Murkowski Honors U.S. Army Vietnam Veteran, Alaskan Homesteader

Homer Resident Hitchhiked to Alaska, Built Pipeline, Raised Bison; “The War Changed my Life, It was Very Educational… I Came Out Lucky”

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Lisa Murkowski is releasing her 11th Veteran Spotlight installment today, featuring Jim VanOss, a U.S. Army Veteran drafted during the Vietnam War who served as a military police officer and an embassy guard in Saigon during the Tet Offensive.

During his Veteran Spotlight interview, VanOss recalls being 20-years-old when he was drafted into the Army after failing a college class at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.  When he arrived in Vietnam, last minute order changes put VanOss on guard duty at the U.S. embassy in Saigon.  Just a few months later, the Tet Offensive transformed Saigon from a place where soldiers took their R&R leave freely, to a dangerous war zone.

Jim VanOss, U.S. Army Veteran

(Click on image for an excerpt of VanOss talking about tense times during the Tet Offensive and care at the VA; CLICK HERE for the extended interview)

“I count myself as one of the lucky ones.  I was never injured and I never had to kill anyone. There were a few close calls, but I was lucky.  Now, 40 years later, I have Parkinson’s.  Is it from the Agent Orange?  I don’t know.  But the Veterans Administration help I have gotten has been very good.  I never thought that 40 years after being discharged from the Army that I would need help from the VA, but they have been very, very helpful.”

After 15 months in Vietnam, VanOss returned home to Wisconsin, where he used the GI Bill to finish college.  Once he graduated, VanOss 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.

“Jim VanOss’ life story is one of an Alaskan pioneer who sees the good where he can,” said Senator Murkowski.  “He came to Alaska when it was a young state, and he helped build not only our great oil pipeline, but also our state’s agriculture industry.  We owe it to veterans like Jim VanOss to honor them through sharing their stories, and we owe it to the rest of us to learn from the high levels of patriotism, commitment and service they demonstrate for us.”

The “Veteran Spotlight” project is Senator Murkowski’s monthly focus on an Alaskan veteran of American conflicts worldwide to honor and draw well-deserved attention to Alaska’s men and women who served.  Today’s installment is the eleventh in the series that began on Memorial Day weekend of 2012.  Every month, Sen. Murkowski posts a biography and an interview with an Alaskan who served our country abroad in conjunction with the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.  You can watch them all by clicking here.

Senator Murkowski invites all Alaskans to nominate a veteran from the 49th state to be featured in the Veteran Spotlight project.  If you have a family member or friend in the community you think has a story to share, email Spotlight@Murkowski.Senate.Gov.

# # #