BRITT | It wasn’t an evening of war stories as more than 50 people packed into the Veterans Building in Britt Tuesday, Feb. 13, to hear “local boy” Bob Steenlage speak about a recent two-week trip he took with his sons to Vietnam.
In January, Steenlage, 74, a 1962 Britt High School graduate and Iowa's first four-time state wrestling champion, returned to Vietnam where he served in between 1967 and 1968 with the 4th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army.
“It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” he said.
The trip proved to be a much-needed healing experience for Steenlage, who returned from war with post-traumatic stress disorder.
In addition to sharing stories and photos from his trip to Vietnam, Steenlage also told stories about how he met his wife of 50-plus years, Bobbi, who was in attendance, and his shingles, Lyme disease and cancer diagnoses, as well as publicly apologized for the negative things he said about his father while he was alive.
Steenlage and his father, who served in World War II and returned with “bad battle fatigue” and struggled with alcoholism, had a strained relationship, and the two didn’t make peace before his death in 1973.
Steenlage said he'd recommend the trip to Vietnam for other veterans, like him, struggling to cope with PTSD.
At the end of the presentation, a man in the audience thanked Steenlage for his “great courage” to share his story.
“I’ll tell you one thing I’ll be able to sleep better tonight,” Steenlage said.
Those unable to attend the presentation can get a video from Steenlage by calling 608-323-2065 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. He is also available for additional speaking engagements.