Bob Tecklenberg with his books.
Photo by Russ Ugone
As Robert (Bob) L. Bob Tecklenberg got off the plane the familiar tropical heat and landscape triggered memories of long ago when he was just 19-years-old, and in Vietnam. He, like many other veterans, wanted to know what happened to the country and its people. Tecklenberg began his personal journey by going back to Vietnam twice, once in 2003 and then again in 2004. On both occasions, he spent a few weeks visiting two villages, Thua Luu and Nouc Ngot, where many years ago he had protected the villagers as a young Marine. Upon his return to the villages, Tecklenberg recollected "how little had changed in the intervening years." Many of the people that he had known were still residents and remembered him. They treated him with respect and seemed to recognize that his earlier efforts helped contribute to the continuity of the villages to this day.
His new book, "The Boys Next Door: A Marine Returns to Vietnam," is a combination of a memoir, travel story, and history. The story begins when Tecklenberg enlisted in the Marines in 1968, where part of his training was spent learning Vietnamese at Language School in Monterey, Calif. In January 1969, Tecklenberg arrives in Vietnam, and soon after is wounded. After recovery, he is assigned to a Combined Action Team, whose mission is to defend the village’s inhabitants and to conduct pacification and civic action projects while also living in the villages. By living with the villagers, he got to know the people and their culture. Tecklenberg said that the local village residents referred to the Marines as the "Boys Next Door."
Battles occurred throughout the region surrounding the villages, and today the results of those battles can still be seen in the landscape. However, the two villages that Tecklenberg had lived in during that time period remained intact, with little changes from the time that he had spent living with them. He remarked that he "felt gratification that the villages and their way of life were still intact." He believes that the efforts of the Combined Action Team contributed to the villages’ long-term survival, and views it as a positive outcome for his time spent in Vietnam.
Tecklenberg lives in Springfield. You can find out more about his journey in his new book "The Boys Next Door: A Marine Returns to Vietnam," Saint Johann Press at Amazon and bookstores. Also check out Tecklenberg’s three other historical-based stories.