APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – Thousands of miles away from home in Phu Bai, Vietnam and with a marketing degree under his belt, Appleton native George Knapstein found his niche in the U.S. Army.
“That was the time that I went to the finance division and asked if they needed any help and it just so happens that the second guy in charge was from Appleton, Wisconsin. How small is the world, right?” Knapstein said.
Just months earlier in 1969, Knapstein volunteered for Officer Candidate School, and was on his way to the War in Vietnam with the 82nd Airborne Division.
“The draft was pretty imminent so I volunteered for OCS (in 1969). I got my orders for on-the-job training in finance, so instead of being airborne, I was chairborne,” he said.
When Knapstein finally returned from Vietnam in 1970, he returned home to his roots in Appleton.
“I was pretty fortunate that I already had a job waiting. I wrote to the commissioner to banking at the time and I said, ‘Hey, I’m getting out on this date, can I have my job back?’ and he wrote me back and said, ‘I’ve got Appleton,'” Knapstein recalled.
Knapstein now spends his time volunteering for several veterans organizations including Vets and Friends in Appleton. He says that while he had a really easy time transitioning home from the War in Vietnam, many other vets didn’t and now, he’s lending a helping hand.
“Because I already had a job I didn’t have to go through with what a lot of other people (have). I’m with Vets and Friends now and at Vets and Friends we try to get people to come out of their cocoon and get people to talk about things they don’t normally talk about, and one of those things is they had a really hard time adjusting to coming home,” said Knapstein.
Maybe it’s the free hot meals offered to vets at Vets and Friends, or maybe it’s the smooth-talking of a banker, but whatever it is, Knapstein has found his niche once again in the military community.
“You know, bankers have a way of being able to talk to people and get them to come out of their shells, It’s gratifying, right? Very gratifying. When we first started up, we’d get 10-15 people show up for our free meals, now we’re at, like last Saturday, 62 people. You know, that’s probably one of the most common places where people talk and come out of their shell, is over a meal,” Knapstein said.
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