Appleton, Wis. (WFRV) – “(I was) sort of the black sheep, I wanted to do a lot of different stuff,” recalls Appleton’s Dave Mueller.

When Mueller says he wanted to do ‘different stuff,’ he means jumping out of a plane with a parachute.

It’s why he started his military career as a freshman at Fox Valley Lutheran High in 1958.

“I was in the Naval Reserves when I was in high school. I thought I was going to be an ‘anchor clanker’ but I wanted to be a paratrooper, so I resigned out of the Navy and went into the Army in 1962,” said Mueller.

First to Germany, then to his first of two trips to Vietnam with the 101st in 1965.

That was when reality hit- life was much different now for Mueller than the high schooler who joined the reserves years ago.

“I wasn’t quite sure but you learn quick. You know, you’re in civilian life, and then all of the sudden you’re in (Vietnam), and then all of the sudden you have people shooting at you trying to kill you, and wow,” said Mueller. 

Mueller would experience that first hand, just 26 days into his first trip to Vietnam, he was shot in the leg and earned a Purple Heart.

After another trip with the 82nd Airborne to Vietnam, Mueller was discharged in 1968. 

But it took him many years to open up about the things he saw. 

He was able to do that once he started sharing his story with other vets.

“One time I was sitting in a restaurant and a guy saw my (Vietnam Veteran) cap on and he said, ‘Oh, Vietnam Vet huh? Me too.’ We started talking. Now every time I see a vet, I go up to them and say, ‘Glad you made it home.’ and shake their hand,” Mueller said.  

While he still considers himself a bit of a loner Mueller shares his best piece of advice for other vets; Don’t be afraid to share your story.

“Don’t be afraid to go get help, because if you keep it bottled up in you, it makes it worse. And the best thing is, if you know a vet that went through the same stuff you did, talk to them. Both of you talk, because eventually you’ll feel better and you won’t have it bottled up inside,” said Mueller.