By Jim Kuiken
In December 1972, my life took a dramatic turn. The Vietnam War was winding down and was a constant drumbeat on the news. After I saw the picture of “someone” sitting in a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun, I quit college, and joined the Marine Corps in January 1973. After Boot Camp, I went straight to ITS (Infantry Training School), to train as an M-60 Machinegunner. ITS not only trained you in your new occupational specialty, but it honed the lessons from Boot Camp, and really focused you on the motivation, spirit and ethos of a Combat Marine “Grunt”…the very tip of the “pointy spear” of the Marine Corps.
I noticed that each of my instructors (who were all Combat veterans) were wearing a silver bracelet, which turned out to be an “MIA / POW” bracelet. Each bracelet had the name and basic information about an individual servicemember who had either gone missing in action (almost all were from the Vietnam War, still ongoing at that time), or who was confirmed to be a Prisoner of War.
Since the instructors were all wearing them, almost everyone there wanted to wear them as well, to commemorate those who had gone before us…building the legacy of “Our Corps”. Not coincidentally, there was a vendor just off base who sold them, so on my first weekend liberty, I headed straight to Oceanside (CA), and asked him if he had anyone from Idaho (my home State). He did, and that’s how I ended up wearing the MIA/POW bracelet for Capt. Curtis R. Bohlscheid…from Idaho, who was a helicopter pilot shot down June 11, 1967 in South Vietnam, Quang Tri province, just northwest of Dong Ha. It was an incredibly humbling experience, knowing that this man had paid the price of his own life in service to our Country. I felt honored to be able to keep his name alive, and thought about him (and his family, still in Idaho) a lot over the years.
It wasn’t until 1975, when I returned from overseas and finally joined First Reconnaissance Battalion (I had been wanting to join Recon since my recruiter had told me about them - one of the very reasons I joined), that I really did some more in-depth research on Capt. Bohlscheid, and truly understood what his story was… It was so much more devastating than I had known, and deeply affected the Recon community as well. I have been wearing his bracelet ever since, not just for him, but also for the 10 other men that died with him that day. I’ve lost other friends and teammates along the way in my 30 years, and each of them is deeply felt and missed on this day – Memorial Day. While these 11 men are only a tiny fraction of all those who have given their lives in service to our Country, they are the ones that I choose to represent them all.
Here is why I wear this. See their faces. SAY THEIR NAMES. And in doing so, Remember, and Honor all those who have given their lives for you.
"To read their story, click on https://www.vvmf.org/Wall-of-Faces/4588/CURTIS-R-BOHLSCHEID/ and scroll down to the 4th entry under Remembrances Section titled "The Final Mission of CAPT Curtis R. Bohlscheid”. Click on "Read More"
Click on any of the photographs below to get more information about each of these Marines.