US ARMY, COMBAT MEDIC, VIETNAM, 1967-69
John was born in Tiffin Ohio in 1949. He was the second of eight children born to Joseph and Marie Keefe. John would graduate from Calvert High school in 1967. Outside of school John was a hard worker, taking on many part-time jobs during his youth and school years. He, his father, and brothers spent lots of time hunting rabbits and squirrels and using cane poles to fish in the local creeks.
At the age of 18 he was drafted into the Army. John completed basic training at Ft. Jackson before moving to Ft. Sam Houston to complete his training to become a combat medic. John received orders to Vietnam where he was attached to the HHC, 2nd BN, 5th Cav, 1st Cav division. Much of his time in country was spent in the Quang Tri province near Hue.
Being very close to his family John wrote home every two weeks. Once, when the letters stopped arriving home, his family became concerned. For several long weeks there was no word, until finally word came that John had been seriously injured and treated in Japan. (The military did not share this with his family until he had returned to Vietnam and active duty.)
John was a medivac medic, arriving on scene in helicopters to assist wounded soldiers. He was also embedded at times with ground troops. He would be awarded a bronze star with a “V” for Valor and a Purple Heart, when he moved up under heavy fire to rescue his wounded platoon leader. Even though wounded, with a bullet in the chest, he continued to move around, treat and aid in the evacuation of his wounded comrades. (Attached is the award documentation)
John also had a lifelong scar running down his back from a grenade blast he took while shielding another soldier. He returned to active duty in Vietnam after both injuries. For his amazing brave service, John was awarded three Bronze stars, two purple hearts, with an oak leaf cluster, a combat medic badge and an Air Service medal. The Republic of South Vietnam also awarded him the Gallantry Cross.
When John returned home, he shared little about his time in Vietnam with his family. His brother Vern, who served during this time in Korea, remembers a couple of stories John had shared with him. One was when John was on the ground with a unit, when the gunship “Puff” was called in for air support against the VC. The aircraft was hit and spectacularly crashed a short distance away from the men. There were other stories about “squealing” centipedes and snakes crawling across his chest.
John was different when he returned home according to his siblings. “John was quieter, didn’t talk very much.” While he still fished, he no longer could hunt, “after all he had seen.” His son Matt, remembers the signs of PTSD in his father, avoiding fireworks, nightmares all through his life.
John rejoined civilian life where he worked in GE and Excell Wire factories for the next 30 years combined. At the age of 50, he joined Walmart where he worked until his passing. He married a Columbus Grove native, a young school teacher named Carol, in 1974. The couple had three children, Angela, Matt and Michelle. They were happily married for 38 years. Carol passed away in 2012 at the age of 62
John is described as having been a very good husband and father. His children fondly remember trips to Sea World, fishing Wolf creek for bass and blue gill and car rides to Dairy Queen. John was very active in serving Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts. John had a huge garden where he would spend a great deal of time, with headphones playing music, as he “escaped” from the world.
John was also a victim of Agent Orange exposure. He suffered for many years with neuropathy, arthritis, through two heart attacks until finally a rare form of leukemia took his life on February 26, 2015.
John’s siblings and children fondly describe John as “a kind individual, always willing to help, loved to joke to make others smile, had so much compassion for others and was always proud of his family.”