Brothers who served in Vietnam speak at River Bend ALC

NEW ULM – Royal and Charlie Hettling of Minneota, who served in the Vietnam War, shared their stories with students and staff at River Bend Area Learning Center in New Ulm Thursday, Feb. 6.

The visit from the veterans was organized as part of an interdisciplinary unit involving the geography and American literature classes taught by Chris Weymann and Dana Miller. “This is an opportunity for students to hear first-hand what has been sacrificed by so many to protect their freedoms,” said Miller. Weymann would like the study of Vietnam and its conflicts to be more prominent in the social studies curriculum. Miller, who organized the event, is a past resident of Minneota.

The Hettling brothers have a Vietnam History Center on Main Street in Minneota with a growing collection of artifacts. Charlie Hettling served in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1966-1967. He has been back to Vietnam 21 times, not only to add to the center’s collection, but also to be in a place he “really considers home.” Royal, who was a dog handler in the Cam Rahn Bay K9 Unit of the U.S. Air Force, told students “what real fear is like” by sharing his experiences on night patrol.

After the hour-long presentation, Dane Burton, a student from Winthrop, said, “This is the best thing I’ve heard all year.” Dylan Hoppe, a senior at River Bend, saluted Charlie with “Semper Fi.” Devyn Tierney of Madelia, who plans to enter the military after graduation, stopped to talk to the Hettling brothers as others were filing out, and others waited until they were back in their classrooms to discuss what they had learned. Staff and students are agreed that more education is needed, and they are hoping to have these articulate and passionate experts on the Vietnam War come back to New Ulm so the whole student body can participate in the experience.

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