Green Bay, Wis. (WFRV) – “I wasn’t a good student, I think out of 635 (students) I was 634,” recalls Russ Tapley of Green Bay.
While that might have been part of Tapley’s motivation for joining the Army in 1968, he also knew the draft was coming.
“I decided to join the Marine Corps because I thought since I was going to Vietnam, the reputation was that they had the best training,” Tapley said.
Still a resident of California at the time, Tapley headed to Vietnam with the 1st Battalion 26th Marines.
“Doing patrols, going into villages, something was search and destroy, something was educating people, telling them who we were, what we were doing, what we were trying to do, get rid of the Viet Cong and really try to give them their freedom,” he recalled. Tapley.
After his year in Vietnam, Tapley still had three years of commitment left.
He spent that time in a training battalion, preparing other soldiers for deployment. This prepared him later, for a move to Green Bay and another two decades in the service, this time in the Army Reserves.
“Then I was out for 17 years and decided to go back into the military because I thought I had leadership experience, combat experience, experience working with people,” Tapley said.
For another 21 years, Tapley worked as a drill sergeant and then in training and development, mentoring recruits to prepare them for the real deal. It was that fulfillment that kept him going.
“Those basic things; Taking care of people, showing them their responsibility, just taking care of people. That was the main reason,” Tapley said.
Tapley retired in 2010 as a Command Sergeant Major, after 27 years of service.
He now belongs to VFW in Bellevue and is involved in the Sovereign Military Order of the Jerusalem Temple, helping Christians in need around the world through places like Paul’s Pantry and Golden House in Milwaukee.
“I feel more of a calling to do this, if that makes sense, but I feel more of a calling to do this, to help and support others. Because I’ve been blessed, I’m trying to reach out and teach others and share those blessings,” Tapley said.
Tapley won’t call himself a hero, and he may not remember all the hundreds of young lives he shaped during his military career.
But always remember the impacts actions have on others; Perhaps a letter written to Tapley by her daughter Autumn when she was a child sums it up best; “(Autumn) was talking about what I do, my goals, how he sees me interacting and stuff, and what I say. She took that to heart and she wants to emulate that. And of all my possessions, that means the most. How we affect other people, without our knowing it… Isn’t it amazing? Tapley said.