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One Arizona Man's
Vietnam Experience

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Army veteran Fred Krebsbach, Author of Okay Okay Holy Sh*t Vietnam.
The Part-Time Resident Of The Grand Canyon State Hopes The Novelization Of His Experiences Resonates With His Fellow Veterans

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By Karen Weil
Modern Times Magazine

April 6, 2017 — After returning home from Vietnam in 1970, Army veteran Fred Krebsbach wanted to forget about what he’d experienced.

“I didn’t even say the word ‘Vietnam’ for 15 years,” said Krebsbach, a 69-year-old Minnesota resident who spends winters near Tucson.

Now, he’s doing more than saying that word, which still weighs on the nation’s psyche decades after the Vietnam War officially ended: Krebsbach has written OKAY OKAY: Holy Sh*t Vietnam, published by The Write Word.

An Amazon reviewer describes the 194-page book as a “masterpiece of honesty and forthrightness about the Vietnam War … it paints the picture and tells the story of the hell of war and its effects on a man.”

For Krebsbach, the material was always there. “I just had to bring it to the surface, and I started writing,” he said, adding that the biggest challenge was not to “shitcan the whole thing.”

As to the title? “Okay, Okay” has a religious meaning to it (read the book to find out why), while “holy shit” is self-explanatory. Fellow vets said the title was perfect, Krebsbach said.

A retired IBM systems analyst, Krebsbach said he didn’t want OKAY OKAY to be the standard “war story” tome.

Instead, it has religious overtones. “I wrote it with a different viewpoint [as to] what it was like living in Vietnam,” said Krebsbach, who was stationed in the Mekong Delta as part of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division. “We went over as replacements,” he said. “You’re by yourself. How [do] you go through the emotions, the physical experience?”

In the book, Krebsbach writes how a veteran tells him, “Vietnam can do two things to you: it can make a better person of you or it can make a monster of you.”

“That was all I heard, but I said to myself, ‘I don’t want to be a monster,’ and my life changed in an instant,” Krebsbach wrote.

Certainly, the book offers unnerving passages. In one chapter, “Pinned,” Krebsbach relives when an enemy fighter dropped bombs so close to him and another soldier that he was certain they would be hit.

“My life didn’t flash before my eyes like they said, but I figured I had ten, eleven, maybe twelve seconds at best to live,” Krebsbach wrote. “Strange as it was, I was somewhat calm … I guess since I didn’t have any choice. I wondered where my guardian was, and then he said, ‘I’m right here.’”

Krebsbach said it’s gratifying to hear from those who have read OKAY OKAY. One friend said it helped his finally understand what his own father went through, while another said it “was the spark for her husband to take off a couple of layers of armor about his experience in Vietnam,” Krebsbach said. “If that’s what it’s doing, that’s good.”

In his teen years, the Iowa-born Krebsbach didn’t give much thought to the growing Vietnam conflict. “I worked an eight-hour shift at the Pepsi Cola plant,” he explained. “I didn’t have time to [watch] television … I was just naïve to the whole thing.”

That all changed in December 1968, when Krebsbach was drafted into the U.S. Army. “I had to educate myself all of a sudden,” he said. After undergoing basic training,  Krebsbach was deployed to Vietnam in June 1969.

To keep his younger brother Vance from being sent over, Krebsbach extended his tour of duty. (Vance was sent to Germany instead).

Army veteran Fred Krebsbach, while stationed in Vietnam.

Krebsbach said that on his first day “In Country” – a term GI’s sometimes use to describe their tour of duty in Vietnam – he came to this realization: “We’re never gonna win this war. What do I have to do to survive?”

His uncle, a World War II veteran, had some advice:  “Carry something that would mean something for you.”

A Catholic, Krebsbach wore his first communion rosary around his neck; it gave him and some fellow soldiers comfort. In fact, several book chapters deal with that.

The church influenced him, but not in the way one would think, Krebsbach said. He didn’t always know what denomination Army chaplains were, but that didn’t matter – their support did.

For his service, Krebsbach received numerous commendations, including a Bronze Star with Valor and four Air Medals.

After leaving Vietnam, Krebsbach earned a business degree from Rochester (Minnesota) Community College, settled down to raise a family – he and wife Marcia have two daughters and several grandchildren – and worked for IBM for 28 years. He also became a Realtor and small-farm owner.

His book also covers dealing with military commanders. “We destroyed Vietnam,” Krebsbach said. “What did we learn from it?”

Krebsbach said it felt like he spent two tours in Vietnam, “but Iraq vets are deployed, three, four, five times. I just don’t know how they could possibly carry this load.”

When many of them returned to the United States, Vietnam vets were looked at as  “damaged goods,” Krebsbach said, adding  Iraq/Afghanistan vets are considered by some to be “throwaways.”

“The attitude is, ‘Thank you for what you’re doing, but we don’t want to know what you did. Oh, and good luck,’” Krebsbach said.

Krebsbach said those vets need to know they’re valued, too. He proposes that it would not be a bad idea for every young person to serve this country, be it civil or military, for 18 months.

He added that they should include free higher education or vocational training for those efforts. “Treat them with respect,” Krebsbach said with the message “I understand what you did over there, and I’m gonna take care of you.”

A short video on Krebsbach’s book can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ta-HbA-HXM&feature=youtu.be
To learn more or purchase the book, go to https://www.amazon.com/Okay-Fred-Krebsbach/dp/0989671011/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_pdt_img_top?ie=UTF8
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