Talking with Mike and Karen

Photo by: Kate Szrom
"The decisions you make at a young age stay with you forever."
Mike Stewart

We met with Karen Schimpf and Mike Stewart yesterday in the mountains of Tonasket. Karen and Mike both served in Vietnam and their homes are filled with books, movies and newspaper clippings related to America's military history. Mike was in the army and was involved in the only tank-to-tank battle in Vietnam. To pay for college, Karen became a nurse and worked in Saigon for a year.

Mike still struggles with PTSD from Vietnam, which has caused a litany of personal problems in his life. Karen says Vietnam was the "best and worst time of her life." Vietnam opened her eyes to her own mortality and forced her to grow up, she said. She also remembers having to turn away Vietnamese children and being forced to hold American soldiers waiting to come home in a jail cell because they had marijuana in their system.

They are voracious readers and are currently compiling a library of military books for a memorial in Tonasket. Here's a few books on their reading list:

- The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War, David Halberstam

- And If I Perish: Frontline U.S. Army Nurses in World War II, Evelyn Monahan 

- Heart of a Patriot: How I found the Courage to Survive Vietnam, Walter Reed and Karl Rove, Max Cleland Veteran Leader

- Military Times Edge

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