“I was a patriot; I wanted to serve my country” (Veteran profile)

Gary Klatt Sr. served for the good of his country and what he felt was right


Gary Klatt Sr. (left) meets former Broncos receiver Mark Jackson during the Frederick game on 11/8.

Alex Olson, Managing Editor

Many students are familiar with Coach Klatt. Whether they had him for health Freshman year or took a PE class with him, most students have at least met him. But almost none are familiar with his father and fellow football coach Gary Klatt Sr.

Klatt Sr. was a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Marines during the Vietnam War from 1969 into 1970, serving as a Fire Direction Officer for about six months until he was promoted to the Assistant Fire Direction Officer for his whole battalion, providing fire support for the Da Nang perimeter.

“[In the first 6 months,] I was in charge of the fire direction center, with — I think we had 35 marines that were under my command, and that was my primary responsibility. Every fire mission that was shot, I was the one that was responsible to say ‘fire’…”

Klatt was in charge of firing large artillery guns, which needed to be exactly right. “It was a hugely responsible job because if you shoot the artillery incorrectly, you can hit friendlies, you can hit your own troops. So I felt a huge sense of responsibility.”

Klatt’s tour of duty in Vietnam lasted 12 months, thanks to Nixon’s Vietnamization policy, and his service taught him much. “It was the greatest growing up experience a person could have. It changed my life dramatically. [I gained an] appreciation for life itself and the country we live in and the freedoms we have.”

Klatt chose to join the Marines because of the Navy ROTC program at the University of Colorado. He was presented with the option to become either a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marines or an Ensign in the Navy. “In my mind, I wanted to be a part of something I felt was elite and was bigger than myself… For me, at that time as a college kid, I wanted to be in the Marine Corps.”

“Probably the most important sacrifice I had to make was risking my life,” Klatt said, in addition to the difficulties involving contacting his family. “I didn’t talk with my mom and my family for 12 months. The only communication they had with me was letters that I sent home, and it took about three weeks for a letter to get from South Vietnam to Denver, Colorado…”

Klatt highly recommends that students who are not going into post-secondary education consider joining the military. “I think the military teaches you things that are hard to learn in any other avenue.” His experience helped him learn the value of being part of something bigger than himself and gave him an appreciation for serving his country. “The military offers an opportunity to give yourself for the continuing freedoms that we have.

And so, if you happen to meet Klatt Sr. in the hallways or on the football field, know that you are talking to a veteran of the Vietnam War, and thank him for his service.