Editor's note: This is part of a weekly series published each Monday between Memorial Day and Veterans Day honoring local veterans.
BAZETTA - Jim Howsare's mother did not speak to him for two weeks in 1967 after he made a stop at the local Post Office building.
That building also housed the local Marine recruiting office.
Tribune Chronicle / Dan Pompili
Jim Howsare, 63, of Bazetta served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1967 to 1970, including a 10-month stint in Vietnam where he earned a Purple Heart for taking a bullet at Khe Sanh during the Tet Offensive of 1968.
"My dad finally had to tell her, 'Pauline, he's leaving in a month, you better talk to him.'"
He would come to be very grateful that she did.
After graduating from Warren G. Harding High School, Howsare departed July 11, 1967, headed for Vietnam.
SERVICE BRANCH: United States Marine Corps.
3rd Batt. 26th Marines, Delta Company, 3rd Marine Division
MILITARY AWARDS: Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with One Star, Vietnam Campaign Medal with Device, Combat Action Medal.
FAMILY: Wife, Melanie; Children, Capt. Jennifer Howsare USAF, M.Sgt. Jason Howsare USAF.
When he arrived, the commander lined up soldiers three at a time and put numbers on their helmets.
Ones stayed there in Da Nang, twos went south and threes headed north to Khe Sanh. They weren't allowed to look at their helmets until they were dismissed.
Howsare walked away and saw the 1 and 2 on the helmets of the two other soldiers standing with him.
Initially Khe Sanh was quiet, he said. They stayed in 40-man tents, grilled food and threw the football around.
But the end of December brought a different climate.
"They started making us go to chow with helmets on and carrying our rifles and our gear packs.
On Jan. 21, 1968, the helmets came in handy.
The Tet Offensive had begun and the North Vietnamese laid seige to Khe Sanh.
They hit the ammo dump where the tear gas canisters were stored. The wind was blowing in the direction of Howsare's unit.
In the chaos, they scrambled blindly to get to the gas masks, stepping on them instead.
So began the 77-day siege.
"We ruled the day, anyone will tell you that. But at night ... you could actually hear them digging the tunnels and getting closer," he said.
During the seige, Howsare's platoon was on sparrow-hawk duty, the first replacement for the platoon on Hill 861.
That platoon was hit hard and Howsare soon found himself and his colleagues looking down on the airstrip and the village.
On the night of April 7, 1968, Palm Sunday, Howsare's unit heard movement at the bottom of the hill.
Early the next morning, the ambush hit.
Two men were immediately downed, moments later, Howsare took a round to the right side of his back, and his time in Vietnam came to an abrupt halt.
He was MedEvac'd to an emergency hospital in Fubai, Japan.
"I remember them leaning over me and telling me 'son, you're going home'," he said.
The bullet had ricocheted off his rib, causing damage to his liver, kidney, intestines and lung, though it earned him a Purple Heart.
Ten days later he was in Bethesda, Md.
After healing up a little, in August he went to Camp Henderson, overlooking Arlington National Cemetery. There his job was to pull the records of all injured, killed and missing-in-action soldiers.
"I realized I was doing the very thing someone had done for me two years before," he said.
He said it took seven men between two and three hours to pull all the records most days. Some days the stack of records was more than 18 inches thick, other days were shorter. Those days were better.
After that, he was off to Cuba, where he guarded the fenceline.
He spent six months there, then departed for a training detail called the "Med cruise," where they stormed beaches in Spain, Italy, Turkey and Greece.
During that time, he recalls a day when some members of his platoon called him into the captain's office.
The Captain was a man of few words and Howsare learned it had nothing to do with rifles.
"He said 'your family's been in an accident. Your mother's dead and they don't know if your father will survive. Here's a plane ticket. Go home.' "
It was worse than he had been told. His grandmother and two of his aunts also had been killed. It was May 1969.
His father, Robert, would heal somewhat and Howsare would return to duty in the Mediterranean.
At the end of the year he went home for Christmas, and spent time with his father, with whom he had grown closer since the accident.
After his return to Camp LeJeune, he was promoted to training officer, with a rank of sergeant. From that point on, he trained young men to fill the ranks in Vietnam.
He was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps May 20, 1970, just 16 days after four students were killed at Kent State University and he found his reception coming home was hardly warm.
Howsare says the best part about getting older is that he can't always remember the details of Vietnam, and many bad memories - the ones that gave him vivid nightmares for the first 20 years of his marriage to Melanie, the details of which she's only starting to learn - have been replaced by thoughts of the friends he remembers making there, alive and dead.
"I love what I've done for this country and what it's done for me," he said. "I have never been ashamed to wear that uniform."
His children, Jennifer and Jason have carried on the military tradition, albeit in a different branch.
Both are enlisted in the Air Force, Jennifer a Captain and Jason a Master Sergeant.
Howsare takes pride in their service, and sometimes even humors them by wearing the Air Force sweatshirt they gave him as a gift.