As a child, I was a risk taker. I would always try to be courageous and brave, but I never considered the definition of either of those words. To be courageous is to not be deterred by danger or pain, to be brave is to be courageous. The day I stopped being courageous was the day my then neighbor Jerry challenged me to ride my bike down a steep hill and to cut to the chase, I ended up getting hurt pretty badly.
I let a few scrapes turn me into a cautious child. However, being courageous isn’t always a choice. Service Officer for the American Legion Post 16 and Vietnam veteran Guy “Buzz” Seydel was drafted into the Vietnam War when he was 19.
“When I came home in 1968, protesters were spitting on soldiers, young soldiers. I was only 21 when I got out and so that was really psychologically decomposing because so many people were against the Vietnam War at that time, and if you had the uniform on, there was a certain group of anarchists who were targeting you.
Seydel also remembered just how differently some soldiers were treated back during the Vietnam era and how the whole way people looked at and greeted the armed forces was different.
"A good friend of mine, Skip Minor got spit on in the airport. Now when my brother Les came home from Vietnam in 1969, we met him up at the airport. He didn’t come home with a big troop of people and nobody spat on him at that time," Seydel said. "It’s not like it is nowadays like when we have parades here, it makes your nerves stand on end when you’re marching because as soon as the American Legion or the VFW come around that corner and the crowds see you, everybody’s up and down Calumet Avenue and Ridge Road and they just give you such a round of applause it makes your nerves stand on end. But back in 1968, it wasn’t like that. I didn’t wanna join anything at the time because I really didn’t think I made that much of a contribution, but every person’s service is a contribution,”
Seydel was recruited into the American Legion by Dan Buksa three years ago at a Veteran’s Day presentation at St. Thomas More grade school.
“I stepped up because I’m retired. I know I have more time than the younger guys have and that in itself is payment enough for being a part of a great organization. You don’t realize how much that they do and how much that they stand for until you get in there and you start working with them,” Seydel said.
As a Service Officer, Seydel is responsible for helping veterans get their benefits.
“Well, some of the duties are to help people get VA visits. The VA is very tough to work with because they're such a backlog and the negative things that you read in the paper about it, I would have to say are true," Seydel said. "You kinda report on what’s going on with the National and stay up on the latest benefits and other things that the VA offers the veterans and some of the things they’re trying to take away from the veterans. So that’s what the Service Officer does. You just help out anywhere you can. You help out with the Honor Guards, you help out with the Color Guards, we post colors like for the American Jewish Federation down here off of Calumet Avenue. We also post them for Habitat for Humanity for some homes that they built for the veterans and do whatever we can to help them."
Being in the Legion gave Seydel a new perspective on helping others.
“I don’t know, you’re never too old to learn that’s for sure. As a person, personally I; we have a saying in Boy Scouts, in chapter two of the Scout Leaders Manual that says, 'It’s easier to build the boy than to repair the man' and I kinda look at that philosophy with anything that I go after," said Seydel. "The sooner that you can help them, the easier and the better off it's going to be."
As Service Officer, Seydel hoped to elevate the efficiency of the Legion.
“I think to try to elevate the office to stay more active with it. I like to mix it up and go different directions and just kinda elevate it to where you’re more involved with the membership. I don’t know if that would be through campaigns, phone campaigns or whatever, but we do have a newsletter that our adjutant publishes once a month and he puts that out, so we’re trying to be more proactive that way,” Seydel said.