the North

Dakota Army National Guard for one

year and then in the Minnesota National

Guard in 1996. Following completion of

the National Guard Small Arms Instructor

Range Operations Course in May 2000, he

attended Infantry Training in November

2002. He clarified he went through Sniper

School twice. The first time was in March

2010, when he sustained an injury to his

knee.

“ONE OF THE REQUIREMENTS OF

SNIPER TRAINING IS CARRYING

A 75-POUND BACKPACK, ALONG

WITH YOUR WEAPON, WHILE

RUNNING OVER UNEVEN GROUND

ON THE RANGE,” – RICHTER

“Unfortunately, I blew out my left knee

and had to wait until September 2011 to

complete the course.”

Additionally, SSG Richter began training

for deployment to Iraq in Louisiana,

where he learned how to drive the Heavy

Equipment Transport (HET) in September

2004. The day after Thanksgiving, he

was deployed to Iraq. “My mission with

the 778th Transportation Company was

transporting vehicles or equipment into

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 19


LOCAL HERO | BRIAN RICHTER

and out of Iraq,” he recalled. “I spent about half of my time

in the HET and half in a HMMWV gun truck doing security

for our convoys.”

He sensed the imminent danger of driving a slow-moving

vehicle across dusty roads where roadside bombs were

always a possible threat. While serving in Iraq, he received

an urgent message from The Red Cross notifying him of

a family medical emergency back home. The next day he

boarded a civilian flight back to the states after serving eight

months.

In 2005, SSG Richter was working as the rear detachment

Readiness and Training (NCO) in Moorhead, MN and had

the opportunity to speak with wives of military personnel.

He answered difficult questions about why their spouses

chose not to return home.

“ONE OF THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTIONS AND

DIFFICULTIES THE MILITARY FACE IS THAT

SOMETIMES OUR FAMILIES BACK HOME THINK

WE DON’T CARE, WHICH IS NOT THE CASE.

THERE IS A COMRADERY IN THE MILITARY

WHERE EACH BRANCH STEPS UP BESIDE YOU.

THERE’S ALSO AN UNQUESTIONABLE SAFETY

RESPONSIBILITY AND LOYALTY TOWARDS

YOUR FELLOW MEN AND WOMEN THAT YOU

SERVE WITH.”

Other than his Iraq deployment with the Minnesota

National Guard, he was stationed at Fort Davis Panama

following Basic Training and Military Police training. Then

in October 1989, he was assigned to the 549th Military

20 / THE GOOD LIFE

Police Company (MP) and later in December participated

in Operation Just Cause.

“For this mission, my duties were spread over several

different areas which included securing buildings or roads,

clearing buildings and doing raids in areas of town while

looking for weapons and drugs,” SSG Richter noted. “While

Panama was under martial law, we operated as the police

force breaking up civil disturbances and riots in the jail in

Colon until a new police force was established.”

One of the most rewarding aspects of military service for

SSG Richter is the comradery. He confessed he wasn’t a

good student in high school and didn’t have much discipline,

despite all the efforts attempted by his parents. His advice

to young men and women considering a possible military

career is dependent upon on what career choice is desired

and what an individual wants to accomplish. He added, “A

military career will be hard, but it will be rewarding.”

SSG Richter diligently served our community during two

floods. He said that one of the aspects that makes our

community strong is the fact that everyone joins together

when the need is greatest. “It is a sign of strength when

families and friends come together to offer help. This is

certainly not characteristic of all communities, where some

simply wait for help to arrive,” he explained.

In addition to his dedicated service to his community and

country, SSG Richter has yet another challenging role as a

single parent to two sons, Austin, age 16, and Cody, age 12.

“I am fortunate to have a command that understands my

personal situation and works with me to make sure that I

have the time to take my children to their appointments and

to attend their school functions,” he noted. Although he said


SERGEANT FIRST CLASS

it is a sacrifice to be away from his family one that requires

significant coordinating he knows his sons’ needs will be

taken care of.

“There are many challenges to face during deployment.

These differ for each person,” SSG Richter stated. “When

you have kids at home, like when I went to Iraq, you always

try to get a little time to run over to the Morale Welfare and

Recreation (MWR) tent. Everyone waits in line for computer

time to video chat with family. I tried not to think too much

about what was going on back at home so I could focus on

my responsibilities there.”

HIS SONS ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT PEOPLE

IN HIS LIFE, AND HE ENJOYS SPENDING

AS MUCH FAMILY TIME WITH THEM AS HE

CAN.

SSG Richter also described his personal reflection of what

he considers a hero. Without wavering, he named Chris

Kyle, the trained Navy SEAL who wrote the best-selling

novel American Sniper. The book was later released on film

in December 2013. Kyle was shot and killed at a shooting

range in Texas.

“I love serving my country,” he admitted. “I have been

through many things, some good and some bad. Most of the

bad things you forget. I’ve traveled around the world, spent

my 21st birthday on a beach in Honduras and snorkeled in

Panama. I wouldn’t trade any of the experiences that I have

had.”

Since 2002, SSG Richter has worked with the Army

National Guard in Operations. His main responsibilities

include reviewing training, scheduling equipment and

resources, reviewing travel or pay orders and working with

IT issues for his battalion for both full time staff and the

regular National Guard side as well.

In December 2014, he completed Electromagnetic

Spectrum Manager School (ESM) and is currently one of

three trained ESMs in the Minnesota National Guard. This

is specialized training that de-conflicts any interference and

works closely with electronic communication and electronic

warfare.

Even when our busy lives are packed with trivial daily

annoyances, these inconveniences pale in comparison to

the dedication and sacrifices our military personnel provide

every day. For these true heroes that risk their lives to

protect and defend us all, we owe a great debt of heartfelt

appreciation and respect.

When asked what the good life means to him, local hero

SSG Richter smiled and thoughtfully answered, “My idea

of the good life would be cruising down a curvy road on my

motorcycle while listening to Johnny Lang.” •


LOCAL HERO | WILBERT SCHEFFLER

Original publish date:

March-April 2017

WILBERT SCHEFFLER

www.yumpu.com/user/

thegoodlife

Where

is he now?

The Good Life featured

Army Corporal Wilbert

Scheffler as the Local Hero

in the March-April 2017

magazine issue.

Throughout the last three

years, Scheffler has been

busy working through his

personal home library

of books, continuing to

eat blueberries for good

measure, and celebrating

his 90th birthday. For

Scheffler, the highlight of

the party was celebrating

with nearly 100 of his

friends and family. Local

accordion player Albert

Mikesh, whom Scheffler

considers a personal

hero, played music at the

party including Scheffler’s

favorite waltz.

WRITTEN BY: BRITTNEY GOODMAN

PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA

87-year-old Barnesville native, Corporal Wilbert Scheffler

of the US Army 7th Infantry during the Korean War, is

a local hero worth getting to know. This reflective and

grateful farmer and television repairman’s life was greatly

influenced by his time in service in Korea.

Wilbert is the recipient of many honors for his time in

service, including the Bronze Star, Korean Service

Medal, Good Conduct Medal, United Nations Service

Medal, Combat Infantry Badge and the National Defense

Service Medal.

He entered Basic Training in 1952 at Camp Breckenridge,

Kentucky. Wilbert described his fellow soldiers as “all

farm kids, all the same people like I am.” After basic

training, Wilbert said that where the soldier was assigned

was “alphabetical”: “If your last name began near the

beginning, you went to Germany. Mine was later, so I

went to Korea. That’s that.”

During his time in Korea, one of his duties was guarding

a prisoner of war camp. Wilbert explained, “We spent two

years guarding prisoners. Years later we learned it was

a leper colony.” He did not end up with leprosy. Wilbert

was also struck by the poverty of the Korean people,

especially the children: “What really got me over there

were those little orphan kids — they were starving. How

they survived I don’t know. Many soldiers threw crackers

to them and they fought over them.”

22 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com


ARMY CORPORAL

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 23


LOCAL HERO | WILBERT SCHEFFLER

He recalled one time early in the time in Korea: “I was

so lucky … I was on the north side of Arsenal Hill – I

moved out in the open so that I could see and I no more

than moved and a mortar round came. I was buried

under the rubble and dirt and I was protected. I was on

guard duty all by myself. I was all alone and it was a bad

place. But I was protected.”

Wilbert was dismayed by the lack of attention paid to

the veterans coming back from the Korean War. With

emotion, he said, “When I came back from Korea, nobody

gave a darn.” But something happened in October 2016

that brought tears of joy to his eyes – he was one of the

24 / THE GOOD LIFE


ARMY CORPORAL

veterans selected to travel to Washington DC on the

WDAY Honor Flight. Wilbert exclaimed, “The Honor

Flight was like living in another world! People were

so nice. And after the flight, returning home, seeing

all those people at the airport when we came back,

it got to me.”

During the Honor Flight, Wilbert met many people and saw

much. He described being kindly wheeled around in his

wheelchair by Mike McFeely who took him to the Franklin

Roosevelt Memorial. Wilbert enjoyed his time with Tracy

Briggs, Forum Communications and founder of the Honor

Flight back in 2007: “We got along really well. I could say

anything to her and she understood. She wheeled me to the

Vietnam Wall, the Korean War monument, and the Lincoln

Monument.” Wilbert then got up to get something from

another room and returned to proudly show me the thank

you note he received from Briggs, smiled, and said: “She’s a

nice lady.”

When I asked Wilbert about the movie “Pork Chop Hill” he

said, “It was a good movie. Gregory Peck is very good in it.

But nothing can accurately show what we went through.”

Wilbert says that circumstances and people saved his life while

in Korea. Wilbert asserted, “Other people stepped in and saved

me. I didn’t ask for any favors.”

One of those that stepped in was his best friend at war,

Jim Cunningham, who assigned Wilbert to the Commo

(Communications) Unit because of his knowledge of working

with radios and other devices. Wilbert always had a radio: “I

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 25


LOCAL HERO | WILBERT SCHEFFLER

kept the

radio going,

guys loved the

music. It helped us all.

I carried the radio on my

backpack. I made a case

big enough for six flashlight

batteries and made it go 24

hours a day so that the guys had

music. Music was just a lifesaver.”

One time Wilbert left his radio at the

prison camp he was guarding. When

he got back to his unit, it was gone, and

he figured it was lost forever. Then Jim

Cunningham said, “Did you know they

shipped your radio, it’s in supply?” Wilbert

explained, “Getting that radio back was a

lifesaver for me. It was a Zenith. It was high

quality.”

Another person whose intervention perhaps saved

Wilbert’s life was the officer who decided to send

him to the rear of the line during the Pork Chop

Hill battle. Wilbert emotionally explained, "My best

friend in the Army, Jim Cunningham, died on that hill.

Somebody was looking out for me."

He described the battle: “The last battle – out of the clear

blue sky – I had about 40 points and I was supposed to go

home. The guys with that many points went back in the

rear. The Chinese hit Pork Chop and they were bound to

take it, they just swarmed into battle. And then, us guys in

the rear, we heard that we were going to counter-attack.

They lined us up. So many guys were so afraid, they just

collapsed. They did not even have enough officers to make

a company. We went to Hill 200, and they had decided to

abandon Pork Chop.”

way to say ‘stay another day?’ He was kind of like Alan

Alda from M.A.S.H., a young guy. I don’t know his name. I

think he saved my life.”

Coming back from the war, he lived his life as a farmer

and a television repairman on the side: “Back in the stone

age, I fixed everyone’s television.”

Wilbert misses Jim Cunningham and communicates with

a relative of Jim’s via email and letters. After the war, he

became friends with fellow veteran, Dick Mosca, who was

an officer in the Navy and a Minnesota highway patrolman

who died a week before the October 2016 WDAY Honor

Flight: “He accepted me for what I was. We would go to

veteran’s funerals together. I really miss him.” A major

reason Wilbert went on the Honor Flight was to honor

Dick.

Wilbert has been married to Mary Ann since 1976.

They have two children. Their son, Bill, works in the IT

department at MSUM and who Wilbert encouraged with

computers. His daughter, Peggy, lives in Carrington.

She has given him two grandchildren. Evidence of his

pride in his children and grandchildren are in the many

photos in their Barnesville home. Mary Ann and Wilbert

are active in the Barnesville VFW chapter, where he is a

Quartermaster.

Wilbert’s son, Bill said this of his dad: “I think the war

affected him in some pretty profound ways. He values

all life and living and, consequently, none of our family

members are hunters, which is unusual for this area. He

often feels guilty eating meat. We grew up on a farm with

pet cats, dogs, a pet chicken that lived in the house for a

while, even a pet calf that roamed our farm yard at one

point that he had to bottle feed to keep alive. He values

home and hearth above all else and was never much for

travel or similar excitement that most people crave after

And finally, there was a doctor at the M.A.S.H unit where he

was recovering from a very bad fever. Wilbert remembered

that the doctor asserted, “Stay another day. It’s really bad

out there.” Wilbert thinks his chances of survival were

greatly increased by that kind doctor: “My company went

into it. It was really bad, but I stayed another day or two,

and was saved.” He asked, “Why did a doctor go out of his

26 / THE GOOD LIFE


ARMY CORPORAL

he returned home. I don’t think any of us who weren’t

there with him can ever fully understand what he saw

and what he went through… As a listener to his stories,

it is hard to process it all, I couldn’t imagine living

through and surviving it. All he wanted was to be home

and ever since he returned home, it’s where he wants to

be and where he is happiest - surrounded by everyone

and everything he values most.”

Bill continued: “We did not have a lot growing up but

he’d still go the extra mile for friends and people in the

local community by helping them with their TVs and

electronics much like he did maintaining radio for

friends back in Korea. Without realizing it at the time,

I followed in his footsteps by continuing the tradition

and helping people in my community with computers

and still do even today in my free time.”

Bill credits Wilbert for his career in computing after

his dad brought a very early Apple II Plus computer

home one day for Bill: “I hooked it to one of the many

televisions in my bedroom (one of the perks of having

a dad who fixed TVs!) and it was love at first sight for

me when I realized I could program it to do whatever

I wanted.”

When asked about how he keeps all of these memories

clear, Wilbert said, “I eat a lot of blueberries. It keeps

your mind sharp.” He is proud that the only pill he takes

is for high blood pressure.

When asked what he considered “the good life,” Wilbert

thought a bit and said, “I don’t know ... After I got back

from the war and I owned a farm and I was helping

people with their machinery and television... That to

me was a good life. All that I went through in the war

and I was not wounded and I am alive. That is a good

life.” •

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 27


LOCAL HERO | JOE WALLEVAND

Original publish date:

May-June 2017

www.yumpu.com/user/

thegoodlife

Where

is he now?

Army Special Forces Green

Beret Joe Wallevand’s story

was published in the May-June

2017 issue of The Good Life.

Wallevand remains a musician

as he continues to learn

and play classical music on

the piano as well as sing

the National Anthem on

occasion. He recently joined

the Fargo National Cemetery

Honor Guard, participating in

gun salutes to honor fellow

veterans.

Wallevand is grateful for

how he’s been able to better

manage his PTSD through

group counseling sessions

at the Fargo Vet Center and a

few one-on-one sessions of a

counseling technique termed

Eye Movement Desensitization

and Reprocessing (EMDR). He

encourages fellow veterans

to use the Vet Center as it has

helped him so much and urges

anyone who has experienced

trauma to seek counseling.

Overall, Wallevand believes

that it can be fun getting to

know yourself better. Since

life is too short, it needs to be

good.

JOE WALLEVAND

TEACHER, SCIENTIST, POET, SOLDIER

WRITTEN BY: BRITTNEY GOODMAN • PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA

US Army Special Forces (Green Beret) veteran, Joe Wallevand served in the

military for 21 years, taught in public schools for 19 years, and was a chemist for

American Crystal Sugar for 24 years. In the Army Special Forces Wallevand served

as a medic and also a trainer. When asked about any medical experience prior to

the Army, he said: “I was a Boy Scout.”

Wallevand has three years of active duty and then served 18 years in the North

Dakota Army National Guard in three different companies: the 191st Military Police

Guard Company, 634th Service Company at Hillsboro-Mayville, and the 815th

Medical Clearing Company Fargo-Bismarck, eventually attaining the rank of first

sergeant for that medical company. He achieved the E-8 level before retirement.

28 / THE GOOD LIFE


ARMY SPECIAL FORCES GREEN BERET

Wallevand was drafted, then enlisted in

the Army in April of 1965, completed basic

training and then entered Special Forces

Training, beginning with jump school in

Oct of 1965 in Fort Benning, Georgia after

completing his basic and engineering

Advanced Individual Training.

In his youth, Wallevand described himself as

an “egg-head” with high skills in math and

a long-held fascination with parachuting,

the military, and guerrilla warfare. Thus,

the Special Forces seemed a good fit for his

talents and interests.

Becoming a medic was a decision Wallevand

made, at least partially, because of being

involved in an auto accident prior to the

service, which left him with guilt about “not

being able to give proper medical attention

to the elderly gentleman who died later.” He

underwent 47 weeks of training, including 16

at the Fort Sam Houston medical school, nine

of on-the job-training at an Army hospital, 16

at the advanced medical lab in Fort Bragg

and six weeks of Special Forces tactics and

techniques.

Wallevand explained that his Special Forces

training involved map reading, irregular

“guerrilla” warfare, infiltration, methods

of instruction, defensive measures, land

navigation, patrolling, raids and ambushes,

sabotage, civic action projects, escape and

evasion, and then the special skills training

that Wallevand asserted that, “if I told you

about that, I’d…,” which is a standard joke

among service people.

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 29


LOCAL HERO | JOE WALLEVAND

Wallevand got his orders to go to Vietnam

on Valentine’s Day, 1967 and arrived in

Vietnam March 31. He was assigned to

the 5th Special Forces Group.

In Vietnam, Wallevand was initially a

junior A-team medic. He recalled being

in Hà Tiên near the Gulf of Siam. He was

told “don’t go too far down that road or

else you will be in Cambodia and it will be

an international incident.” One of his jobs

was also to “go out to our airfield, toward

Cambodia, and deliver any personnel or

supplies back to our camp.”

Wallevand was to train some Montagnard

people whom he described as “some

of the first inhabitants of Vietnam” and

fairly primitive, with large piercings and

some with “bones in their noses”. He was

called upon to jumpmaster a training

jump for them. Wallevand explained that

jumpmasters normally jump last from the

plane. However, due to the Asians’ lack

of training and language, he had to jump

first as an example. Wallevand recalled,

right before he jumped, looking back at

the Montagnard people: “Their eyes are

normally almond-shaped. But when I

turned around all of their eyes were as big

and as round as mine. They were scared.

It made me remember my first jump at

Fort Benning, which was the first time I

had flown in a plane.”

As part of a civic action, Wallevand handed

out manual tools to the Vietnamese

people – shovels, picks, and spades, to

be used in the rice patties. He explained

that “winning the hearts and the minds

of the people” was one of the goals of the

war. He remembered that the Vietnamese

said, “Thank you, doctor.” To them, he

was considered a doctor because of his

medical training. Later, however, during

the Tet Offensive, they had taken these

same implements and built bunkers inside

their huts.

Wallevand explained the “most

successful” operation of his A-team,

a month and a half before he was

to return home: “We went into

an area (restricted to us) to raid

a small group of Viet Cong.”

His team collected a number

of documents, weapons, and

propaganda. Wallevand said

30 / THE GOOD LIFE


ARMY SPECIAL FORCES GREEN BERET

Wallevand still has the Viet

Cong flag that he retrieved.

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 31


LOCAL HERO | JOE WALLEVAND

An advertisement

that intrigued

Wallevand into

joining the military.

“we did not lose anybody and killed

eleven VC.” Wallevand retrieved and

still has a Viet Cong flag and some

propaganda.

Wallevand returned home from

Vietnam in 1968: “I did not get spit on

when I came back. A lot of my friends

had very bad encounters.” Several

years later, a colleague called him

“a baby killer.” Wallevand explained:

“At the time, I didn’t like hearing that

and feel the same now. It is coming

on my 50 year anniversary of going to

Vietnam.”

Wallevand has been married for 47

years to fellow teacher, and fellow

Concordia graduate, Linda. They are proud of their

successful, creative children. Mike works for Thompson-

Reuters Find Law; Steve for Media Productions; Deb for

Old Hat Creative managing promotions for NCAA sports

teams.

Linda described her husband as “a real renaissance man”

with talents in music, writing, arts, science and teaching.

They are both musicians. Linda has been a piano teacher

for 40 years, while Wallevand sings in the local Master

Chorale. Wallevand has an uncanny ability to figure things

out: “In our little school system – he was the first computer

teacher,” and Wallevand chimed in: “They just dropped a

computer in front of me one day, and I just figured it out. I

used to describe myself as a full service science teacher.”

Linda described their first date, while at Concordia: “It

was in January and it was 20 below. We were walking

on campus and I was freezing. Joe was pointing out

the constellations for me.” Wallevand is an amateur

astronomer and the couple has travelled to Canada to

witness and celebrate two solar eclipses and they will

soon be going to their third event.

Wallevand currently does public speaking of many types

and is active in talking with local students.

When asked, “What does ‘the good life’ mean to you,’

Wallevand responded: “The good life means peace and

being with the people you love.”

Wallevand is reluctant to accept the title of “hero”: “You

want to talk about heroes? My big brother was my hero.

But there are guys who aren’t here anymore - their names

are on the Wall. There are the guys who came back from

the war with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) who

don’t know what to do with their lives so they end them.

Then there are the Agent Orange victims.” He goes on to

describe local Vietnam War Medal of Honor winner, Loren

D. Hagen, whom the new West Fargo American Legion

is named after, a member of a special unit of Special

Forces called the MACV-SOG. These soldiers engaged in

32 / THE GOOD LIFE


ARMY SPECIAL FORCES GREEN BERET

extremely dangerous missions without any identification

– no dog tags. Loren died serving his country on one such

mission.

Wallevand explained: “I’m sure I have PTSD. I don’t know

if you could go through and see all the things I have, that

anyone could, and not have it.”

A common problem for veterans of wars is “survivor guilt”

- a term Wallevand described as “the feeling of not doing

your part, of not giving, as Lincoln said in ‘The Gettysburg

Address,’ the ‘last full measure of devotion’” – that gnawing

question of “why did you make it while others did not?”

Wallevand continues: “If people want to call me a hero,

I guess that’s fine. I did put myself in harm’s way for a

greater good. But when you think of those guys on the

Vietnam Memorial Wall, for the rest of us – the survivors –

it is almost embarrassing to be called a hero.” •

To reflect on survivor guilt, Wallevand wrote a poem

based upon Percy Bysshe Shelley’s 1818 “Ozymandias.”

He wrote it after returning from a visit to the Vietnam

Memorial Wall. He read it as part of his 2016 Memorial

Day speech at our local Veteran’s Memorial Bridge:

“Survivor Guilt”

by: Joe Wallevand 2016

Along a watery pathway,

Meeting in the middle:

Two bold, black blocks of granite

Stretch long upon the green, grassy earth.

And upon them written names —

Seemingly endless list of names —

Many the names I know —

Chiseled in solemn relief.

I look for my name;

I search the span of when I served.

I am not on the Wall —

Where is my name?

Surely my name is in the mix;

I was there, as were they,

But surely as we all were there,

My name surely should be here.

Had there been a million names

Without mine on it;

Had there been a wall with no names at all;

Mine could have been on it.

What did they do to deserve to be listed?

What did I do to deserve being left off?

But my name IS written… written deep within me…

Just not on the Wall.

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 33


LOCAL HERO | SHANE TIBIATOWSKI

Original publish date:

July-August 2017

www.yumpu.com/user/

thegoodlife

Where

is he now?

Navy Veteran Shane

Tibiatowski’s story originally

ran in the July-August 2017

issue of The Good Life.

In the last three years,

Tibiatowski has worked to

maintain relationships with

friends and Navy buddies

whom he served with.

He has also transitioned to

a new company, Peoples

Home Equity Mortgage

Lending, continuing to serve

people through mortgage

work. Tibiatowski takes

great pride in giving back to

those who give back and is

especially thrilled that the

company has expanded

who they give back to and

what they give back for.

He remains honored to

be involved in the Homes

for Heroes program and

passionate about helping

fellow veterans.

WRITTEN BY: BRITTNEY GOODMAN

PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA

Shane Tibiatowski, U.S. Navy veteran,

has experienced the excitement of

traveling the world on three different

battle tours and even apprehended

several drug running ships. However, for

the last seventeen years, he has served

a somewhat quieter, but satisfying role

as a mortgage lending officer focusing

on helping other veterans.

Tibiatowski is an award-winning

specialist helping veterans own homes.

For 2016, Tibiatowski was sixth in the

nation among lending specialists in the

“Homes for Heroes” program. Through

the home loans he facilitated, he gave

back $164,000 to veterans during

2016. And he proudly displays the big

crystal trophy.

Graduating from West Fargo High

School in 1990, seven days later he was

in boot camp for the Navy in Orlando,

FL. He said, “It sounds like a vacation

spot, but it was not.” After ten weeks of

boot camp during a very hot summer,

he went to A School in Meridian,

Mississippi, a place that he said “was

even hotter than Florida. There was no

cool breeze.”

34 / THE GOOD LIFE


NAVY VETERAN

In addition to serving as a damage controlman doing firefighting and ship

preservation, Tibiatowski was also part of the security force, working closely

with the Coast Guard. “We would go out into international waters near Mexico

and Panama and board ships that were carrying drugs. There were yachts with

helicopters on top of them dropping drugs. We had boats trying to outrun us and

even to ram us. We were a strong steel ship, so trying to ram us just wasn’t going

to happen. I experienced some interesting situations, some of which I can’t talk

about.”

Tibiatowski describes boarding a yacht near Mexico: “They were trying to outrun

us and throwing drugs in the water when we finally stopped them. We pointed

all of our weapons at them. We watched the Coast Guard board their vessel. The

smugglers’ hands were zip tied. They were brought aboard our ship and spent a

few hours in a blocked off passageway as we did not have a brig on board. They

were eventually picked up by the Mexican police.”

Tibiatowski then went to San Diego:

“I chose to stay stateside and to be

on the USS Chandler DDG 996 – a

guided missile destroyer. I selected the

Navy because I wanted to travel and,

honestly, it paid the most.” He added,

“Did you know that USS stands for

United States Ship? Many people don’t

know that.”

Tibiatowski said that one of “the scariest moments” of his service was when an

Iraqi aircraft was within 26 miles of his ship and enemy aircraft are not allowed

to get within 32 miles of a USS: “We had this Iraqi aircraft coming straight

towards us and we were literally seconds from letting our missiles go. Usually

when you are out at sea you don’t have something like that happen. But when you

have someone coming at you, it is different.”

Stationed out of San Diego,

Tibiatowski went on several Western

Pacific deployments (WESTPACs)

from 1990-1994 on the USS Chandler

and stopped at many ports all over

the world, including Iraq, Iran, Saudi

Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, and

more. He added, “In addition to the

work, we did also get to have some

necessary stress relief and fun on the

way, stopping in Guam, the Philippines

and Hawaii.”

His first WESTPAC was during

Operation Desert Storm from January-

July 1991 and the second was from

June 1993 - January 1994. During

that time he was part of the Battle

of Mogadishu – Operation Gothic

Serpent.

“Because of my time in the service, I am more focused.

I treat my everyday life with focus. My kids may say

that some days I act like a drill sergeant. Discipline is

still a big thing for me.” – Tibiatowski

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 35


LOCAL HERO | SHANE TIBIATOWSKI

Off the coast of Iraq, Tibiatowski was on watch duty looking for mines in the

water using night vision goggles: “There are different kinds of mines; some

of them are chained to the bottom. There are mines with chemical heads

floating in the water. The Iraqi men would throw dead sheep and goats in the

water and they would eventually bloat. They would turn upside down and all

four legs would stick up. So you would not know what that was in the water.

Is it a mine? Mine watch was …. interesting.”

He remembered a naval recruiter who was “hot after me to sign up. He went

to my sporting events. He really pushed. And 90 percent of what he told me

about what to expect was, quite frankly, crap. But he was good. Well, on my

last trip to the Persian Gulf, guess who I ran into sitting at a bar? Yes, my

recruiter. I sat next to him and told him, ‘Sir, you are one hell of a good liar.’”

Tibiatowski saw much of the world: “By the time I was 22 years old, I had

been to Hawaii five times, and also been to Guam, Sri Lanka, India, Diego

Garcia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Australia, Thailand, Hong Kong, up

and down the coast of Mexico and all over the UAE.”

But the travel weighed on this family man. His first daughter, Morgan, came

after his second WESTPAC. Tibiatowski said, “Although I loved the Navy and

wanted to stay, being away from my family that much was hard on me. I was at

sea every holiday for one reason or another.” Tibiatowski’s desire to be there

for his family drove him to leave the service, retiring with a rank of E4. He

was up for E5 but said, “I knew I was leaving and decided to make room for

someone else.”

Tibiatowski has four daughters and four sons, ranging from ages 6 to 23. Two

of his children are considering military service, but he says, “It is up to them.

I would not sway them.”

Part of his service included humanitarian work in third world countries

involving construction. Tibiatowski asserted: “It is important to give back. I

show my kids that humanitarianism is important.”

“We had boats trying to

outrun us and even to

ram us. We were a strong

steel ship, so trying to ram

us just wasn’t going to

happen. I experienced some

interesting situations,

some of which I can’t talk

about.” – Tibiatowski

Tibiatowski has gained perspective: “I look back at my time on the ship, and

everything was arranged and done so strategically. Our young, naïve crew

was trained well and we discovered just how important every single role on

the ship was. As I sit back and look at it 27 years later, there were so many

reasons behind how it was done. It was a big deal.”

His Navy friendships are valued: “I made many life-long friends in the Navy. We

had a reunion last July. I keep in touch with a few of them. I’ve done mortgage

loans for a few of them. The ties are strong. It’s a brotherhood.”

Tibiatowski recollected: “When I went into the military, I was arrogant. I had

excelled at sports. But when I got to boot camp, I got knocked down a few

notches. Right away, they show you that you belong to the government. It is

a humbling experience – the discipline – everything from making the bed to

how you fold clothes. I still fold my clothes the way I did in the military. Being

from North Dakota, you go into it with a good work ethic. But I did not know

36 / THE GOOD LIFE


NAVY VETERAN

what to expect. At both boot camp

and A School I was thinking ‘Holy

cow... Am I really in this? Can I really

do this?’ But then you get to use the

skills they taught you. The discipline

learned in the Navy has set me up for

even more success than I imagined I

could ever have. Because of my time

in the service, I am more focused. I

treat my everyday life with focus. My

kids may say that some days I act like

a drill sergeant. Discipline is still a big

thing for me.”

He ran into his commanding officer

years after he left the service: “I got to

tell him what he did for me. Although

he was awfully hard on me, it helped

me be the sailor that I was and the

man that I am.”

It all comes full circle: “The biggest

thing for me, in the position that I

had in the military and now having

this job is to be able to give back to

veterans. It is huge for me, because

I know that a lot of them get taken

advantage of. I want them to get into

the home they deserve for the right

price and the right interest rate. VA

loans are amazing. There are many

great advantages that many veterans

do not know about.”

When asked what the phrase “the

good life” means to him, Tibiatowski

enthusiastically answered: “’The good

life’ means being healthy, happy and

able to provide for my family. I don’t

need to be a millionaire or go on

exotic vacations. I enjoy being able

to give back — to be able to watch my

kids grow and be healthy. To me that’s

the good life. It’s having my family – I

love that.”

Finally, I asked Tibiatowski if, going

back in time, and given the choice to

again join the Navy, if he would do it

and he said: “Absolutely. Without any

doubt, I would do it again.” •

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 37


LOCAL HERO | JASON HICKS

Original publish date:

May-June 2018

SELFLESS SERVICE IS THE MOTTO FOR

JASON HICKS

www.yumpu.com/user/

thegoodlife

Where

is he now?

The Good Life featured

Army Veteran Jason Hicks

as the May/June 2018

Local Hero.

In the past few years, the

biggest change for Hicks

has been that in his role

as Commander of the

United Patriotic Bodies of

Fargo-Moorhead. He was

part of the group effort

that transitioned the

organization to take over

all funerals at the Fargo

National Cemetery. Aside

from that, he remains

proud of his two kids who

are currently serving in the

MN National Guard.

Hicks continues to enjoy

life in the country citing

that there’s always

something to do. His

latest endeavor is raising

chickens which he likes

to joke qualifies him as a

rancher.

38 / THE GOOD LIFE

WRITTEN BY: ALEXANDRA FLOERSCH

PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA

Jason Hicks’ life motto is pretty simple:

"If you take care of your people, they will

take care of you.”

If you take care of your people,

they will take care of you.

While his oldest brother is a prison

guard, his sister runs a nursing program

and his other brother is a fireman, the

Clay County investigations and narcotics

detective can’t pinpoint what drove him

and his siblings into careers of service.

After all, neither of their parents had.

But that’s not the case when it comes

to military service, where there’s a very

visible link.

“Pretty much every male on my dad's

side of the family – and my wife's side,

for that matter – have all served. The

only one who didn't was my brother, the

fireman, because he had asthma," Hicks

said.

In fact, the Glyndon native himself joined

the Army immediately after high school

at just 19 years old. And, as life would

have it, that undeniable pride for his


ARMY VETERAN

country would rub off on his three children in the

years to come.

His son, Hunter, 22, recently completed his Army

contract while his 18-year-old daughter, Macie,

just finished her advanced training for the Army

National Guard combat medic school at Fort Sam

Houston in San Antonio, Texas.

"My daughter Macaila (Macie’s twin) would have

signed up in a heartbeat, but she

has some health problems,”

he explained. “It really hurt

her but she can serve in other

ways.”

Army Experience

Paved the Way

In the Army, rules, structure

and loyalty define your life.

"The one thing the military

really nails into people is

selfless service, guaranteeing

you're not always going to like

what you're doing, but you're

going to do it anyway because the

mission comes before yourself,”

explained Ray Pizarro, having

known Hicks for 21 years and

serving overseas together. “And

the mission is righteous.”

It was that mentality that Hicks

led with as an infantryman and

platoon sergeant during his

deployments to Germany – where

he was sent to the Persian Gulf War

– and Bosnia for a peacekeeping

mission in 2003.

"Jason never cared about his career more than

he cared about his men," Pizarro said. "He put us

before himself, meaning if bad news came down

the pipe and he had to pick a couple of volunteers

to go do something rotten, instead of picking two,

he'd pick one and do it with them.”

It was that unique style of leadership that allowed

Hicks to build both trust and rapport with his unit.

"There wasn't a single task that was ever

questioned,” Pizarro said. “People would line up,

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 39


LOCAL HERO | JASON HICKS

saying, 'What do you need me to do? I'll do it.' Because

they knew he would suffer with them.”

Getting his first taste of leadership while serving his

country molded Hicks into the person he is today – one

who bleeds red, white and blue.

"I saw the best and worst of people. It's something that I

learned from," he said. “Some people talk about how great

other places are. But having seen first, second and thirdworld

countries, there's no doubt that we're it. I will never

apologize for being an American. And I never have."

Giving Back

A story all too common among soldiers, Hicks admits to

having had a difficult time adjusting when he first returned

from overseas.

"That's probably one of the biggest reasons I focus on the

veterans groups... I can relate," he said. "There's always

something bigger than yourself – so many things we can

do to make this better for everybody.”

Having been involved with the Veterans of Foreign Wars

(VFW) since 1993, Hicks became one of the youngest

commanders during his first term from 1998-2000, and

later served a second term from 2010-2014.

Currently, he’s most active with the color guard, marching

in parades, conducting flag presentations and teaching

flag etiquette to kids. If it isn’t obvious at first sight, Pizarro

says Hicks’ dedication shines through when honoring

Veterans Honor Flight of ND/MN – an organization that

sends area veterans to their memorials in Washington

D.C., free of charge.

“He’ll say, 'It's going to be super hot. We're on the runway

but you're going to be in uniform and represent the VFW

because the VFW represents these guys. I don't want to

hear any shake and bake about how awful it's going to be.

We're going to do it for the honor of these people,'" Pizarro

explained. “And we’ll do it with a gracious heart.”

Respect is hard to come by but perhaps it’s the bond that

only service members can attest to – the “brotherhood" as

Hicks says – that makes it all worth it.

"It wouldn't matter if you're a Korean War veteran or a war

on terrorism vet, you all have that (bond),” Hicks said. “For

example, there's a guy at the Fargo VFW and he was with

the 7th infantry regiment of the 3rd infantry division...

so was I. So we salute each other with our motto. He's a

Korean War vet and I'm – what? – a third of his age? It's

really cool."

40 / THE GOOD LIFE

Serving … with a Badge

Hicks retired from Army in 2007 but he has continued

serving in other ways. After graduating from Minnesota

State University Moorhead (MSUM) with a degree in

criminal justice, the veteran started his law enforcement

career in Dilworth as a part-time patrolman. But it

wasn’t long before he was hired at the West Fargo Police

Department, where he scored a position as narcotics

investigator after just a year in.

"That's something I had always wanted to do and it was just

wild. That was at the height of the big meth push – when

they were making meth and had meth labs everywhere,”

he said. “We could literally work 24 hours a day, seven

days a week. There was always stuff to do.”

From small, marijuana paraphernalia arrests to a multipound

methamphetamine busts, Hicks worked an endless

amount of cases.

"The thing with drug work – and I say this to everybody

– if you're doing it right, within about three years, you're

burnt out and you don't want to do it anymore," he said.

When that time came, he applied at the Clay County

Sheriff’s office as a patrolman and soon worked his way

into an investigative position once again – one he has held

for the past 10 years.

"I’ve worked cases from a simple burglary to homicide,

sexual assault, home invasion – all this crazy stuff,” he

said. "I've worked some really unusual cases.”

As with any job, the role of an investigative detective has

its ups, downs and undeniable stressors.

“You get a little burnt out sometimes and you have to find

other ways to focus," Hicks says.


ARMY VETERAN

For him, that usually means not only taking warranted

time off work but also exercising.

"It helps clear your head,” he says. “Don't get me wrong,

I'm not a marathon runner or anything. I like long walks

and things like that – the same stuff I did in the Army,

except I'm not carrying a rucksack and a rifle.”

At the end of the day, one recurring assumption still

surprises Hicks.

“After people sit down and talk to me, they never believe

that I'm a cop. It just makes me laugh," he said. "I'm

about as normal of a person as there is. I don't have

magic powers.”

Living “out in the sticks” with his wife, Peggy, of 27 years,

is where Hicks finds solace outside of work, enjoying

the livestock, peace and quiet. Be it hunting, fishing for

“anything that bites” or relishing in Minnesota’s snowy

winters, Hicks cherishes the great outdoors.

But what exactly defines “the good life”?

"Being able to wake up in a country that's free," Hicks

said. "Just the everyday freedoms that we enjoy as

Americans. Not everyone has it. The good life is being an

American." •

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 41


LOCAL HERO | MIKE GRUCHALLA

Original publish date:

September-October

2019

www.yumpu.com/user/

thegoodlife

Where

is he now?

Nearly a year has passed

since Vietnam Combat

Medic Mike Gruchalla’s

story was published in the

September-October 2019

issue of The Good Life.

Gruchalla was scheduled

to go on the April

2020 Honor Flight as a

volunteer, but the trip

was canceled due to

coronavirus restrictions.

A dedicated gardener,

Gruchalla understands the

importance of seasons of

rest. As such, he is allowing

the garden to rest this

year and isn’t sure if he’ll

be doing any canning this

fall. His current focus is on

the herbs he’s planted. All

in all, Gruchalla maintains

that life is still good

despite the coronavirus.

42 / THE GOOD LIFE

MIKE GRUCHALLA

From the midwest to Vietnam and back,

Mike Gruchalla’s focus has always been doing

his job well and fiercely serving others

WRITTEN BY: ALEXIS SWENSON • PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA

When Mike Gruchalla arrived in

Saigon, Vietnam on January 11, 1970,

he hit the ground rolling - literally.

“As soon as we touched down at the

airport base ... the Viet Cong started

mortaring us. The airplane got to the

end of the runway, started taxiing back,

lowered the back ramp on the airplane

... we exited while the airplane was still

taxiing ready to take off. So, I hit the

ground rolling,” explained Gruchalla.

Merely seven months prior the 19-yearold

had been drafted to serve in the

Vietnam War.

“I drafted and then I enlisted [in the

Army] because my older brother had

gone AWOL. I figured that if I enlisted

and volunteered to be a medic and

got sent to Vietnam, it would keep

my brother out of Vietnam,” said

Gruchalla.

Gruchalla volunteered to be a medic

simply because he knew they were

needed and assumed it would send

him to Vietnam.

In August 1969, Gruchalla left for

Fort Lewis, Washington to complete

basic training followed by Advanced

Individual Training (Gruchalla’s

medic training) in Fort Sam Houston,

Texas. After the abbreviated training,

Gruchalla went home for Christmas

leave and arrived in Vietnam on

January 11, 1970.

Life in Vietnam

Gruchalla felt life at base camp was far

less appealing than getting out in the

field and often volunteered for patrol

with any group that wanted a medic.

“I didn’t like being at base camp

where I had to have spit-shine shoes,

a pressed uniform; I wanted to do my

job,” said Gruchalla.

This willingness to go out with anyone

— Koreans or other allies — exposed

Gruchalla to extremely dangerous

situations. In the course of nearly 2

years, Gruchalla found himself in 15

different tunnels, being shot, surviving

four helicopter crashes, and being run

over by a tank.

Earning the Combat Medical

Badge Medal

Most memorably, Gruchalla cites the

event that earned him the Combat


VIETNAM MEDIC

That badge says I did

my job. I think I did

it well. I wish I could

have saved more, but

there’s only so much

you can do.”

– Mike Gruchalla

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 43


LOCAL HERO | MIKE GRUCHALLA

Medical Badge Medal, because, “there were only 2,231

combat medic badges awarded in Vietnam.”

“On July 2nd, I was sent out to a firebase ... The night

of the 2nd, we got attacked. When the attack started the

enemy was playing Johnny Cash, Charlie Pride, and other

country songs over loudspeakers in the jungle. Over a

period of five or six hours, we threw everything at them

we had. We even lowered the guns and fired beehive

rounds (155 howitzer with seal darts), said Gruchalla.

“... I was dragging a wounded soldier into the command

bunker with the help of another guy. A satchel charge

went off in front of us, blew me into the tunnel, and as

soon as I got into that tunnel, they blew it. That sealed the

entrance.

“There were 38 of us in the bunker and we called in an

A-B52 strike on our position. When it was all done, 63

GI’s died. 38 of us got off. I was number 38.

“When we got dug out, it was my job to tag and bag the

63 guys. The first guy that I tagged and bagged was the

guy that was helping me with the wounded man. He had

44 / THE GOOD LIFE

the flag from that firebase inside his shirt. And, I have that

flag today,” said Gruchalla.

According to the American War Library, the Combat

Medical Badge Medal was established to recognize

medical personnel who experienced combat while

providing medical assistance to wounded personnel.

“That badge says I did my job. I think I did it well. I wish I

could have saved more, but there’s only so much you can

do,” said Gruchalla.

Gruchalla’s Medals

Gruchalla also received a Purple Heart Medal, a Bronze

Star Medal, and a Silver Star Medal, but the only

paperwork he has is for the Combat Medical Badge

Medal.

“When I came home from Vietnam, it took me 4 months

to get my things … They were going through and taking

things out ... because they made references to where I

was,” explained Gruchalla.

Gruchalla reasons that the paperwork was confiscated


VIETNAM MEDIC

It hurt at first, but it

doesn’t matter now. My

dad saw my medals and

that’s all that counts.”

– Mike Gruchalla

because he carried out some of his work in Cambodia

and Laos – a direct violation of international law.

“We weren’t supposed to be there,” said Gruchalla.

Per military rules, an individual is allowed to wear their

medals if they have paperwork to verify earning them. As

such, Gruchalla continues to be denied from wearing the

medals. Initially frustrated, he has now reached a resolve

of sorts.

“It hurt at first, but it doesn’t matter now. My dad saw my

medals and that’s all that counts,” said Gruchalla.

Coming Home

Despite diligently doing his job to help fellow soldiers,

Specialist Spc. 4 Gruchalla’s homecoming was

characterized by a negative public perception of Vietnam

veterans.

“... On the flight from Minneapolis to Fargo, the only seat

that was available was first class. There was a guy sitting

in the window seat next to me. As soon as the plane took

off, he went and sat with the stewardesses; he didn’t want

to sit by a Vietnam vet. When we landed in Fargo, nobody

got off the plane until I did. They all waited at the back of

the baggage claim area until I got my bag and walked out

the door,” said Gruchalla.

In the following weeks, Gruchalla determinedly attempted

to register for college.

“I dressed the part – bell-bottoms, shirt with puffy sleeves,

the beads, the whole thing. But, I went up to the registrar's

office and pretty much got chased off of Moorhead State.

I had short hair, I was a Vietnam vet, I was a ‘baby killer’,

said Gruchalla.

“I went home. I spent four months in my folks’ basement

growing out my hair. I didn’t go out for anything because

I didn’t know if I would be accepted for having medium

length hair,” said Gruchalla.

A Continued Medical Career

Eventually, Gruchalla acquired a job in the medical field,

continuing to care for hurting people. For 10 years, he

worked at Dakota Hospital for orthopedic surgeons.

Then, he spent the next 27 years at the Fargo VA Hospital

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 45


LOCAL HERO | MIKE GRUCHALLA

working in the operating room.

Gruchalla saw firsthand how much of what the medics

learned in Vietnam was put into practice on American

soil.

“It was a slow process, but it went from ambulances

basically being a meat wagon ... to someone riding in the

ambulance able to initiate medical treatment. And, with

that, the use of helicopters to transport because we found

out in Vietnam that we only had basically an hour before

things would permanently die,” said Gruchalla.

“When I first came home, the VFWs and the American

Legions called me ... they both told me they didn’t want

me. ‘Vietnam was not a war ... we don’t want the Vietnam

vets’,” said Gruchalla.

Many years later, prompted by the positive change in

the public’s view of Vietnam veterans, Gruchalla joined

the VFW, AM Vets, Disabled American Veterans, and

Vietnam Veterans of America.

Gruchalla helps the Vietnam Veterans of America with

their 5K and 10K races as a crossing guard and is involved

“My Lives as a Medic”

At the consistent urging of a VA doctor and Gruchalla’s

now-wife, Gruchalla authored a book outlining the stories

he carries from the Vietnam War. He was reluctant at

first, in part due to his dyslexia which made the writing

process challenging, though he’s glad now that he wrote

it.

“My Lives as a Medic: A Soldier’s Journal in Vietnam”

provides a raw, honest memoir of Gruchalla’s experience

in the Vietnam War.

Giving Back Today

Gruchalla wasn’t always involved - or invited - into veterans

organizations.

46 / THE GOOD LIFE


VIETNAM MEDIC

with the Fargo Moorhead Vietnam

Veterans Week in May.

Furthermore, for the past four

years, Gruchalla has volunteered

with the Veterans Honor Flight

of ND/MN, a nonprofit created

solely to honor America’s veterans

for their sacrifices. He assists in

Honor Flight fundraising events

and has been the cook for the past

2 years.

Helping with the Honor Flight

is a rewarding experience for

Gruchalla, and his favorite part is

“just seeing the veterans as they

see the memorials.”

The Good Life

“In spite of being diagnosed with

cancer and having a stroke, I’ve

had a good life. And, most people

would say a good life ... with friends

and family. ... I have associations

and acquaintances because in

Vietnam I learned that you don’t

want to be friends with anybody

because when friends die, it hurts.

When we acquaintances die, it’s

not as bad,” said Gruchalla.

Undoubtedly, the Vietnam War

played a large role in Gruchalla’s

life although he’s not solely defined

by his years serving. Rather, his life

in whole is a greater representation

of his values.

When looking at Gruchalla’s

experiences, it is evident that in

enlisting to protect his brother,

working as a Combat Medic, 37

years in the medical field, writing

a book, and volunteering with

veterans organizations, his primary

focus has always been caring for

others.

“... I wouldn’t change a thing. It was

meant to be. And, like I said, it’s

been a good life,” said Gruchalla. •

“My Lives a Medic: A Soldier’s

Journal in Vietnam” can be

purchased by emailing:

pmatsonr@hotmail.com

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 47


LOCAL HERO | WAYNE CASEBEER

Original publish date:

March-April 2020

www.yumpu.com/user/

thegoodlife

Where

is he now?

United States Marine Corps

Veteran Wayne Casebeer’s

story was recently

published in the March/April

2020 issue of The Good

Life.

In the past few months,

Casebeer has sought to

develop a greater leadership

role within the community.

He was reelected as Junior

Officer Surgeon of the West

Fargo VFW Post 7564 and

officially became active as

Color Guard Commander

for the organization.

Casebeer has also been

heavily involved with The

Cooties Pack Rat 8, an

association of the WF VFW

that raised over $70,000

in 2019 to support cancer

research. He was elected

as Junior Officer Surgeon

for the organization.

Additionally, Casebeer was

reelected as Senior Vice for

Red River Raiders.

His dog, Dan Daly, is now

fully grown. Dan can often

be seen outside walking

with his family and has won

the hearts of his neighbors.

WAYNE

CASEBEER

Leading Quietly,

Responsibly, and

Sincerely

WRITTEN BY: ALEXIS SWENSON

Thirty-one-year-old Wayne Casebeer

first joined the United States Marine

Corps in part to honor the family

legacy of serving his country and in

part due to his competitive nature.

"I come from a Navy family. My sister

and I are very competitive. She went

into the Army and I wanted to do

something a bit more to compete with

that, so I went into the Marine Corps.

Ultimately, neither of us went into the

Navy," said Casebeer.

After graduating from high school in

Alexandria, MN, Casebeer enlisted

with the US Marine Corps where

he completed 5 years of active duty

followed by a couple of years in the

Marine Forces Reserves. He served

in Twentynine Palms, CA, Al Ambar

Province Iraq, the reserve station in

New Orleans, LA, and the reserve

station in Minneapolis, MN. During

active duty, Casebeer's role was in

Communications and he was attached

to an artillery battalion.

PHOTO SUBMITTED BY: WAYNE CASEBEER

"They were using radios to do

communications between different

units in the Marine Corps which is

extremely inefficient. Our goal was to

bring the internet to artillery because

we needed a way to coordinate fire.

My five years were spent modernizing

artillery. I went from high school to

leading men in combat and that was

pretty cool," said Casebeer.

Aside from the sheer excitement of

firing guns, Casebeer appreciated the

incredible amount of things he learned

in a small amount of time. "It wasn't

just working on computers. You have

to know how to fire machine guns, fire

artillery, haul artillery, drive vehicles,

how to load things on vehicles, how

to eat, how to feed people, and more,"

said Casebeer.

Above all else, the people were the

most memorable for Casebeer. "I made

a whole family. There were 15 of us

that stuck together the whole time.

When my battalion deployed, they split

48 / THE GOOD LIFE


MARINE CORPS VETERAN

us into mini 15 man teams and sent us out. We drove

around Iraq for 9 months, just 15 of us, it was great. They

were from all walks of life and we're still close today,"

said Casebeer.

Red River Raiders

Roughly three years ago Casebeer helped to establish

Red River Raiders, a nonprofit organization and

charter for the Marine Corps League, a congressionally

recognized organization to serve Marines. In a similar

vein, Red River Raiders has a mission of providing

assistance to fellow Marines or disabled veterans.

Red River Raiders supports people in a number of ways

including fundraising for Toys for Tots, providing a small

detachment for a Color Guard hosted by Casebeer, and

assisting with fabric and sewing blankets for Project

HART. Project HART is a transitional housing program

that provides basic needs, case management, and

employment services to homeless veterans to assist

them in overcoming their barriers to permanent

housing so they can live the life that they

deserve.

Additionally, Red River Raiders is heavily

involved in assisting with the Homeward

Vets program. Homeward Vets is primarily

administered by the West Fargo VFW

while the Marine Corps League provides

the manual labor for the program.

Typically, the Fargo Veteran Affairs

Health Care System identifies a

Marine that needs an apartment,

provides funding, and sets the

individual up with keys for the space.

The Red River Raiders' goal is that the

day the veteran receives the key, the

organization brings a bed, couch, and

other furnishings into the apartment.

"Essentially, a person goes from being

a disabled homeless veteran to being

a veteran with a home that is fully

furnished - in the same day. We've been

nailing it. We've done very, very well and

helped about 60 veterans last year," said

Casebeer.

Red River Raiders also hosts the Marine

Corps Ball to celebrate their November 10th

birthday. "This year we're hosting the event on

November 7th in Fargo. It's going to be a formal

event so we'll get dressed up in our tuxedos and

get the gals nice dresses. It's just going to be really

fun," said Casebeer.

PHOTO BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 49


LOCAL HERO | WAYNE CASEBEER

give you immediate gratification because once folks are

in and are able to actually get that gratification it makes

all the difference. If they're sitting on their hands, they're

not going to want to do it anymore. So, putting veterans

to work for veterans is a goal that I want to maintain.

If we do and are able to attain new membership, that's

what's going to keep them as members. That's my

primary goal for all the organizations I'm a part of -

motivating people enough to stay," said Casebeer.

PHOTOS SUBMITTED BY: WAYNE CASEBEER

A Homeward Vet move that was done by the Marine

Corps League last year in the middle of a blizzard.

For Casebeer, a favorite part of his volunteer work is

simply working with other veterans. "It's so easy to

work with other veterans. It's not difficult to work with

other people, but the difference is a language barrier.

So, somebody who might speak broken English - it's

not hard to have a conversation with them, but it's not

going to be as efficient as having a conversation with

somebody you grew up with and that is family. You have

your own lingo and your own way of working together.

With veterans, it's like working with a family member.

You can get mad, you can get upset, but you're going to

accomplish whatever you're trying to do," said Casebeer.

Life Lately

Casebeer landed in West Fargo, ND to be close to the

USMC Reserve station in Wahpeton, ND after being

given a choice of Wisconsin or North Dakota. Since

Wisconsin was too close to Minneapolis, Casebeer

opted for North Dakota. "North Dakota worked out

really well; the people are fantastic. I've kind of decided

to settle down here," said Casebeer.

Casebeer currently works full time at Blue Cross Blue

Shield of North Dakota on a small team in cybersecurity

and risk management. "Blue Cross Blue Shield has an

excellent volunteer program and the leadership there

is fantastic. Without working there, I wouldn't be able

to do any of the volunteer work I do. They're awesome.

The work is great too. Our primary role is to do risk

management for IT systems and security systems

overall. It's pretty dynamic and you need to be pretty

intelligent to do it," said Casebeer.

West Fargo VFW

Casebeer also is a member of Color Guard for the West

Fargo VFW. A sizable group of nearly 40 people are on

standby for the group. Casebeer is currently training

to take over the position as Color Guard Commander

where he will step into greater responsibilities. "It's

going to be a lot more work, but I am looking forward

to it. It is a commitment with my working multiple jobs,

but it should be good," said Casebeer.

Duties of the Commander include coordinating

with funeral homes, the National Cemetery, and

other veterans organizations depending upon which

organization is leading the event. Furthermore,

the Commander serves as the point of contact in

coordinating for Moorhead, Fargo, and West Fargo

ceremonies for various Veterans holidays.

For 2020, Casebeer's goal is to help maintain each

organization he's involved with. "It's very hard to recruit

folks into nonprofit organizations. I like programs that

Casebeer was selected by Northern Lights

Council, Boy Scouts of America in 2019 to receive

the Andrew P. Nelson Award for Outstanding

Leadership and Service. This award recognizes

everyday heroes who quietly make a difference in

our community in the way that they work, volunteer,

and make life better for others.

50 / THE GOOD LIFE


MARINE CORPS VETERAN

Outside of his full-time job at

Blue Cross Blue Shield and

volunteering with various veterans

organizations, Casebeer enjoys

spending time with his toddler

daughter. "I have a daughter named

Kahlan; she's great. She's a little

redhead. It's miserable outside

now, but in the summer we like to

go to parks and hang out and play,"

said Casebeer.

In any free time he has left Casebeer

trains his 40lb dalmatian puppy,

Dan Daly, named after an infamous

Marine. "I love my dalmatian. He's

one of the best animals there is.

Dan Daly was a Sergeant Major

in the US Marine Corps and was

awarded two medals of honor. He

fought in three different wars and

received medals of honor from

two different wars. It's a fantastic

name," said Casebeer.

The Good Life

A testament to the type of life

Casebeer strives to live can be

seen in how he was selected by

Northern Lights Council, Boy

Scouts of America in 2019 to

receive the Andrew P. Nelson

Award for Outstanding Leadership

and Service. This award recognizes

everyday heroes who quietly make

a difference in our community in

the way that they work, volunteer,

and make life better for others.

"The good life is mostly helping

other people. That's my driving

force for everything. A good life for

me is to be a responsible leader

and also to have people accept me

as a leader. Being a responsible

leader is to have a goal, set out to

accomplish that goal, accomplish

that goal, and then be able to

measure it. I can see that in the

work that I do - people are waiting

on me to tell them what to do,

especially for the Homeward Vets

program. I've got nine people on

standby. We all collaborate and

work together; we're all effective

leaders," said Casebeer. •

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 51


More magazines by this user
Similar magazines