Let’s go on a journey to a time that took so many Americans away from their loved ones and friends. The time is the 60s, when this country was being torn apart by anti-war protests and a war raging on in a distant land. The Vietnam War was a time of hardships and struggles for many U.S. soldiers who were fighting for their country in a jungle with heat, disease and despair.
“It was hot and humid out, at least 130 degrees outside,” Great Bend Vietnam War veteran Dan Zimmerschied said. “All you could smell was war and death.”
The war was long and very costly that put the communist regime of North Vietnam, and its southern allies, known as the Viet Cong, against South Vietnam and its main ally, the United States. This war was very unpopular at home and ended with the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 1973.
There were 58,220 U.S. military fatal casualties during the Vietnam War and 153,303 wounded. Many of these soldiers were not asked to fight, but were told they had to by being drafted.
“When I turned 18, I had to go to the Selective Service Board and sign up. It was like a lottery to be drafted,” Zimmerschied said. “We signed up to die for our country and when they called us, we were ready to go.”
In 1968 Barton County saw its largest draft , and many young men from Great Bend and the surrounding communities were drafted, and for five of these young men it would change their lives forever through a friendship that has lasted many years through good times and bad.
These five young men were Zimmershied, Bob Jarmer, Dave Fuzzell, John Johnson and Dennis Munoz.
The men didn’t really know of each other except on occasion when they would see each other hanging out with other friends. It wasn’t until that unforgettable bus ride that brought them together for many years to come.
The men of Barton County that were drafted were taken to Kansas City to be sworn in, get their uniforms and find out where they would be going for the next eight weeks of basic training.
On this bus ride is where this friendship of these men, was forged out of bravery and commitment, not to just the country they were fighting for, but to one another as they faced new challenges ahead.
Once they arrived in Kansas City they were given the opportunity to explore the city before being shipped off to basic training and then to war.
“We realized that we are all from the same area on the bus ride and we decided to go out on the town together for one last fling,”
Zimmerschied said. “This is when we got to know each other a little better and this is what really started the friendship that we share
today.” It turned out that these men would spend the next eight weeks together at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri for basic training. The time together allowed them to support each other for what lay ahead.
“This is when we really got to know each other and the friendship grew,” Zimmerschied said.
After basic training they went their own ways, some to Vietnam, while others remained stateside to help out the war effort here at
The five really didn’t see each other during the war, and even after the war. It took some years for them to reconnect.
“When we got back we got married, and had to support our families,” Great Bend Vietnam War veteran Jarmer said. “Life happened,
everyone went their own way.”
So for a time these men went on with their everyday life; some stayed in the area and worked and supported their families. Two moved
away to start new lives and families in other states.
It wasn’t until 2005 when these men were all in Barton County together again, although they didn’t know it at the time. That soon
changed as they started bumping into one another over the next few years.
“I was walking into the VFW here in Great Bend, and as I walked toward the bar, I saw a man that I have not seen in 42 years. It was
John Johnson, a buddy that I went to basic training with.” Zimmershied said.
This was only one of the connections these men would make.
“I was working in the shop and I looked up and there stood Dan Zimmerschied, a man I have not seen in some time,” Jarmer
It just so happens, living in a small community, you’re bound to run into people that you know. And this is what happened for
It took Fuzzell and Zimmershied 10 years to reconnect, and it was 20 years for Jarmer and Zimmerschied. But over time, this lost
friendship was rekindled and once again these men were back together. They might not see each other as much as they want, but when they do watch out. It’s like they are 20 again.
The buddies lost one of their beloved friends back in 2014. Munoz was exposed to Agent Orange while serving his country and this led to cancer. His friends will always remember him for who he was and will never forget him.
To honor his memory these men adopted the song “Drink A Beer” by Luke Bryan. When these men get together and have a beer, it reminds them of the good times they had with their fallen brother and to show their respect to him.
THE FIVE MEN
Dan Zimmerschied was 19 when he was shipped off to basic training and became a cook during the war. He spent 36 months in Vietnam and was in the service for a total of six years. He spent most of his time in Chu Lai and Saigon.
He resides in Great Bend and became a machinist after the war. Zimmerschied is a member of the VFW Post 3111.
“After this long voyage it’s nice to sit down with my friends, talk to each other and enjoy each other’s company,” Zimmerschied
Bob Jarmer was 19 when he was shipped off to basic training and become a communications specialist during the war, but he stayed stateside to help the war eff ort at home. He spent two years in the service and was stationed at Fort Irwin in California.
He resides in Great Bend and still works in the communications fi eld. Jarmer is a member of the American Legion Post 180 and a
member of the VFW Post 3111.
“Really nice to have a friendship in the brotherhood; that is what I really like,” Jarmer said. “To me, friendship is the most
Dave Fuzzell was 19 when he was shipped off to basic training and became a telephone linemen during the war. He spent 10 months in
Vietnam and was in the service for a total of two years. He spent most of his time at Phu Bai Combat Base in Hue which is in central Vietnam.
He resides in Great Bend and is part owner of Smoke N Vape. Fuzzell is a member of the VFW Post 3111.
“It is nice to sit down with my friends, and what is nice about it is, it brings back good memories of that time in my life,” Fuzzell said.
John Johnson was 19 when he was shipped off to basic training and became an engineer during the war, He spent 14 months in Vietnam
and was in the service for a total of two years. He spent most of his time in Da Nang and the Mekong Delta.
He resides in Great Bend and works in the oil fields. Johnson is a member of the VFW Post 3111.
“It is great to get back together, I really enjoy when we sit down together and chat about the old days,” Johnson said.
Munoz was a decorated United States Army combat veteran. He served his tour in Vietnam in 1969, where he was awarded the Bronze Star and the Army Commendation Medal for Heroism.
“We miss our fallen brother; he signed the ultimate check and paid the price. He will never be forgotten, so grab a beer and let’s toast our fallen comrade,” Zimmerschied said, his colleagues all nodded in somber agreement.