Sunday, June 26, 2016

Art Elliott

Age 67
Born in 1948 in Detroit, Michigan
Currently living in Fairmont, MN
U.S. Army Vietnam Veteran, Army National Guard Veteran

The Vietnam War was still going strong in April of 1968 when 19 year-old Art Elliott was drafted into the U.S. Army. By September, Elliott was in Vietnam. He started out assigned to the 545th Transportation Company, but later ended up as part of Bravo Company as an infantryman patrolling a busy Vietnam port city; guarding ships and watching for the enemy.

A year later, Elliott was sent stateside to Fort Jackson, South Carolina until his active duty time with the Army came to an end. He made the decision to reenlist and the Army shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to Germany, but his European tour of duty was short lived. Within a few short months, Elliott was headed back to the jungles of Vietnam. This time he became part of the 11th Army Armored Cavalry Blackhorse Regiment.

“We had tanks, APCs (armored personnel carriers) and the infantry with us,” he recalled. “It was a lot more stressful being at the front lines fighting. We'd set up ambushes against the enemy.” Elliott and his fellow Blackhorse soldiers were stationed at a “firebase,” or fire support base, which were temporary encampments widely used during the Vietnam War to provide artillery fire support to infantry operating in areas beyond the normal range of fire support from their own base camps. “They would always pick the muddiest places to set up a firebase,” Elliott mused.

He was sent back home in 1972 on emergency leave because of a serious health issue with his Dad. “I was close to getting out anyway. I only had about a month left in that tour of duty,” Elliott recalled. Once back in the states, Elliott was sent to Washington, D.C. so he could be closer to his ailing father. His new duty location was the Army's Walter Reed Medical Center, assigned to the motor pool. “I thought they were crazy. There wasn't much call for an infantryman at a hospital,” he joked.

The move brought him closer to his father, and closer to his future wife, Julie Lane, a Army nurse officer candidate and Granada, Minnesota native. The two happened to meet one day in 1973 at the hospital's mess hall, and they hit it off. Elliott was an E-5 (enlisted soldier) at the time, and drove ambulances and staff cars and also worked as a dispatcher at the motor pool. Julie recalled the rules that officers were not suppose to fraternize with the enlisted soldiers. She joked that “the enlisted men were more fun than the officers.”

Art was discharged from the Army and the couple eventually married in 1974. They wanted to raise a family, but it was difficult to remain on active duty if you were pregnant, so Julie opted not to reenlist after her initial enlistment was up in 1978. The Elliott's came to the Fairmont area, with plans to eventually work their way east again, but found jobs and stayed. They had finally settled down to raise a family in Martin County, but the pull of the military was still strong. The pair reenlisted in the U.S. Army National Guard after being persuaded by a recruiter at the 1978 Martin County Fair.

Elliott retired from military service in 1995 as a Sargent First Class, with an E-7 rating. Looking back over his military career, he is proud of his service to his country. When the Vietnam War was still going on, Elliott knew it was only a matter of time before he'd get drafted. “It was my duty,” he said. “I knew I was going to get drafted. I didn't fight it, I just went ahead and went in.” He is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, as well as the Vietnam Veteran's Association and the Blackhorse Association.
Sotry and Image © 2016 Joseph Kreiss Photography

Like us - Portrait of a Veteran - on Facebook!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Thank You Donors!

A quick thank you to Portrait of a Veteran Photo Project donor Dee Hannaman. She stopped in to view the POV exhibit during Interlaken Heritage Days in Fairmont and dropped off a very kind cash donation. I also got a order for a reprint of one of the photos on display, as well. Every little bit helps fund the project and keep costs in line for this self-funded labor of love!

On a similar note, during the four hours the POV exhibit was set up last Saturday at The Visual Identity Vault on the Downtown Plaza of Fairmont (MN), we had more than 25 folks stop in to take a look at the images and read abbreviated versions of the veteran's war stories.

If you or your community group, organization or business would like to become a financial supporter of the Portrait of a Veteran Photo Project and the planned coffee table-style photo book, I would love to talk with you on how you can help. Please contact me at 507-848-0287, or email at

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Wilmer Probst

81 years old

Born 1934 in Story County, Iowa

Lives in Truman, MN
Korean War and Cold War-era U.S. Army Veteran

Wilmer Probst was working as an Iowa farmhand in 1957 when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. After his basic training he was preparing to head to Korea when the Korean War ended. Without a war to fight, Probst was reassigned with the 1st Division 41st Artillery and shipped out to Germany.

“We had an Honest John rocket in out outfit,” he recalled. The Honest John was a large,truck mounted rocket with nuclear warhead capabilities. Army Honest John battalions were first deployed in Europe in early 1954. It was the very beginnings of the European Cold War in the wake of World War II.

Although his main duty was working as a parts supply clerk, Probst found himself learning to drive a tank, and getting behind the wheel of large Army cargo trucks, driving supplies long distances across that part of Europe. “We'd get sent on bug-out drives and have to bivouac until we were able to get back to our company,” he said. “ I remember having to sleep on the cold ground under my truck. I woke up many mornings with snow on the ground. I remember that well.”

U.S forces were stationed along the boarders of the eastern block counties such as East Germany. It was a time just before the Berlin Wall was built. Probst said U.S. Army and East German soldiers would put their weapons down and “we'd play cards with the guys from the other side. They didn't want war anymore than we did,” he said. Even though the two sides got along, Probst said U.S. Troops were now allowed to drive over the border into East Germany.

After serving for 2 years in the Army, Probst was discharged and join the Army Reserves, serving for another four years. Following his tour of duty serving our country, the native Iowan returned to farming.

Story and Image © 2016 Joseph Kreiss Photography

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

POV on Display!

Great turn out for the Red Rock Center for the Arts Veteran's Memorial Day Picnic Monday in Fairmont, MN.! We had a small selection of POV photo enlargements on display, plus, a digital slide show featuring some of the other veteran's portraits, brochures and information on hand. On top of that a lot of good food and we made awesome portraits of six of the local veterans in attendance!