De Pere Vietnam veteran Wolslegel gets honored with Old Glory Honor Flight
By Lauren Waters
DE PERE – Robert “Woody” Wolslegel has had many roles in his lifetime: husband, father, grandfather, teacher and Vietnam veteran.
On Friday, July 26, he is being honored for his service with a trip to Washington, D.C., on the Old Glory Honor Flight.
Wolslegel grew up in Wausau and was just 19 when he joined the military.
“I was drafted into the Army in 1966, and I volunteered my draft for the Marine Corps, where I served two years,” he said. “After I was trained, I was sent to Vietnam.”
He spent 13 months and seven days there, achieving the rank of corporal.
When he returned on leave, he went back to California and trained soldiers to go to Vietnam.
After the military, Wolslegel attended college and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
“I didn’t have any intention, when I was drafted, of going to college,” he said. “The military was really good for me. When I came back from Vietnam, I grew up.”
Wolslegel married his wife between his sophomore and junior year of college, and he has lived in the De Pere area for the past 48 years where he taught tech ed at West De Pere High School.
He gives speeches on his experiences in Vietnam to different organizations in the area, such as the Community Center in De Pere, his church, the De Pere Men’s Club and world history classes at West De Pere High School.
“I’ve been speaking on the war, on Vietnam, for quite a few years now,” said Wolslegel. “I include a slideshow, and I talk about grenades, rockets, bombs and things that I did when I was in the 7th Marines.”
He also shares stories of his interactions with the Vietnamese civilians and children, such as his time spent in the rice fields, guarding those who were harvesting and helping them safely take the rice back into town.
Wolslegel also shows items he brought back from the war, such as the helmet he was wearing when he was shot in the head.
“I was shot just above the ear. Thankfully, I had my helmet on,” Wolslegel said. “The helmet fell right off, and I just put it right back on again.”
The Old Glory Honor Flight will depart via American Airlines on the morning of Friday, July 26, from Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh.
The first stop on the tour is the Memorial Wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which is what Wolslegel is most looking forward to.
“I went up to Crivitz last summer and saw the traveling replica, which looks exactly the same, but smaller,” said Wolslegel. “I’m excited about seeing it full scale in D.C.”
The next stop is the Smithsonian Museum of American History, where the veterans will visit the “Price of Freedom: Americans at War” exhibit.
Some of the historical pieces shown include uniforms from George Washington, Andrew Jackson and George Custer, in addition to a War of Independence cannon and a complete Huey helicopter from Vietnam.
Next, the veterans will visit Arlington National Cemetery for the changing of the guard ceremony.
The trip will conclude with a bus tour of the city.
The group will arrive back in Oshkosh at 6:15 p.m. for a welcome home ceremony in Boeing Plaza with family, friends and members of the public who wish to show their support of the veterans.