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0434-VTN-01/2009
Guido F. Verbeck, III
Major
U. S. Army
Vietnam
Dates of Service: 03/1965 - 08/25/1980
Cannon Field Artillery Officer, 7th Battalion, 8th Artillery Regiment
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He was born into a distinguished military family in Syracuse, New York, as one of two sons to Guido Verbeck and Dorothea Van Duyn Verbeck. His great-grandfather and grandfather headed the Manlius School, a military school in Cazenovia, New York. His father, an officer in the United States Marine Corps, was called up for active duty in the South Pacific soon after Guido was born. Guido lived in his first few years with his grandmother, Dorothea Van Duyn, in Cazenovia, during World War II. He recalls ration stamps, victory gardens, gold stars in windows, and riding on the back of his mother's bicycle while she ran errands. His father brought home for him a steel fire engine toy, instilling in the youngster a lifelong love of fire engines. The elder Verbeck, who saw action at Kwajalein, Gaudalcanal, and Iwo Jima and retired as a brigadier general, came home in 1946. He moved the family to Morristown, New Jersey, entered the reserves, and pursued a career in banking. The family later moved into a home in Mendham, New Jersey. Guido attended Deerfield Academy, a prep school, in Deerfield, Massachusetts. He intended to pursue a stint in the military and a career in banking, "just because the family did it," he says. "We were the obedient generation. We slid in after the great generation. Your parents said do this and you did it." Guido attended Cornell University, then graduated in January of 1965 from Marquette University in Milwaukee, where he majored in English. Entering a process that eventually led to Officer Candidate School, Guido enlisted in the U.S. Army in March of 1965. He took basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and advanced individual training in gunnery at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. His officer training in field artillery was 23 weeks. At graduation ceremony in January of 1966, his father pinned on him the gold bars his grandfather wore as a second lieutenant. Guido was assigned a gun section of four, eight-inch guns. However, with the buildup for Vietnam, his unit became cadre for the first basic training artillery battalion in the army. As part of the 7th Field Artillery Battalion of the 8th Field Artillery Regiment, he left Oakland, California, aboard a troop ship, the USNS Nelson M. Walker (T-AP-125), in May of 1967. At the end of the seventeen-day voyage, he recalls, the unit was met by General William Westmoreland and television cameras. "They said, `You're going over the side down on landing nets and ashore on landing craft and General Westmoreland will be there to greet you,'" he recalls. His A Battery was sent about forty miles south of Saigon, in South Vietnam's delta. Part of the mission, he recalls was "H&I" or Harassing and Interdiction Fire "to keep them off balance, not knowing where it was going to come." Part of the mission also, he remembers, was to cut enemy supply lines. He recalls with great affection the helicopter pilots who would "come in under fire and do what they had to do." Two medics in his unit were conscientious objectors who didn't carry weapons. "They were great friends. They wanted to do what they could for their country, but they wouldn't carry a weapon," he says. Only a few persons in the battery were hurt or wounded in mortar attacks. He had little respect for reporters who, he believes, were not telling the truth about the war. In the fall of 1967 Guido was selected as S2 battalion intelligence officer. During his tour in Vietnam, he took two weeks of rest and recuperation in Australia. He kept in touch with his family by writing letters and calling from telephones at the USO in Saigon. "They had fifty peach baskets," he says, "and each one was labeled from a state, and in them were letters that just said, `To Any Soldier.' You could just stop in and pull out a letter from your home state and read it. Those were great. That was wonderful. That was coming from the heart of the country. You'd just sit there and kind of weep. They became more important as the war went on." The day before the Tet Offensive began, he was briefed that something was about to occur. "We took a few casualties. We captured some prisoners along the way," he says of the offensive in his area. After serving a year in the war, and with promotion to captain, he extended his service in Vietnam. After a thirty-day leave, he returned to Vietnam and commanded a Service Battery, which was responsible for maintenance and supplies for several batteries. By 1968, he began hearing new soldiers muttering about anti-war feeling in America. He also noticed "pockets of drug use." He believed, he says, "it was coming right in from the enemy. They were just providing as much as they could." It was hard keeping up morale, he reports, when soldiers were getting newspaper clippings against the war. Guido returned to America in January of 1969, "The cheers just rocked the plane," he says, when it left the airfield in Saigon. A huge crowd awaited as he stepped into the airport in Oakland. "They were throwing everything they could throw at us--vegetables, trash, bottles, whatever, screaming `Baby Killers', all that stuff. I can't forget that," he says. He married Linda Patterson, the sister of a classmate, in February of 1969. (They would have two sons). Stationed at Fort Sill, Guido taught in the gunnery department until 1972 when he was sent to Germany as commander of a Firing Battery of nuclear-capable eight-inch guns. His tour ended abruptly when Linda suffered injuries in an accident. The family returned to the States where she passed away in May of 1974. Guido was sent to Fort Benning where he taught artillery to officers in the infantry school, served as chief of curriculum, and promoted to major. In 1977 he was sent to Hulburt Field at Fort Walton Beach, Florida as an artillery instructor at Air Ground Operation School. Upon leaving the military in August of 1980 Guido entered Virginia Theological Seminary. Upon graduation, Father Verbeck served as pastors at St. Paul's Church in Mobile, Alabama and St. Albans in Monroe, Louisiana, before moving in August of 1996 to St. Paul's in Shreveport, where he is rector. In June of 1992 he married Caroldeen Harwich. She died in May of 2006. Father Verbeck has six children and eleven grandchildren. Concerning his profession, he says he enjoys best "preaching and teaching." He also serves as chaplain and a first responder with the volunteer fire department in Caddo Parrish.