Sen. Lisa Murkowski features veterans each month as part of a veteran’s history project. This month she featured Homer resident Jim VanOss who hitchhiked to Alaska, helped build the pipeline and raised bison. It’s an interesting project to focus on individuals from across the eras and different wars. Today’s veterans are coming home to an uncertain future, wounded in ways that aren’t soon to heal. By sharing stories across the generations, we can all benefit from new insights and hopefully, find new ways to be supportive of returning veterans.
“The war changed my life, it was very educational … I came out lucky,” VanOss told Murkowski in her interview with him. He is the 11th Veteran Spotlight installment, a U.S. Army veteran drafted during the Vietnam War who served as a military police officer and an embassy guard in Saigon during the Tet Offensive.
During his Veteran Spotlight interview, VanOss recalled being 20-years-old when he was drafted into the Army after failing a college class at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. When he arrived in Vietnam, last minute order changes put VanOss on guard duty at the U.S. embassy in Saigon. Just a few months later, the Tet Offensive transformed Saigon from a place where soldiers took their R&R leave freely, to a dangerous war zone.
“I count myself as one of the lucky ones. I was never injured, and I never had to kill anyone. There were a few close calls, but I was lucky. Now, 40 years later, I have Parkinson’s. Is it from the Agent Orange? I don’t know. But the Veterans Administration help I have gotten has been very good. I never thought that 40 years after being discharged from the Army that I would need help from the VA, but they have been very, very helpful.”
After 15 months in Vietnam, VanOss returned home to Wisconsin, where he used the GI Bill to finish college. Once he graduated, VanOss decided to hitchhike to Alaska, where he worked on the construction of the TransAlaska Oil Pipeline before homesteading in Homer – where he raised bison and European wild boar.
“Jim VanOss’ life story is one of an Alaskan pioneer who sees the good where he can,” Murkowski wrote. “He came to Alaska when it was a young state, and he helped build not only our oil pipeline, but also our state’s agriculture industry. We owe it to veterans like Jim VanOss to honor them through sharing their stories, and we owe it to the rest of us to learn from the high levels of patriotism, commitment and service they demonstrate for us.”
The “Veteran Spotlight” project is Sen. Murkowski’s monthly focus on an Alaskan veteran of American conflicts worldwide to honor and draw well-deserved attention to Alaska’s men and women who served. Every month, she posts a biography and an interview with an Alaskan who served our country abroad in conjunction with the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project. You can watch them on line at http://murkowski.senate.gov.
We can also nominate veterans to be featured. If you have a family member or friend in the community you think has a story to share, let Sen. Murkowski know. She can be emailed at Spotlight@Murkowski.Senate.Gov.
Comments are closed