Recently, the state of Minnesota signed a bill into law making Vietnam Veterans Day an annual observance. This was important to Vietnam veterans, but it is also very important for the Gold Star Families of Minnesota too.
The Schmidt family sisters you will meet in this story will make the Gold Star Family experience of loss come alive in a very unusual way as they tell of the loss of their brother, Wallace Robert “Skip” Schmidt.
You see, Skip Schmidt was wounded in a battle during the Tet Offensive of 1968. He was hit in the head by a bullet and came home with part of his skull missing. He suffered tremendously from both physical pain and the terrible effects of PTS, including the pain of recurring nightmares. The pain was too much and he finally took his life on his 24th birthday.
The loss these sisters felt with his death has been a part of their life for the last 5 decades. The empty space that his death brought to them could not be filled. Until the sisters, one after another, decided out of curiosity for the family history, to go to the website DNA.com and have their own DNA tested. Each of them found the same unusual name appearing on the list of living relatives, one Joe Klick.
This is where the story will get you in the heart. Joe Klick was indeed a relative, a very close relative. He is the son of their brother, Skip. Before going to Vietnam, Skip had met and fallen in love with a young girl. They only knew each other for a short while, and when Skip left for Vietnam, he did not know that his girlfriend was pregnant.
The family never knew either.
Joe Klick grew up hearing his mother speak of her young love who was his father and he always wondered about what his father was like.
Skip’s sisters and Joe Klick met each other for the first time recently at a Gold Star Families gathering in honor of Minnesota’s new Vietnam Veterans Day. When they meet him you can hear one of the sisters saying, “I get to touch him. I get a piece of my brother.”
This is a very unusual family story with levels of meaning beyond words. Enjoy this “reunion” and remember those who gave their last full measure in service to the country in Vietnam. Remember, too, all of the Gold Star Families. We must never forget.
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.