Andy Wahrenbrock, Vietnam Vet
"The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war." - Douglas MacArthur
His eyes told me he wouldn't be back. The evening before Edward August Schultz left for Vietnam when we said our final good-bye, I will never forget the look in his eyes. He knew. He was my uncle but more like a brother, only three years older.
Within a week, he met Andy Wahrenbrock who was the medic; Eddy was the radio man, so they were together 24/7. They hit it off as both were from California, both were quiet, steadfast and easy-going; you might say they were of the same mold.
They were stationed in Dau Tieng and assigned to the 25th Infantry Division, 2nd platoon, 2nd battalion of the 12th Infantry. It was January 1968. Their lives would never be the same.
Andy Corell Wahrenbrock was born March 13, 1947 in Sabetha, Kansas to Leland and Eleanor Corell Wahrenbrock. He is the middle child of two brothers. They moved to West Covina, California when he was 13; he graduated from West Covina High in 1965. Coincidentally, about four years ago, I learned that my friend, Mary, whom I had worked with for 25 years, in a town 220 miles away from West Covina, had grown up across the street from Andy. Mary remembers Andy as a quiet high-schooler who liked to work on low-rider cars with a few of his friends. In fact, Andy says he spent most of his free time during high school working on his car, a 1954 Chevy, pictured below. After high school he attended Mt. San Antonio College, a nearby junior college. He was dating Mary's best friend. He knew the draft was looming so he made no serious plans for a future career.
Andy was right about the draft. It was the summer of 1967 when he was inducted on July 5th, about a month before Eddy. He was sent to Fort Bliss, Texas for basic training, then to Fort Sam Houston, Texas for medic training. He made good use of his two week leave before being sent to Vietnam by marrying his girlfriend. On New Year's Eve he was forced to say goodbye to his new bride in order to fly out of Oakland for Vietnam, arriving on New Year's Day 1968.
Andy spent a week in Cu Chi for in-country jungle training, before being sent to Dau Tieng a few days before Eddy arrived. As medic and radio man, they were together at all times, and most of this was out in the jungle.
The days that followed were days that Andy would like to forget but never could. He was involved in some fierce battles, one of which was a 7 day grueling battle in the oppressive heat, in February, in the village of Tan Hua near Cu Chi. His battalion lost 45 men but it was a battle they eventually won.
Of what happens a couple of weeks later, Andy says, "A month after Tet (1968 Tet Offensive), we were working around the perimeter of Tan san Nhut air base looking for Viet Cong who were launching rockets into the base. On March 3, we had a guy in the platoon go nuts on us and my platoon leader told me to escort him to the base." That is why Andy wasn't with his platoon the next morning when they were ambused by the Viet Cong in the village of Hoc Mon. To Wahrenbrock's horror, he learned that his best friend of two months, Eddy, my uncle, and another of their platoon, Lorence (Larry) Lumby, were killled. This day has never left Andy, who felt he should have been there with his platoon.
Over forty years later, Andy wrote this poem, made a plaque of it, and took it to the Wall, placing it under Eddy and Larry's names.
Two months later after losing his best friend, his platoon was involved in another intense firefight; the lieutenant called in Huey gunships. Andy, with his platoon, pulled back into a tree line while waiting for the gunships. Unfortunately, the first volley of rockets, from their own gunships, landed in the tree line where they were standing. Andy was severely injured from a blast to his hip. He was immediately airlifted out by a dustoff to the 12th Med-Evac in Cu Chi where he underwent two surgeries. He ended up with an infection which kept him there for three weeks. Finally, he was sent to Japan to be sent home. He arrived at Travis AFB, then to Fort Ord, CA for hospitalization and recovery. Andy's life was spared but he was left with a permanent limp.
Andy was in Vietnam for less than 6 months, but Vietnam has never left him. For years he tried to ignore it and push it away. But it wouldn't be pushed away. Finally, after nearly 40 years, he used the internet to connect with his platoon. They started meeting yearly for reunions. Andy decided to try to find Eddy's family. He got a hold of my grandmother at one point, who was close to 90 at that point, and he says she didn't have much to ask him or say to him. I remember her telling me that someone who knew Eddy in Vietnam called her. I questioned her about it, but she was a quiet, private woman, and didn't tell me much. Years went by when Andy saw a post my sister had left about Eddy on a memorial website. He contacted her and then met with all of us to tell us the true story of Eddy's death (much different than what we had been told).
Making these connections was a healing thing for Andy, but, despite being a successful businessman, and raising children, there was more he was compelled to do. His daughter, Jenelle, says that Andy has been a wonderful, loving father, has worked hard all of his life and that "he is passionate about Vietnam history". There was, in fact, more that Andy needed to do. In 2002, he became chair of a small committee that held a dream to build a Vietnam Memorial in Kern County, as a promise that those who "gave the last full measure of devotion" will never be forgotten. He was chairman of this board until 2011 and is still an active member.
The Kern County Veteran's Memorial was dedicated on November 11, 2007. It won the Chairman's Award at the 2009 Beautiful Bakersfield Award Ceremony, thanks to the architect who designed it as a tranquil place where visitors can reflect on the importance of those who served and those who sacrificed. The Bakersfield firm of Ordiz-Melby Architects, Inc., donated the hours and assigned the project to John Cohrs who had graduated with a B.S. in Architecture from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, where Eddy had grown up on a farm adjacent to Cal Poly.
Wahrenbrock's dream was "...to see a combat veteran -- one of those guys with the thousand-yard stare -- visit the memorial. I want to see the look on his face when he realizes that something was done for Kern County veterans." And for Andy, it was a resolution of that day that never left him, and that lifetime of regret that he wasn't with his platoon when his friends, Eddy Schultz and Lorence Lumby sacrificed their lives on that day in 1968.
Thank you, Andy Wahrenbrock, for what you have done to honor veterans, those who served, and those who sacrificed.