If you have a story to share about the Vietnam War as a veteran, protestor or family member, email us at ucmmagazine@ucmo.edu

We are receiving emails from UCM alumni about their Vietnam experiences and will post them on this page as we receive them.

David L. Fender, Ed.D., CSP, CSHM

Email: Article on ROTC

I was a freshman in 1968 and in the first group of cadets. There were those who were glad that ROTC now existed and those who did not and most were disinterested. When we were in uniform, it was not unusual to get a little undesired attention from other students but I never felt unsafe, which was not true on some campuses at the time. It was interesting to see the one photo of the formation, and I recognized my roommate and others.  I went through all four years of the program, entered the army as Vietnam was ending, became a pilot and retired from the army after 20 years of service. Because of my assignments, training and education, I earned a doctorate and recently retired after 21 years as a professor. I can easily say that my adult life and two careers all started with ROTC.  

Marty Strones
Email: Return to Vietnam

I recently returned to Vietnam to assist the government of Vietnam to find a mass grave which resulted from a very large battle 31 January 1968 TET. I created the grave over 49 years ago following the battle. Is an interesting story giving closure to relatives of 758 North Vietnamese soldiers who killed in the battle. I was the officer leading the battle. I have a Ed.S. & MA from the university.
I am continuing to assist the Vietnamese government in location of graves of their soldiers. They are assisting in location of missing US and allied soldiers.

Walter Henry

Email: ROTC on Campus

Your teaser on the magazine I received today says ROTC started on the CMSC campus in 1967. That well may be the year the Board of Regents voted to add it to the curriculum, but classes on campus started in the fall of 1968. I attended a 6-week basic training at Ft. Benning, GA in the summer of 1968 and was a junior in the program in the fall of 1968. I was a member of the first graduating class, which was 1970. Because the college would not allow a minor in military science to those pursuing a BS in Education, several of us were not able to be commissioned in the spring of 1970 and had to attend an additional term in the fall, resulting in a commissioning at the end of November 1970.

Listen to the full interviews of the veterans interviewed for the
KMOS Voices of Missouri’s Veterans Project

  • Gary Grisby
  • Sam Raber
  • Eddie Osborne
  • Jim Piatt
  • And many others

Here are the stories alumni sent in response to our request in our spring issue:

Thomas S Altvater ’67, ’71

After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial technology in May 1967, I travelled around Europe, mainly to Germany and Italy, to visit with relatives. Upon my return, I received an order to report for induction and within days for the physical exam. Shortly thereafter, I was being sworn in to the U.S. Army and shipped off to Ft. Leonard Wood for basic training. My CMS Bachelor of Science degree helped as I was made a temporary squad leader. My tests were also impressive as I was being investigated by two FBI agents for a high security position. (Scared my mother and some of our neighbors in Roeland Park, KS.)  In early 1968, I was sent to Ft. Sill to be trained with the nuclear tipped Pershing missile system. I ended up instructing missile technicians in guidance and control systems as well as the propulsion and power system. The purpose of these missiles was to counter any major Soviet armored drive through the Fulda Gap. None of these missiles was ever fired in harm. Our motto in Europe was “we gave peace a chance.” We won the Cold War due in part to these missile systems that prevented any serious attack by the Soviets. We may not have  won the war in southeast Asia, but we did end the Cold War, and I am so proud that I was able to serve this great country to achieve that milestone of history. My Army experience was very helpful as I was involved with the construction and safety aspects of two nuclear power plants, located north and south of Omaha. Later, I was involved with the Three Mile Island clean up when I was the safety director of one of the owner companies. Working for the federal government, I had the highest clearances to visit the Ft. Knox Gold Depository and helped develop radiation safety protocols after an incident in a federal lab in Boulder, CO.

Steve Jenne ’69

I proudly served in Vietnam, after graduating from (then) CMSC.   

U.S. Army, 1969-1971, Airborne Infantry

Co. C, 1/506 BN

101st Airborne Division


Ronald W. Terry ’76

U.S. Army tour with MACV Team 25

Ban Me Thuot District, Darlac Province

II Corps Tactical Zone and Bravo Battery

2nd Battalion 17th Field Artillery (105mm M102) Firebase Colgan, II CTZ
Direct Support to 23rd ARVN Division

Thomas Gardner ’71

U.S. Army, 35th Regiment, 25th Infantry Division

          I started my studies at CMSU in early 1966. Somehow my 2S student deferment didn’t get processed, and I was drafted into the U.S. Army while in college. I spent a tour of duty in Vietnam 1967-1968 with the 35th Regiment of the 25th Infantry Division. By the way, I think it is great that UCM magazine wants some stories of women veterans of Vietnam. Women veterans have been overlooked by many. Those women weren’t all nurses, but the nurses saved a lot of lives and comforted many a wounded and dying soldier. After a year of combat duty, there were no welcome home celebrations when Vietnam veterans came home. In fact, many arrived to protests, hateful rhetoric and even some spittle. You always hear some news and public comments that Vietnam was the first war the U.S. lost, but I think you’ll find that there weren’t any battles/campaigns lost by American soldiers. As Forrest Gump would say, “That’s about all I have to say about that.” For a number of years now, many Vietnam vets led and still lead productive lives and serve their communities with volunteer activities, participate on Memorial Teams to provide military honors at veteran funerals, and meet returning soldiers from Iraq an Afghanistan with a handshake and a “welcome home soldier.” There is a bond with all soldiers but especially with those in combat roles who suffered, sacrificed and experienced things that most will never experience. Men who trusted those they fought with and were willing to die for one another. They truly were and are a “band of brothers.” This year is the 18th reunion of the 35th Infantry Regiment Association and of the approximately 225 soldiers who will show up, I will be blessed to be in the company of nine “brothers” who I served with on a daily basis. After the Army, I finished my studies with a business administration degree and then spent 41 years in the insurance and financial services industry, 33 of which were with the New York Life Insurance Co. During that time, I continued my education receiving designations of Chartered Life Underwriter—CLU, Chartered Financial Consultant—ChFC, and a Master of Science in Financial Services-- MSFS. My wife and I have two daughters, two granddaughters and five great grand-children. Unfortunately, we’re not privileged to see them daily, weekly or monthly, as they reside on both coasts. And even though we aren’t as young as we used to be, we stay busy with home, church, hobbies, family, and friends.


Dennis E. McGowan

U.S. NAVY, 1967-1968

Two tours, Gulf of Tonkin, USS-Ranger (CVA-61), directing aircraft 

While many individuals like to boast that they were above average students, Dennis E. McGowan is first to acknowledge that he was average, at best. Only the compassion of many teachers and his steadfast persistence allowed McGowan to continue through life’s many surprises. He was surely one of the first examples of “fake it until you make it.” Due to an administrative error, McGowan lost his military deferment after only two years at Central Missouri State University (now UCM). He took his dad’s advice and joined the U.S. Navy to avoid certain military conscription into the Army as an infantryman. His two tours directing aircraft aboard the USS Ranger (CVA-61) during the Vietnam Era convinced him that returning to UCM to complete the final two years of his bachelor’s degree would be a wise path to pursue. When he returned, he faced a rocky start and quickly dropped out. McGowan didn’t realize that the wartime trauma that followed his return home in the form of isolation and mild depression would later be coined as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He had watched his dad, a distinguished Silver Star Medal recipient from World War II, live through his PTSD battles long after the war ended. Although it would take considerable time for McGowan to work through his military flashbacks, he was determined that PTSD would not rule his life. His answer was not found in pills. Instead, he made an internal decision that his road to normalcy would be found in a sense of purpose and giving back to the community. In addition to his full-time job at a grocery store in Kansas City, he enrolled as a fulltime student on the Warrensburg campus. Juggling both commitments gave him little time to worry about his former military life. Immediately after obtaining his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, he enrolled in UCM’s Master of Business Administration program. He was fortunate to have several quality business instructors, including Dwight D.W. Davis and Wilbur H. Thielbar, who provided concrete examples of how balanced decision-making and theories of probability can shape your future. It was also during this time that he first unleashed his creativity by volunteering as a disc jockey and newscaster at KCMW-FM. The radio station manager, Sanford “Sandy” Kirkland was a consummate professional who through leadership proved the undeniable importance of character and values-based broadcasting. It was at KCMW-FM where McGowan met the hostess of the “Today’s Woman” program, Karen Crawford. Pulling double duty, McGowan had also added the title of CMS-TV Channel 7 news director during its second year of cablecasting. Subsequently, this station evolved into KMOS-TV, a public proadcasting affiliate in Sedalia. Karen rebuffed McGowan’s repeated requests to be his “weather girl” on CMS-TV, so instead, he asked and she accepted his proposal for marriage. Since graduating from UCM with his MBA, McGowan worked in foreign affairs and human resources for more than two decades. Karen obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree from UCM, and later her Master of Education degree, and worked more than 20 years as a teacher. Both of their children hold double master’s diplomas and work in the U.S. defense industry. Their combined sense of purpose and giving back to the community has led them, as authors and illustrators, to publish more than six dozen popular children’s picture books. Jolly Time Books tell exciting stories with positive messages the whole family can enjoy. In addition, McGowan has published The Living D.I.E.T.:  Conquer Stress in Your Life now to empower all individuals, including veterans, to address their symptoms of PTSD. The Living D.I.E.T. provides specific strategies for working through stressful situations, which everyone faces during their lives. Both Karen and Dennis are proud graduates of UCM, and appreciate the role that this educational institution has played in their lives.


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