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John Nordine, veteran of two wars, tried three times to get in


John Nordine is a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars. - Roger Lucas photo

John Nordine is living proof that the third time is the charm.

That's how many times he tried to enlist in the Army before he was accepted.

The first two times, John was rejected because he was just under 5 feet tall and just under 100 pounds.

The third time John tried, he had a little help from a helpful doctor who measured his height while he was wearing cowboy boots and weighed him with all his clothes on, of which he had plenty.

"I measured five feet and a quarter inch and just over 100 pounds," Nordine laughs.

That was his start in a nine-year Army career, with a year in Vietnam that was bookmarked by two assignments to Korea.

Nordine ended as a staff sergeant and with a lot of memories he is reluctant to share.

"I don't talk about it much," he said. "I have spent the past 30 years trying to forget it."

His father, an Army veteran who was captured in the Philippines at the beginning of World War II, didn't talk about his experiences either. John's father, Carl, survived the Bataan Death March and spent three and a half years in a prisoner of war camp. "I can't remember my father ever talking about his time as a POW," John noted.

John was born in California, and spent time driving truck and some 20 years in the "baby breath" business in Omak.

While in Vietnam, November to November 1966-67, Nordine served on a 10-member reconnaissance team that went out in the northern part of the country looking for enemy forces. They would be out for a week or two.

"We would carry about 60-pound packs that largely held food and extra ammo," Nordine said.

The team would often sleep on the ground, get in firefights, and "then we would walk out, rest, and then do it again," Nordine said.

"When we returned to camp they would have new shoes, clothes, and everything new for us, and we'd just throw our shoes and clothes away," he stated. "The jungle was tough on shoes and clothes and we didn't carry any extra with us because our packs would be too heavy."

John Nordine service photo

Earlier, Nordine had spent a year in Korea where he did patrols near the 38th parallel, the dividing line between South and North Korea. After a year in Vietnam, he returned to the U.S. and then was sent back to Korea for his second tour there.

"On my second tour, I built roads," Nordine said. Winter in Korea was especially tough, he added.

Talking about his 10-member reconnaissance team in Vietnam was particularly tough for Nordine. It started to bring back memories of team members wounded and killed.

"I don't go to reunions or try to communicate with recon members, with one exception," he said. "One of my team members was a friend since I was 9 years old. He lives on the west side, and when I go over there, he is one of the first places I go."

Nordine lives in Electric City, where his son, John Nordine II, is the mayor.

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