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Little sister lost a brother same week she gained one

Remembering Vietnam

June 21, 2018
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer (apeterson@esthervillenews.net) , Estherville News

Diane Weber Rierson was 10 when brother Bill was killed in war

Diane has seen the wall, the full one, in Washington, DC, and has a picture of her brother, Bill Weber's, name on it.

"A lot of these guys see the wall and it brings out all they suppressed," Diane said.

Article Photos

Diane was ten years old when her brother, Bill, went into the U.S. Army.

"His dream was to serve the Army in the Infantry division," Diane said.

Bill enlisted in the Army in March, 1968.

Diane and Bill's mother, Wilma, was pregnant with her last child, Mark, when Bill left for basic training at Ft. Lewis, Washington.

"He came home for leave in July and was sent to Vietnam August first," Diane said.

Bill was the oldest, then John, Diane, who turned 10 the same month Bill left for Vietnam and didn't come back, and baby Mark, who entered life just as his brother departed it.

Wilma Weber was due with Mark on August 22, 1968, and Mark was born August 16. On the 17th, Wilma wrote one of many letters to Bill to tell him about his new brother. Eventually, the letter came back to the family, unopened.

"I had my tenth birthday on August 31, and Bill's funeral was September fifth," Diane said.

The family knew Bill was gone before the official notice. Diane's uncle worked at the gas station in Dolliver and called to talk to Diane's father.

"Where's Lloyd," he asked.

He told them someone from the Army came by the gas station looking for Lloyd Weber's house.

"We knew," Diane said.

They watched as a car passed by the house once then came back. It was Sunday, and the sergeant told them Bill was missing.

Tuesday, a telegram informed them Bill's remains had been identified. He was killed by a grenade strapped to a mine that exploded, of internal injuries to the chest. He was nineteen years, nine months and fourteen days old.

He had served in Vietnam for three weeks.

Soon, another telegram came from the U.S. Army telling the Webers to hold off making funeral arrangements until they were informed of the day Bill's body would land in the U.S.

"Sergeant Eugene Palmer came back with Bill's body to San Francisco, and from there to Sioux Falls. He never left the side of Bill's casket, and stood at attention the entire day," Diane said.

"It was a horrible time," Diane said.

Veterans of past wars were honored; Americans were filled with patriotism and support for those returning soldiers, sailors and airmen, Diane remembered.

"Not so for Vietnam," Diane said.

According to an article in the Vietnam War Reference Library, surviving Vietnam veterans came home to find the U.S. torn apart by debate over the War. Instead of victory parades or welcome-home rallies, most Vietnam veterans retuned to a nation that seemed to not care about them, or that viewed them with the anger and distrust that perhaps should have been directed to the federal government of the time.

According to the article, Many of the young men who fought in Vietnam had a great deal of difficulty readjusting to life in the United States. Some struggled to overcome physical injuries, emotional problems, or drug addictions from their time in Vietnam. Others had trouble feeling accepted by their friends and families. Some returning soldiers blamed their situation on the antiwar movement and developed a deep resentment toward antiwar protesters. But many other veterans began to question the war and their own actions in it.

While the treatment of veterans from all eras has improved, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, there are now more Vietnam veterans who are homeless than who died in the Vietnam War.

Diane said seeing the Vietnam Memorial Wall "brings it all home to you. He really was someone's brother, someone's son. We talk about casualties, but each one was a person with people who loved them."

Diane said Bill's memory lived on through their mother, Wilma.

"She was a Gold Star Mother. She sent care packages to service members overseas long after Bill died.

"We would always have an entry in the parades, and I would sit in the back of the car or pickup and hold the flag," Diane said.

On Memorial Day remembrances, Diane said, "I would throw the wreath over the fence because the Gold Star ladies were not tall enough to do it."

Diane said many family members will be in town for the Traveling Memorial Wall this weekend.

Mark, the baby brother who missed knowing Bill, retired from the U.S. Air Force.

William Weber was born Nov. 8, 1948 and was killed in action in Vietnam Aug. 22, 1968.

 
 
 

 

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