Tag Archives: Viet Nam War

Kendall Gardiner Anderson: Another View Of Veterans Day

“06880” reader Kendall Gardiner Anderson writes:

I joined the Army in 1967, and volunteered for duty in Viet Nam.

I served most of my time as a combat nurse on the ground, treating badly wounded soldiers in what most people would call a MASH unit. We worked 12 hour shifts, 6 to 7 days a week.

Both the heat and the jungle were very intense. Every morning I had to shake out huge bugs that had crawled into my combat boots.

Medicine was completely different from anything in the States. Soldiers got sick with malaria (which I also had), blackwater fever and parasites.

Kendall Gardiner, in Viet Nam.

Kendall Gardiner, in Viet Nam.

A lot of people have asked me what it was like being a woman in Viet Nam. I tell them I don’t know, because I was a soldier.

Although I had extensive military and medical training prior to deployment, nothing could have prepared me for what I encountered .

Most of the soldiers were 18 years old. I don’t think “06880” readers — or anyone — wants to really know about those young men wounded and dying, crying out for their mothers. I wish I didn’t remember. I saw more death than any one person should see, and was never young again post-Viet Nam.

I can tell you, nobody knew or cared about the geopolitical reasons we were there. We fought daily to survive, for the soldier next to us, for our country. In that order.

Daily life during the Viet Nam war. (Photo/Kendall Gardiner Anderson)

Daily life during the Viet Nam war. (Photo/Kendall Gardiner Anderson)

I worked quite a lot in a Buddhist orphanage giving medical care to abandoned babies and children. Most of them were later killed in a bombing raid — punishment for accepting American aid.

I had a great deal of trouble adjusting to civilian life when I came home in 1971. In 1979 I moved to a house on the Mill Pond in Westport, where I could raise my 2 children and try to find some peace.

While peace has sometimes been elusive, what I did find was Gavin Anderson. I was renting out my upstairs apartment, and he answered my ad.

One of the bonds we shared was that he had served in Her Majesty’s Royal Navy. He was badly injured by a hand grenade blast during the war with Cyprus.

I also had been injured, in Viet Nam, when our hospital was bombed. Gavin was one of the very few people I could talk to about the war.

A soldier during surgery. Doctors and nurses -- including Kendall Gardiner -- were removing a live grenade.

A soldier during surgery. Doctors and nurses — including Kendall Gardiner — were removing a live grenade.

It has been 44 years, and this is the first time I have ever shown anyone, other than Gavin,  any photos.

There is a ” dark side ” of Veterans Day no one mentions or talks about. The struggle to survive after the war — every combat vet has this struggle.

Sending out some photos helps.

Kendall Gardiner Anderson met a former patient at the dedication of the Vietnam Women's Memorial.

Kendall Gardiner Anderson met a former patient at the dedication of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. (Photo/Gavin Anderson)

Lance Corporal Timothy Barmmer, And The Vietnam Plaque

The World War I and II memorials across from Town Hall are impressive. This weekend — as we honor our veterans — they’ll get their well-deserved share of attention.

But nearby lies a smaller, less-noticed plaque. This one salutes 5 Westporters killed in Vietnam. Timothy M. Barmmer (Marine Corps), Michael B. Paquin and Stephen A. Shortall (Army) and Frederick M. Rader III and Francis A. Walsh (Air Force) are cited for their “honorable service in Southeast Asia, in the face of uncommon adversity.”

Westport’s Vietnam Memorial, opposite Town Hall.

In January 1968 — more than a year after arriving in  Vietman — Tim Barmmer wrote to his parents in Westport:

Listen, I’m sorry I’ve waited so long, but I went to Bangkok for 7 days, and when I got back we were pretty busy.

I guess you’ve heard a lot about Khe Sanh on the news & stuff, but DON’T WORRY! I’ll be honest, we’ve been getting hit with rocket & artillery every day, & they’ve surrounded us, but if you’ve seen the support we get, you’d feel as good as I do.

We have built a bunker so good, NOTHING could get through it — believe me.

Lance Corporal Tim Barmmer

We have jets bombing the area every 15 minutes, gunships, & B52 bombers every day. Feel a little better? I have not been SCRATCHED. The American flag flies atop our hole, unscathed!

We call ourselves the “glorious untouchables” and we’ve been put in for two more medals. How about that?

I’m pretty sure they’ll be pulling us out after all this is over, ’cause we’ve lost about 40 in a month — maybe we’ll go to Okinawa or something!

Bangkok was REALLY GREAT! I’m gonna go back there some day — met some really good people there. Thailand people are really friendly & good to Americans. It was terrific R&R!

I have a lot of work to do. Take care of yourself, and remember – I AM FINE — morale is terrific, and the guys are fighting their hearts out. Keep praying as I am, and we’ll keep fighting for you.

I made TV carrying a wounded News Coresspondent down the street — look for me on CBS! How about that?

Don’t worry, please. Give my love to all, and I’ll see you in 4 1/2 months. Love you all,

Two days later — on January 30, 1968 — Lance Corporal Timothy M. Barmmer was killed by enemy fire. He was 20 years old.

Tim Barmmer’s company.

A recon corpsman said, “He died in my arms. He died trying to get someone else in the bunker during incoming… Tim was literally throwing people in (the bunker).  Shrapnel got to him.”

Later, Tim’s parents received a letter from a woman named Viola Howes. Her son Roger had often written about Tim — his best friend, and someone who “made this place bearable.”

This time, Roger wrote about his best friend’s death. Viola wanted another mother to read Roger’s words:

Yesterday evening we were sitting in our bunker eating C rations and a rocket came in about 3 feet from it. Huck (Tim’s nickname), Doc, Mac and Zeke were outside heating chow. Huck tried to push them in like the big stupid loveable guy he was and took the blast and was killed instantly. The other 3 are in serious condition and sent back to the States.

My God, what a dear friend we’ve lost, Huck was big and big hearted, he could be gruff yet gentle. We loved him like a brother and he left an impression that could never be forgotten. Everyone in our company could not help but like him. He was first to help a new guy coming in. He was the first one to welcome me here. This place can never be the same without him.

God has some purpose in it I know, but Oh God, we will miss him. Could you do me a very great favor and have a Mass said for Huck. His name is Timothy Barmmer. Thanks Mom, so much.”

Timothy Barmmer’s name is engraved on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, DC. It’s panel 35E, Row 65.

His name lives forever, too, in the much smaller — but no less significant — Vietnam veterans’ plaque opposite Town Hall, right here in Tim Barmmer’s hometown.