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November 7th, 2009
Vets parade grand marshal earned Bronze Star in Vietnam

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of articles that will run between now and Veterans Day, Nov. 11, about local veterans who were nominated as the San Marcos Veterans Day Parade grand marshal.

by PAT MURDOCK

If George W. Kumpe Jr. had not been working near a military recruiting office in Anaheim, Calif. in 1967, his life may have been quite different.

On a break one day, he and a colleague wandered into the recruiting office and decided to enlist. The colleague chose the U.S. Navy; Kumpe chose the U.S. Army. The colleague would wash out, but Kumpe was sent to boot camp and found himself in Vietnam a little more than a year later.

His brief career in the U.S. Army began on May 23, 1967, at Fort Ord, Calif.. From there, he was sent to Fort Knox where he received advanced training as an armored “tanker.” While on leave in Luling, he met and quickly married his wife, Marylee. After four brief months of marriage, he received orders to go to Vietnam.

It was ironic that the orders came immediately after he returned from giving blood “for the boys overseas.” He didn’t know that he would need a blood transfusion of his own just 45 days after he arrived in Vietnam when he was injured when his tank was blown up.

When she nominated her husband to serve as grand marshal of San Marcos’ Veterans Day Parade, Marylee Kumpe wrote, “It is with great honor and pride that I submit my husband’s name for grand marshal of San Marcos’ Veterans Parade. I feel it is the least I can do to show my gratitude for the sacrifices he has made, not only for his family, but for his country. I know how much it would mean to him, how much he deserves it and how much he has earned it, which makes him an excellent candidate for grand marshal.”

The non-partisan committee that chose Kumpe from 11 deserving veterans nominated for grand marshal honors agreed with Marylee Kumpe.

On May 15, 1968, George Kumpe was wounded when the tank in which he was riding was blown up. Although suffering from shrapnel strikes in his head, arm and legs, he carried several of his wounded or dead buddies out of their tank. For his heroic efforts, he would receive his first Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with the “V” device for Valor.

After just ten short days of recuperation — with his head still swathed in bandages — he was sent back into battle. On August 19, 1968, he was wounded again. This time, his wound became infected and he developed pneumonia so he was evacuated to Japan to recuperate and to get physical therapy. For his actions this round, he was awarded the second Purple Heart.

A short three months later, in November 1968, he was sent back to Vietnam to serve out the rest of his time there. In April of 1969, he was shipped back to the states where he spent his last year of active duty at Fort Riley, Kansas.

Moving around was nothing new for George Kumpe. His parents’ work took them all over the country. He was born in Lubbock but graduated from high school in Anaheim, California. After graduation, he worked for Pacific Telephone for a year before visiting the recruiter’s office.

After his discharge, George returned to work for Pacific Telephone before he and his growing family moved to Marylee’s native Luling around 1971. He managed a convenience store, and, in 1974, enlisted in the National Guard. He would serve in the National Guard until 1982.

According to his wife, George dealt with the “unseen effects” of his experiences in Vietnam that had slowly surfaced. After 23 years, he was finally diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. Marylee writes, “The scars are deep and his struggles have been hard, but; he has managed to complete his education and find a job where he can draw from his experiences to help others with their personal struggles.”

The Kumpes moved to San Marcos in 1990. He went to work for the company that is now CFAN. Marylee was already working in the Registrar’s Office at what is now Texas State University. The registrar and Marylee persuaded him to enroll in college.

Not only did he enter college, but he threw himself into it like he has everything he’s ever done. He got involved with student government. He became very active in the Non-Traditional Students Organization (NTSO). He was even elected Homecoming King in 1995. He received his bachelor’s of social work degree in 1996 and added a master’s in social work in 1998.

Today, George uses those degrees in his work as a counselor in the Hays Caldwell Comal County Adult Probation program. With 11 years’ experience as a social worker and his own experience with PTSD, he is giving back to those he serves.

His three daughters bolstered his wife’s nomination of their father for grand marshal honors.

Oldest daughter Heather wrote, “My dad has inspired patriotism in me and my family because of his love and loyalty to America. I admire him and his ability to turn his experiences into opportunities.”

Middle daughter, Traci, added, “My dad’s love for his country and family is unconditional. He has such a huge heart and is very passionate. He is an honorable, upstanding man and it shows through his patriotism. He is my hero!”

Said youngest daughter, Misti, “My Dad gave so freely of himself to our country. I am very proud of his selfless service. I admire him for his courage, strength and loyalty. I will never forget what he has done and sacrificed to give me the opportunities that I have today.”

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