Life is full of uncertainty. Lakeside Generations resident Larry Gunderson knows this well. He has faced a lot of uncertainty throughout his life, including during his time in the US Army.
One thing is certain, though: he is proud to have served and learned many life lessons along the way.
Growing Up in Grandview
Larry grew up in Grandview, WI, where attended grade school. He attended high school in Drummond and attended Northland College in Ashland.
Throughout high school and college, he worked for his uncle at a garage in Grandview.
His life was about to get busier.
At Northland College, he joined the Wisconsin National Guard. In doing so, he joined a long list of relatives who served in the military.
His uncles and oldest brother served during the WWII period. Another older brother served in the Army during the Korean War. His younger brother and one cousin were in the Army during the Vietnam War.
Larry went to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri for basic training. A spelling error caused confusion and affected his experience there.
“When it came to assign positions after we got checked in at the reception center, they were calling off names. There was no Gunderson,” Larry says. “They had my name wrong: Anderson. Instead of going with the group I trained with, I stayed on at the reception station.”
Other aspects of basic training were far more eventful.
“The scariest spot was when we had to go through the infiltration course,” Larry says. “We had to crawl with our rifle. Of course, it had rained and we were on our bellies … If I remember right, every third shot was live. That was exciting and you knew you didn’t raise your head.”
Larry got as involved as he could.
“I was told by guys who had been in WWII, ‘When you go down there and they ask for volunteers for squad sergeant or whatever it might be, volunteer.’”
After college, Larry took a job in the registration office at Bemidji State University in Minnesota.
“The day I was to start my job there, I got activated with the 32nd Division in Fort Lewis in Washington,” Larry says.
When he arrived, he once again followed the advice of those who had gone before him. He volunteered and served as trainee platoon sergeant.
“If the assigned sergeant was busy, wasn’t on time or had another place to be, I was the platoon sergeant,” Larry says.
He experienced uncertainty because it was during the Berlin Crisis and the tension that came with it.
“A lot had gone to Germany,” Larry says. “We saw the whole thing. We never knew if we’d be activated. It depended a lot on military status and what division you were in. I was in the motor pool.”
More uncertainty crept in toward the end of his time at Fort Lewis.
“Our assignment was supposed to be for a year,” Larry says. “We didn’t know because they were starting to send troops to Vietnam.”
Larry says his military training was beneficial.
“You learn how to take orders,” he says. “You learn how to take criticism.”
He also learned how to get along with others better.
“Everyone should experience that: The characters and people you have to live with and train with and exchange pleasantries, if you can call it that,” Larry says.
Many of them built camaraderie together.
“With two guys from basic, for 50 years at least we were friends and in each other’s wedding parties and all that just from a few weeks of being together,” Larry says.
Finally, Larry learned to be proud of his time in the service.
“One thing about having been in the service, I don’t care what branch, you can always be proud of it because there are an awful lot of people who are proud of you,” Larry says.
A note on the door of his assisted living apartment in Dassel, MN, speaks to that truth.
“An awesome veteran and his wife live here! Thank you for your service for our country! God bless America!!!!”