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Made to feel ashamed, Vietnam vet grew his hair long to look like a hippie | Voices of Bravery, Vietnam

Klaus Maurer was so proud to serve our country in Vietnam, but when he came home, a wounded veteran, he was made to feel "ashamed."

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — "Thanks for your service. Never. Ever," Klaus Maurer said about his return to the United States after serving in Vietnam in the United States Marines.

He's a Purple Heart recipient. And he's been awarded numerous medals. 

And yet when he came home,  "They put us on buses. The windows were all painted white."  Why? "The government wanted to hide... not want to show the casualties," from the Vietnam War, he says. . 

Then when he got to a base in Florida, a commanding officer told him, "Don't tell anybody you are a Vietnam vet."

So Maurer grew his hair long and put on bell bottom pants to look like a hippie. He blended in to avoid the "shame" people made him feel.

Yet he had gone to great lengths to serve in the U.S. military.  And now, 50 years later, he is still proud of his service.

But his story starts back in WWII.  His grandmother opposed Hitler and refused to salute him in a parade in Germany, where Mauer grew up. "The Nazi's horse-whipped her in the face," he says.

His belief in a free country grew even stronger over the years. Eventually he moved to the United States and joined the military. 

And the pain of some of the experiences still makes him choke up.  

He was a combat engineer. "We built bridges," he says.

But one guy was new. It was his first day when extra help was needed.  He was a welder, and Maurer promised him he'd be safe, despite the anxiety the welder felt.

Then in just a few hours, a sniper shot him in the head. "His brains and everything rolled out of his head," he recalls, as he points to his own shoulder.

Maurer carried him back in the water, the body parts coming down.  "It such a hard thing to see with his head blown off."

Credit: Klaus Maurer's battalion in Vietnam

Since then, the guilt hasn't gone away.  It's not his fault, of course, but he says, "I promised to take care of him."

As for his service and the dedication of his fellow marines, Maurer says, "We gave out best...We weren't politickers. We were soldiers."

He says it's never too late to give a proper welcome home to Vietnam vets.

Credit: Maurer's scrapbook

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