Mon, Nov 24, 2003
Marshfield News Herald
Bill Schiebler fondly looks back at all of his memories, from his childhood in Port Edwards to the times he met Martin Luther King Jr. and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
It was Schiebler's time in Vietnam, though, that earned him a Bronze Star for Valor, which he should have received 37 years ago.
Schiebler, 62, now living in Eden Prairie, Minn., was presented with the award this month for rescuing his friend Paul Mobley and a wounded North Vietnamese soldier from behind enemy lines in 1965.
"Paul called me one time in 1996, and it was sad because he had just
retired from the Secret Service and was dying from prostate cancer," Schiebler
said. "And he says, 'At least you got your Bronze Star and four Purple
Hearts.' And I said, 'I didn't get a Bronze Star.'"
Mobley nominated Schiebler for a Bronze Star after the rescue, but the paperwork was lost in a mobile Army surgical hospital, Schiebler said. The day after that 1996 call, Mobley called Gen. Hal Moore, who then contacted the Pentagon.
The Defense Department didn't have Schiebler's address, so it sent the medal to Mobley's home in Chesapeake, Va. Mobley died the following January and the medal rested in his attic until his wife, Joyce, found it two months ago.
"Joyce panicked and sent it to the Pentagon," Schiebler said. "They
contacted me and said I would have it by October."
Schiebler wanted to have a ceremony with his friends, but several government officials arrived to present the award, including Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
"Bill Schiebler's a hero," Pawlenty said. "The paperwork got messed
up. ... Through strange circumstances, we're here 37 years later."
It was on the night of Nov. 2, 1965, when a 24-year-old Schiebler walked three miles in the Ia Drang Valley in search of a lost Mobley.
"He was just terrified because he was all alone, and a huge North Vietnamese
regiment was passing through the area," he said. "Obviously, no one else
would go out there. Paul was quite a guy and he would've done the same
thing for me, so I volunteered to (rescue) him."
Schiebler found a wounded Vietnamese soldier he said he wanted to kill on the spot, but he remembered something his grandfather told him.
"As I was leaving home, he leaned over and grabbed my arm, and he said, 'Bill, you make sure you're as kind to the enemy prisoners you take. Remember, God loves them as much as he loves you,'" Schiebler said.
Schiebler, who stood 6 feet 4 inches tall, carried the enemy soldier back to base, and the man began crying.
"Without really thinking, I just reassured him and had to carry him
for over three miles," Schiebler said. "And the man starts to kiss me on
my back, because he was so grateful. I was so embarrassed, I didn't tell
anyone about it for 30 years."
About three hours later at the base, Schiebler was told the prisoner would talk only to the "tall one who had carried him," and he happily obliged.
Schiebler and the prisoner communicated by drawing pictures of their home in the dirt. Schiebler drew Wisconsin and marked Wisconsin Rapids on the drawing.
"I think he was appreciative we didn't kill him," Schiebler said. "I
think he started to realize these Americans are different from what he
was taught to believe. We later found out this guy was the highest-ranking
sergeant major who had ever been captured in Vietnam."
Schiebler spent only about six months in the Army and soon returned to the Wisconsin Rapids area, where he experienced episodes of post-war syndrome. At one point, he slept in his back yard for 45 nights.
"I was just terrified not to have a weapon," he said. "I didn't have
any buddies. I wasn't dug in, and I was absolutely terrified. I was looking
in the trees for snipers."
Neighbors thought he was bitter about the war and might have been showing effects from Agent Orange.
Schiebler later moved to Minneapolis, where he worked as a freelance financial consultant, having graduated from St. John's University with a degree in financing in 1963. He was married in 1968, but divorced in 1975, and had two children. He and his second wife, Bonnie, married in May 2002.In 1985 he learned he had multiple sclerosis, requiring him to quit his career and learn to write with his right hand. Schiebler was blind in his left eye from 1987 to 1990, but his vision eventually returned and he now works as a family dispute mediator.
"I wouldn't change one thing, and if they came along to handcuff me and carry me away out of this life, I would say, 'Carry me away, boys,'" he said. "It's all been worth it.
"I feel so grateful to have grown up in Wisconsin Rapids. I've traveled
the world, but Wisconsin Rapids was the nicest area I could've grown up
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