As a member of the U.S. Army Reserves from 1966-71, Bob Mischler felt that it was strange serving during the Vietnam War.
“The country was divided at that time. It was obvious when you went to work what side people were on,” recalled Mischler, a 1962 Cheshire High School graduate. “It is much like today, how half of the people like things.”
Today, he is pleased that Vietnam veterans are getting recognition that many didn’t receive at the time of the conflict. Mischler and his sister are among a group of people who plan to volunteer when the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall comes to Cheshire on June 1. As a replica of the memorial in Washington, D.C., the wall honors those who gave their lives in service to their country.
“I think it is a great thing,” said Mischler, of bringing the memorial to his hometown. “No matter how they served, it is good to recognize all of those who served. A lot of the veterans weren’t honored back then, so I’m happy that they are doing something now.”
As a lead-up to the wall’s arrival, CHS has had graduates/veterans return to their alma mater to throw the first pitches at baseball and softball games.
Don Falk, a 1965 CHS graduate, invited Mischler to be honored at the baseball team’s regular-season finale against Branford on May 18.
“He (Falk) was a classmate of Tom Hudson, who is my sister’s husband,” said Mischler. “I had told Tom what I had done during the Vietnam War, so Don said that I could throw out a pitch like they did.”
As a three-sport athlete, two-time captain, and son of a former principal at CHS, Mischler was honored to start off a baseball game.
“The players on both teams were very nice,” said Mischler, who also worked as a baseball and softball umpire for 20 years. “I think people who play sports learn things like fair play and working as a team.”
Back in 1966, Mischler recalls needing to make a decision about his future in the military.
“When I graduated from college, you either volunteered and chose what you wanted to do or you would be drafted,” recalled Mischler. “I wanted to join and choose something instead of being thrown into something.”
He decided to go into the U.S. Army Reserves and joined a mobile hospital unit as an assistant to medical personnel.
“I had never taken blood from anyone before. I was afraid that I was going to hurt someone,” reflected Mischler. “Originally when I started, I had no experience, but I was following someone with experience.”
In one of his memorable jobs, he recalls practicing to move the unit to different places.
“It would take about a day and a half to take it down and set it up elsewhere,” said Mischler. “They would bring certain stuff and leave other things behind. You were trained so that you could adapt and change to certain circumstances.”
For basic training, Mischler spent eight weeks at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. While he worked with people from all over the country, he feels that it was hard for him to develop long-lasting relationships.
“There were no cell phones or email,” said Mischler. “To make a phone call to someone, it was like 30 or 40 cents.”
During his five years of service, Mischler spent time working at Fort Carson (Colorado), Fort Devens (Massachusetts), and Fort Totten (New York). For his last stop, he served with a Quartermaster unit in Queens.
“We did repairs on uniforms, as officers came in. We provided supplies and food for the troops, who were fighting,” stated Mischler. “We were training to be called up if we were needed (to go overseas).”
He felt that his military service helped him transition back into the rest of his life. Mischler worked 13 years for the Federal Reserve Bank in New York and also went into sales in New Jersey.
“As technology changes, you adjust with time,” explained Mischler, who now resides in Old Saybrook. “I used to sell long-distance telephone services. There were millions of dollars at stake at the time, but now people can make those calls easily.”