By Craig Collins
The foundation of any great nation comes from the citizens who build it. In the case of Gunter Siebert, his brick-laying ability was only the beginning of his great service to the United States. His story does not begin in the U.S., however, it begins in a small town not far from Frankfort, Germany. It begins in World War II, when Europe was in great civil unrest.
“I remember being in the basement of our home and being bomb-shelled. Really, though, the war was more distant from us as children I went to school like any other child,” said Siebert. Schooling played a major role in his career and eventually would lead him to the United States. Siebert’s education as a brick layer laid the foundation for his move to Texas.
“I got a visa to work in the United States. I came through New York and a relative of mine brought me to Dallas, Texas, to work laying tile. I was there for less than six months and I got a little greeting from the President…..I was drafted. You will report and be in the army for two years.”
Siebert ended up going to Ranger school and was informed that he must be an officer to stay in the military. The only problem, to be an officer you must be an United States citizen which Siebert was yet to be. He applied for citizenship in Atlanta and saw a district judge in Macon, Georgia. Siebert said, “The judge said, “raise your right hand and say, ‘I do,’ congratulations Lieutenant, you are a U.S. citizen.‘ “ Siebert went to the infantry division in the Pentagon to clear up his citizenship. “No emotions of becoming a citizen, just a process. Because I served two years in the U.S. military, we have always felt like Americans. We are not Germans, not German-Americans, just Americans. My wife and I hardly speak German…we always speak English,” explained Siebert.
He would receive orders to serve in Vietnam. Siebert became an advisor to a Vietnamese ranger battalion where he would receive two Purple Hearts and a Silver Star. “I saw a lot of people killed. I saw a lot of war,” Siebert said. He would return from Vietnam and became a Professor of Military Science at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga. “I continued my education, even when I was in the military,” said Siebert.
After a historic career in the military, today Siebert and his wife live just outside of Smiths Station. Siebert is involved with a civic organization called the Ruritan Club. Ruritan is a national organization that has 30,000 members working to improve communities through community service. The slogan of Ruritan is “Fellowship, Goodwill and Community Service.” Ruritan is not like other community service clubs in that it does not have national programs, but focuses more on local communities near its chapters.
“You try to do the right thing … maybe that’s faith.” Among other things, Gunther helps cook quality food for needy families. “It’s all for community support. That’s what its all about,” Siebert explained. He continued, “My military training has helped me. We see something that needs to get done and we help people in the community. It’s not just me, it’s many people at the Ruritan Club.”
The United States is traditionally a nation of immigrants. Its foundation comes from many citizens like Siebert who fled their homeland for a chance at a better life. In the case of Siebert, he is a part of the foundation of America or as the Ruritan Club slogan says, “Fellowship, Goodwill, and Community Service.”