by Jeremy Paul Amick
In the fall of 1944, with a number of battles unfolding throughout Europe and the Pacific, Roger Dean Buchta quietly entered the world at a time when the turmoil of World War II consumed newspaper headlines. Born on his family’s farm near the rural German-Lutheran community of Lohman, Missouri, he graduated from Russellville High School in 1962, then choosing to continue his education at Lincoln University in Jefferson City. Finishing his bachelor’s degree in the spring of 1966, he was soon snared by the draft and sent to Fort Hood, Texas for basic combat training. From there, he trained as a combat medic at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The Vietnam War was in full swing and Buchta was among thousands of troops deployed overseas. He arrived at a military base located near Qui Nhon, South Vietnam in October 1967, and, weeks later, transferred to the base at Cu Chi while attached to the 542nd Medical Company It was here that he experienced the Christmas miracle of the birth of Vietnamese twins. The hospital to which he was attached moved to a new base at Lai Khe, where, in late January 1968, the medic received his baptism by fire during the famed Tet Offensive. In the coming months, he witnessed the worst of humanity while treating a variety of patients, wounds and injuries. Following his discharge in late 1968, Buchta earned his master’s degree and taught at Russellville High School for twenty-seven years. Thanks in part to detailed letters he wrote home before and during the war, this biography provides a clear depiction of his experiences in a combat zone and reveals insight to the quiet and reserved nature that came to define him in the years after the war.