Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Vietnam War Veteran Carl Les Fordahl.
Carl served with the Army Headquarters Company and the 1st Signal Brigade. He enlisted in 1967 and served as a draftsman, illustrator and combat artist. Images of his creative works along with an interview about his time during the war were given to the Veterans History Project.
Carl was first stationed at Fort Devens and trained at the Army Security Agency. He was then shipped to Europe for 13 months and finally reassigned to Vietnam in 1969. For the first few months he worked on communication system charts. After that assignment ended, Carl requested a transfer to the combat arts section. He and three other combat artists formed a team and traveled throughout the whole of Vietnam. “I drew the war. I sat on firebases and sketched. I sketched on the streets. I sketched on the rivers. Wherever I was.”
Carl still recalls his first day at Firebase Bastogne, not from a painting but a memory imprinted in his mind. Patrolmen returning from an operation greeted him and one of them offered him his bunk. “Those guys on the frontline and up in the hills didn’t have much, but they’d give you what they could. That’s the kind of men you served with. They always took care of each other.”
After the war, Carl’s art sat in the closet for about 20 years before they were donated to the National Veterans Art Museum. He said of his service, “I was proud of what I did. I never drew a weapon. I drew my pencil, and my paper and my camera. Documenting the war, that’s the greatest blessing God gave me to do.”
Carl remains active in community service through various Veterans projects and helping build libraries in Laos.
“I don’t think we stop being a soldier even after we’re done with our enlistment. We still support our country, we still support our community and do everything we can to support each other.”
Thank you for your service, Carl!
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Graphic created by Carl J. Valentino: Carl J. Valentino is a student at the University of Delaware with a Major in International Business and a Minor in Graphic Design.