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Lycoming College students in the course, "Vietnam War at Home and Abroad," had the opportunity to welcome guest speaker Walter T. Steinbacher, a Vietnam War veteran from the Williamsport area. Sarah Silkey, Ph.D., professor of history and department chair, invited him to speak after connecting with him in 2019 when she helped to publish his memoir, "Point Man Up: One Marine's Memories of Vietnam."
“Throughout the semester, my students have been reading firsthand accounts of the conflict in Vietnam,” said Silkey. “Mr. Steinbacher’s visit provided an invaluable opportunity for my students to meet someone who served in the war, and more importantly, ask questions.”
Steinbacher left home and joined the Marines in 1965 where he was then assigned to the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines, 5th Marine Division, a division that had been disbanded after World War II. He left the following year for Vietnam where he served for 15 months as a point man and radio operator for patrols from September 1966 to June 1967. His experience and testimony of the war gave students one perspective of what a war without a front looked like.
Students in the course read excerpts from Steinbacher’s memoir and were encouraged to bring questions, such as how his experience shaped him. “Vietnam cemented my love for the human race,” he responded. Apart from working on his farm, Steinbacher enjoys humanitarian work. After being wounded in action and sent home, he worked with the Veterans of Foreign Wars, served as a union leader, and built a career with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry. While earning his associate’s degree in forestry, Steinbacher began writing about his love of nature and his experiences in Vietnam.
After drafting his memoir, Steinbacher found Silkey who connected him with student Sarah Bain ’20, a history major. She served as a copy editor, helping to reorganize book chapters and conducting research to verify dates, names, and locations. Silkey then formatted the manuscript and connected him to a publishing company.
“As we near the 50th anniversary of the American withdrawal from Vietnam, there remains a lot of interest in understanding the Vietnam War,” said. Silkey. “There are a limited number of veterans, activists, and leaders from the period who are available to speak to their experiences. As an educator, I believe it is important to provide a space for their voices to be shared with the next generation.”
Lycoming’s history department offers an intensive and enriching curriculum that helps students cultivate valuable insights about current events through a deep knowledge of the past. More information about history studies at Lycoming College can be found at https://www.lycoming.edu/history/.