Waseca County Pioneer 111 W. Elm Ave.

Waseca, MN (507) 837-6767


NRHEG area veterans stand during the Memorial Day ceremony held at the high school on Monday. 

Loverink delivers keynote at NR Memorial Day Program

Over 100 people gathered in the NRHEG Secondary gymnasium during a Memorial Day ceremony sponsored by New Richland American Legion Andrew Borgen Post 75 and its auxiliary at 11 a.m. Monday, May 27. Many Legion members had visited seven area cemeteries beginning at 8:30 that morning.
The 45-minute ceremony included “America the Beautiful,” “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” and the “Star Spangled Banner” performed by members of the NRHEG band and choir, led by band instructor Seth Schaefer.
Emcee and Post leader Dan Economy read the list of veterans who had died during the past year.
Pastor Scott Williams of New Richland’s St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church delivered an invocation and closing prayer, and also played “Taps” as the ceremony concluded.
NRHEG students Hallie Schultz and Will Tuttle read “In Flanders Field” and Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.”
City resident Gordy Loverink, 74, delivered the main address.
Loverink told audience members he is occasionally approached by someone who notices insignia on his hat or clothing. “They tell me, ‘Thank you for your service,’” Loverink described. “But I realized they don’t have any way of knowing what they’re truly thanking me for, because I’ve never told them.”
As he shared in a previous Star/Eagle article, Loverink served as a “grunt infantryman” in Vietnam in 1969 and ‘70. 
During his 15-minute speech, he told how, when his squad would be in the field, it was his job to carry the 25-pound radio, which had two antennae extending well over his head. “I was that guy everybody shot at,” he said, explaining that taking out the radio also took out the squad’s ability to call in assistance when under attack. 
He told of never being sure “who our enemy was,” sharing the story of a 14-year-old boy who would sell his squad much-appreciated blocks of ice, and of a barber “who had had a razor at my throat the day before,” who were discovered among the bodies of the dead after two separate attacks.
His anecdotes included the story of a night when, because it was hot, he decided to take advantage of a privilege available to him and sleep in the cooler headquarters building rather than in the sandbagged bunker he normally shared with two squad members. An attack that night cost the two of them their lives.
“I thanked God for sparing me,” Loverink said. “But I couldn’t help wondering why He couldn’t have spared those two as well.”
Another task performed by the radio operator, he described, was determining the squad’s position and transmitting that information to a ship located in the South China Sea. “That way, if we came under attack that night, we could call in missiles,” he explained, adding that, once the coordinates were shared there would sometimes be a test missile fired.
“One time a first lieutenant figured he wanted to be the one to determine our position,” Loverink shared. “I didn’t really trust him to do it right, but you don’t argue with rank.” When the test missile was flying in, he couldn’t help thinking “something didn’t sound quite right.” He told everyone to take cover; the missile landed dangerously close to camp.
“I took my equipment away from that corporal, and I told him he would never be using it again,” Loverink declared.
He described a night when he and one other soldier were sent to carry out silent surveillance along the Ho Chi Minh trail. “We had no radio, no flashlights. Only some ammo and a rifle we hoped we wouldn’t have to use.”
As he and his companion sat watching, they realized “hundreds or thousands of enemy soldiers were coming quietly through the dark.”
Loverink credited his survival that night to his strict upbringing in church. “I would sit near my grandfather,” he recalled. “And with him nearby, you didn’t look around, you didn’t cross your legs, you didn’t make any noise. If you did, he would let you know about it.
“So we managed to stay there undetected as those soldiers passed by.”
Despite being a lifelong Minnesotan, Loverink said the coldest night he has ever spent was hiding from enemy soldiers during a monsoon. He and his squad members submerged themselves overnight in the water of a rice paddy with only their faces above the surface while the enemy searched for them.
He told of helping with “cleanup” after American forces had been attacked. “I wanted to be able to do so much more,” he said. “But all I could do was help carry the bodies on stretchers.”
He mentioned how, when “in the field” for three weeks at a time, he and his fellow squad members had no access to running water or showers, so when they would find a river, they frequently used it as an opportunity to bathe. 
“We had to post a spotter, though,” he said. “His job was to watch for pythons, some of which were 25 feet long.”
Once the squad had the chance to bathe in the South China Sea. For this occasion, the spotter’s job was to watch for sharks.
After a string of anecdotes lasting for most of the speech, Loverink told everyone there of the difference between his trip to Vietnam and his trip home less than two years later.
“On the flight over, we were noisy, chaotic, cocky soldiers ready to take on the world,” he described.
“On the way home, it was quiet.” Loverink speculated that each soldier in the plane was contemplating whether he would ever again “be able to put his life back together.”
Loverink’s closing thoughts recalled some of his opening words, in which he said he and others like him enlisted in the army because they were told the objective was to “combat communist forces” before they became strong enough to attack American allies or territory. 
Though, he observed, “Vietnam was not a popular war,” he reminded the audience its soldiers, like nearly all American soldiers in all our country’s wars, were fighting with the ideal of defending the freedoms listed in the U.S. Declaration of Independence: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
“Guard those freedoms,” said Loverink.
“Don’t ever let anyone convince you to dislike a group of people so much that you’re ready to take those freedoms away.”
He finished by saying that, from now on, when someone tells him “Thank you for your service,” he will be using a new response.
“I did it for you,” he will say. “You were worth it.”


Copyright 2022 Waseca County Pioneer
103 S. State Street
Waseca, MN

(507) 837-6767


All Rights Reserved

Comment Here