Alta veterans reminisce about the battles they have fought
“They called us baby killers. When I came home around the beginning of May, I went to a memorial day celebration. The shooting made me jump three feet in the air,” said Vietnam Veteran and Alta VFW Post Commander, Don Fisher. “Walking back, there were a couple of guys in a car taunting me. I told them if they were any kind of a man they would get out of that car, but they never did.”
War is hell, at least that is the old adage. Fisher said it took a lot of years to get over the nightmares of the Vietnam jungles. He said, even now, it still works on his psyche. Fisher said when he first returned to the United States in 1969, he did his best trying to hold himself together. This proved to be hard with two toddler-aged children and a wife who divorced him shortly after he returned.
“I (had) two beautiful daughters and I didn’t want to lose my mind in front of my kids,” explained Fisher. “I don’t want to tell what’s in my mind. The things I have seen I won’t bring up because it takes me back.”
Not long after divorcing his wife he met and married Kathy, the woman he is still married to after all these years. Fisher added that Kathy would have to be a witness to what the war did to him mentally as well as physically. He went on to explain how, shortly after marrying Kathy, he joined the National Guard. He told how he pulled guard one night in the weeds in Minnesota. When he returned home, he went and sat by a tree to drink a beer and developed several massive headaches.
“They lasted about three months, I couldn’t get rid of them,” said Fisher. “Up there in Minnesota, in the weeds, took me back to Vietnam. (The headaches) hurt so bad I cried.”
About three months later Fisher explained he went and sat down by the same tree and as fast as the headaches appeared, they went away.
While Vietnam has a reputation for leaving it’s survivors with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, it isn’t the only war that can make that claim. Desel Caboth is a survivor of World War II but had a different experience during wartime that Fisher had.
“I was in World War II but didn’t do any fighting,” said Veteran and Alta resident, Desel Caboth. “I was in Korea before the war in Korea.”
Caboth explained how his company, and others like it, occupied Korea during the second world war after the war had unofficially ended in 1945. While the American troops occupied South Korea, Soviet troops were occupying the northern part of the country. The occupation was only supposed to be temporary. The Americans and Soviets would occupy the two parts of Korea just long enough to loosen it from Japanese control.
On August 8, 1945, the Soviets declared war on Japan and entered stormed North Korea the next day. A few days following these events, America took over South Korea and American troops were brought in. Enter Caboth.
Caboth had been drafted approximately one year out of high school. Up until then, he said the only experience he had was working on a farm his family owned south of Aurelia.
“(The war) was over by the time I got there and it wasn’t declared over until 1946. I was a mechanic over there,” said Caboth. “My Army life was pretty simple compared to most of them.”
Caboth said he was sent home in 1947 which would have put him in the age range of 21 years-old. He stated he was not in fear of being sent to fight while in Korea at the end of the second world war, however, within three years of returning home the Korean war began in the summer of 1950. He explained his biggest fear was having to come back and fight in the Korean war but he was not asked to do that.
Fisher and Caboth have two very different experiences of wars, however, it does not diminish the fear that all veterans of wars America has been involved in have experienced. Whether it is the fear of watching one’s fellow troops getting shot and dying right beside them on the battlefield and one thinking that they are next, or the fear of Uncle Sam calling one back up to fight again and maybe the next time it will be them to man a battlefield.
Both Fisher and Caboth are proud of the time they have spent representing and defending America. Both men have been left with memories of their time overseas, some of horror and some of comedy. Fisher stated he could tell many stories of funny things happening in Vietnam. If you can’t find the humor in a horrible situation then one might not be able to cope with the memories of war.
“We worked but we didn’t let a lot of things bother us,” said Fisher. “They had a red alert, big deal, we got down there, where we were supposed to be and get ready to fight.”