A day to honor — Perham veterans share the meaning of Veterans Day
Chubb Germolus and Richard Quistorff, two Perham-area veterans, shared stories of their service and what Veterans Day means to them.
PERHAM — "A lot of people have a problem with knowing what's Veterans Day (and what's) Memorial Day. What they're about — Memorial Day is just what it says: memory. It's the memory of those who died. Veterans Day is for those who live," said Richard Quistorff, a Perham-based veteran, known for his work as a deacon at St. Henry's Catholic Church and in communications at Arvig.
Veterans Day is Friday, Nov. 11, and Quistorff believes the occasion is a good time to educate area children on everything veterans have done for them. Many veterans don't want to talk about their service, he said, because it can be difficult and traumatizing. Those stories, however, need to be shared so they aren't forgotten.
According to him, the day is also for honoring those who've served.
Service isn't the same for all veterans either, even in the same war. Quistorff went on his first active duty in the military in December 1974 toward the tail-end of the Vietnam War as a field artillery cannoneer, meaning he was the person loading and repairing shooting machines.
Another Perham-area man, Chubb Germolus, was drafted as a combat medic after school. He served toward the middle of the war from 1967-68, spending his 21st year and 22nd birthday in Vietnam.
"I lost it all," Germolus said. "We lost over 50,000 people … I kind of stayed pretty much to myself for many years." The 50,000 lost included people he was close to. He lost almost all his fellow military friends during the war.
As a medic, he witnessed some pretty terrifying incidents, including a few chopper crashes. He vividly remembers treating someone who was shot in the foot, needing to chop off their boot.
Even when Germolus returned from the war, the struggles didn't stop. He was hurt by fellow Americans. He was spray painted; water was dumped on his head, and he was called a baby killer.
While he sees the United States welcoming veterans back with care now, he feels as though this is 50 years too late. He does, however, still appreciate the gratitude and thanks he now gets for his service.
He has some advice for those looking to honor their local veterans: "Just say 'hello.' Say 'thanks,' or even ask 'do you need something?'" Germolus said. "PTSD is a real thing. Veterans commit suicide every day. It's pretty tough explaining it to someone who's never been in combat. You've never had someone shoot at you — never had anybody (try to) take your life. It's a scary thing."
Quistorff is also glad to see veterans more appreciated in 2022. He loves being invited to the high school, where they're served food and receive rounds of applause for their service. Not only does he enjoy that appreciation, but he also likes to be there with the kids, educating them.
"At a young age, I knew that I wanted to go into the military," Quistorff said. "It's the flag — the big appeal to me was the patriotism … For me, it was service to our country."
His family didn't want him to go, but he knew that the path was right for him. He grew up in the time of the Vietnam War, and he was in the army when it ended in 1975.
He served until 1976 and tried a few jobs outside of the military afterward. Each and every single one didn't feel right, however, so he quit them and decided to go back to the army where, this time, he worked in radioteletype communications. It became his duty to ensure the military had communication wherever they were.
He remembers hearing "shoot, move and communicate" while serving, but in his experience, you have to communicate knowledge before you can shoot or move. It was his job for many years to communicate crucial information through the military.
"(To those who served, all military people) are your friends. You know, that's family," Quistorff said. "They're your brothers and sisters. To me, that's a big important piece of life. You know, blood is thicker than water. It's the same thing for military — doesn't matter what military branch."
Quistorff and Germolus are both members of the VFW Auxiliary.
Quistorff served for over 20 years, traveling all over the world from Egypt to even spending several years in Germany, where one of his kids was born. While he's no longer in the military, he still remains busy with a job at Arvig. He loved his time serving, and he continues to carry that passion.
With that passion driving his beliefs, he also sees Veterans Day as a way to honor veterans previously shunned by the country.
Quistorff concluded, "Veterans Day to me is a time to stand up for what you believe in and pass on that education to kids so they know what history is out there for the military."