America will probably never be able to adequately thank the veterans who fought in Vietnam. During a time in our country very different from now, those men and women traveled across the world to serve our nation in a conflict unlike any other in our country’s history. Bob Von Almen of Alton is one of those Vietnam veterans.
Born and raised in Olney, Ill., Von Almen attended college at Southern Illinois University Carbondale before he was drafted into the Army in 1968. After training at Fort Ord in California and Fort Benning in Georgia, he served for a year in Vietnam.
“Field deployments would last for at least 90 days,” he says, with the longest one he was on lasting more than 100. On patrol and in engagements in the field without housing or facilities during deployments, he says the troops’ top priority was watching out for each other.
“We protected each other so we could get home,” he explains.
After his discharge, Von Almen returned to the states where he pursued a career as a funeral director and embalmer. He moved to Alton in 1981 to take a job here. He and his wife, Barbara, have been married for 32 years. He has three daughters and two grandchildren.
For many years, Von Almen was involved in the Veterans Initiative program. The program worked with Vietnam veterans to collect information regarding the possible location of killed or missing Vietnamese soldiers. The information was exchanged with counterparts from Vietnam for information on missing American soldiers.
Von Almen’s story is remarkable not just for his service to his country and community, but also for the personal example he has set for those around him. Retiring in 2011, he underwent the amputation of his lower right leg in 2013 and had to have another surgery removing an additional part of his leg a year later.
Undeterred by such adversity, Von Almen uses a prosthetic leg and has taught himself to do most of the things anyone else can do. He drives a car and works out at Senior Services Plus four days a week. He credits Devon Neal, Tiffany Lubinski and Ben Bergenzer there for helping him mentally as well as physically.
“If you put your mind to it, you can do anything,” he observes.
Von Almen likes to fish and garden and he stays very active. He volunteers at the 5A’s animal shelter and is active in Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church.
“I like to work with young people,” he says. “Young people are refreshing.”
Helen Keller is quoted as saying, “Character cannot develop in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trials and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired and success achieved.” Serving his country, taking care of his family and demonstrating there are no boundaries or limitations in life, Bob Von Almen sets an example of excellence in character for everyone around him.