Appleton, Wis. (WFRV) – Bill Olcott grew up in three different states, and attended 11 different high schools before his family settled in Rhinelander.
He was in his second year at the Indiana University when he received his draft notice for the Vietnam War in 1967.
“I asked a lot of questions of people that had some experience and so forth, and they said, ‘Well, you know, get a job or a training there you can use when you get back out. And if you do something that’s not directly into combat or infantry, you might have a better chance at getting through the whole thing,'” Olcott recalled.
Olcott was sent to Qui Nhon Vietnam with the 84th Engineer Battalion of the U.S. Army where he inspected projects like road and bridge building.
It was on the morning of January 31st, 1968 that everything changed as Olcott and his group were surprised by the Tet Offensive.
“The whole environment changed, just because of the intensity of things. We were surprised and for our guys who had been really comfortable doing what they were doing and doing a good job at it, now were under a lot of stress,” said Olcott.
“And for some of the kids, I think a lot of it was that they were just so overwhelmed by that fear and by the experience of it, that they just decompensated very quickly,” he said.
Little did Olcott know, he would be tasked with helping his fellow soldiers cope following their traumatic experiences.
“We were there a lot with the officers and I guess they just asked if I could talk to somebody because there wasn’t anybody in their unit who could do it. And, doing that kind of work usually is something that is gratifying and if you can resolve things you feel much better about it,” said Olcott.
Olcott took that experience counseling his fellow soldiers in the Army and turned it into a career, spending close to 40 years in the addiction counseling field, including building the addiction counseling degree program at Fox Valley Tech.
Olcott says working to get vets the help they need though, is an ongoing journey.
“All of those are things I learned a great deal from as well and so you know, from a perspective of this is good work and it’s making a difference for people it did feel good you can’t help that, but I always knew there was more we could improve on,” said Olcott.
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