Bootcamp to Combat: Part 2 of “A Vietnam Seabee’s Vow”

“Bootcamp to Combat” is Part 2 in the four-episode series, “A Vietnam Seabee’s Vow,” a story of honor and remembrance leading up to Memorial Day from longtime American Legion member David O. Warnken of Hutchinson, Kan.

The first installment described Warnken’s upbringing on a Kansas farm, education in a one-room schoolhouse and his confidence, as a young married man, that he would not be called to fight in the Vietnam War.

 Uncle Sam had different ideas. A Navy Seabee at 25, he swiftly found himself in Southeast Asia, building infrastructure – including furniture from packing crates and certain “donations” from the Air Force – and enduring relentless enemy attacks, one of which forced him to decide whether to medevac without orders or lose his arm.

Also in Part 2, he shares the story of a dark and eerie night along the coast when, while serving watch, he heard a bugle call in the distance, and then a return. He had no idea what it meant, but he called it in, and I-Corps roared to life. Nearly 40 years later, he finally learned what his call had done to save lives and his base.

 “Vietnam,” he says, “was bizarre.”

 “A Vietnam Seabee’s Vow” is a video by Hilary Ott of The American Legion Media & Communications Division. The four parts are posted on each Friday until Memorial Day Weekend.