Guest Column: Rossmoor crossing guard shares his story

Bill Thomas

My name is Tom Germscheid.  I graduated from high school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in June of 1968.

In September of 1969 I was on a troop train heading to Fort Jackson, South Carolina for Basic Training in the U.S. Army.  After completing ten weeks of Basic Training, I received orders to report to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, for training as a combat medic.   (It didn’t take much thought to know where trained medics were heading at that time.)

On March 10, 1970, I arrived in the Republic of South Vietnam.  I was in the field assigned to an infantry platoon.  I remember the first time we came in contact with the enemy, I asked my lieutenant, “Does this mean that I get my combat medic badge now?”  Forty-seven years later, it became one of my most valued possessions.

At the time we were told, “Medics will spend six months in the field and six months in the rear at a hospital or aid station.”

After seven months with the infantry, including my time in Cambodia where I had my 20th birthday; my unit, the 9th Infantry Division, was rotated home.  What that meant was that the Colors were going home but most of us were just sent to other units.

I was assigned to a mechanized unit with the 25th Infantry Division.   When I asked my new commanding officer, “Will I now be working in the rear?”  His response was, “You have too much experience. We need you in the field.”  (Catch-22 I guess.)

My days of “humping the bush” were over. Now I was riding in an armored personnel carrier as the head medic of the company. Throughout my time in Vietnam, I treated many wounded and only lost one man.

I came home a decorated for heroism veteran and completed the last six months of my military service working at an aid station at Fort Meade, Maryland.   I drove home to Philly every weekend that I didn’t have duty.

My time since the military has been spent working as a bartender/manager at numerous restaurants.  It was at one of those restaurants where I met a customer who had been a physician in the Army during the same time that I served.  He offered me a job to manage his medical practice.  He said, “Your military training and experience will be an asset.” I worked with him for 27 years before retiring in 2014.

I now have the very rewarding and much appreciated position of a School Crossing Guard at Rossmoor Elementary School.

One final note: Much has been said about the terrible treatment of Vietnam Vets coming home but I experienced a better situation. In flying “Standby” from San Francisco to Philadelphia we had a stop in Los Angeles. I was sitting in the last row of the plane. I thought that I was being bumped off the flight in L.A. Instead, a flight attendant came back and asked me to follow her. She took me up to First Class for the remainder of the flight to Philly and said, “Welcome home soldier.”

I only wish the same treatment for all vets, present, and past.

God bless and protect our military.  It amazes me how we keep finding such outstanding young people.