A photograph of two unnamed Vietnamese soldiers found during renovations to a house sparked a search for the families of the photographed veterans, and now she has been reunited with one of her subjects.
Jesse Schweitzer, a 74-year-old Army veteran who lives in Mifflinburg, Union County, was told by his daughter, Jamey Baker, that her husband’s cousin saw the photo of him in a published article by The Standard-Journal on the discovery of the photographer.
The photo, which was found when baseboard heaters were removed from the house where Baker previously lived, was turned over to the Watsontown Historical Association, which issued an appeal for information on social media. The post prompted the newspaper to contact the person who found the photo, a Watsontown-area woman who asked not to be named, regarding details of her discovery.
Schweitzer and his family then contacted the historical association, which arranged a meeting to have the missing photograph returned to them.
“We were excited to do this, I just think it’s so cool,” said Kathi Wertman, director of acquisitions for the historical association.
Wertman contacted the National Vietnam War Museum in Weatherford, Texas before the family made contact.
Baker said the photograph, taken on December 3, 1967, was lost about three years ago as she was packing to leave home, after the envelope she was stored in apparently fell off a moving box.
“I didn’t know I had lost it because I had so many boxes of memories, so it was a really shocking surprise when we saw (the article). I called my dad and told him, ‘ You are famous!’ said Baker.
Schweitzer, who was drafted into the service in March 1967, served in Vietnam as a private and then a specialist with the 4th Infantry Division, Company A, until March 1969. He could not remember the name of the another soldier pictured with him, a lieutenant making a radio call which the reverse of the photograph notes as a soldier communicating with a commander on attack orders. The photograph was taken just months after Schweitzer’s deployment.
Schweitzer, who fought in the Battle of Dak To and the Tet Offensive, described his time abroad in just two words: “Like hell.”
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“I’m glad I never went back there. They wanted me to re-engage, but I knew as soon as you (came up) that you were sending (coming back) right away,” he added.
Battlefield photographers like the one who took the photo – noted on the back as Jay Kasten – were a regular sight for Schweitzer during the early days of his service.
“We had photographers with us for quite a while,” he said.
The photo, Baker noted, appears in the music video for country music duo Big & Rich’s song “8th of November.”
“Throughout the video, I was there a few times,” Schweitzer added.
“It’s really nice to be able to get this back,” Baker said, reiterating her surprise at the chain of events that led to the photograph’s reunion with its owner. “Funny how it all came together.”
The photograph, Schweitzer said, is his only from his time in the military.