A Homer man was featured this week in an interview series dedicated to military veterans, put together by the office of Senator Lisa Murkowski. Jim VanOss shared his experiences during and after the Vietnam War.
“Veteran Spotlight” is a series of YouTube videos focusing on Alaska veterans. In the 11th installment of the series, released Monday, Homer resident and Vietnam War veteran Jim VanOss talks about serving as a military police officer and an embassy guard in Saigon during the Tet Offensive.
VanOss was 20-years-old when he was drafted into the Army. He says the Tet Offensive transformed Saigon from a place where soldiers took their R&R leave, to a dangerous war zone.
"You never knew what was going to happen," says VanOss. "Most of the time, it's pretty boring. But there are times when ... something happens and you have to take action. (Whether) bombs are going off, a sniper, or people are shooting ... those are times that you just react."
VanOss says he counts himself as one of the lucky ones. During his 15-month-long stint in Vietnam, he was never wounded.
"The war changed my life and it was very educational, in a sense," he says. "I think I came out of it very luckily."
After Vietnam, VanOss returned home to Wisconsin, where he used the G.I. Bill to finish college. Once he graduated, he decided to hitchhike to Alaska, where he worked on the construction of the TransAlaska Oil Pipeline before homesteading in Homer, where he raised bison and European wild boar.
In 2010, VanOss was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He credits help he’s received from the Veterans Administration with helping him manage the disease.
The “Veteran Spotlight” project began on Memorial Day weekend of 2012 and is produced in conjunction with the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.