SMITHLAND, Iowa (KCAU) — More than fifty years ago Dick Christensen was fighting for his country in the highlands of Vietnam, now he continues his service within his community.
Dick Christensen now spends his days serving as Post Commander at the Smithland American Legion – Post 666.
In 1969 shortly after finishing school at Sioux City Central High, he was involved in a heavy operation with the 4th Infantry Division near Pleiku, Vietnam
After that, he was sent to the southern part of the country near Saigon Bay. That’s when Christensen was exposed to a detrimental chemical that still affects thousands of veterans today.
“Down there is where they used a lot of Agent Orange because the vegetation is so dense, you couldn’t get through there and you can see it within a day or two after they sprayed, it was just like desolate,” Christensen said.
Luckily, Christensen said he hasn’t been impacted by Agent Orange as much as others, some of whom weren’t told the danger of not wearing protective gear when handling the substance.
Another distinct memory during his service was during a stand-down meeting with the Montagnard people, a group who dates back to French colonial times and an occasional ally for U.S. troops during the war.
“And I got to take a can of spam about like this, it was half gone, but anyway, I took it with me and we took it into a Montagnard village and they absolutely loved it. I still like spam, the wife don’t,” Christensen said.
In 1972, Christensen had returned to the states to recover from a shoulder injury but said during that time he was able to make a lifelong connection.
“I met my wife on Fort Leatherwood. She worked in the PX and I was training troops and we’ve been together for 50 years now,” said Christensen.