3 wars in 30 years Keizer vet has seen it all

John Vierra, a veteran of the U.S. Marines, U.S. Army and the Merchant Marines, was visited by representatives of the Oregon National Guard to thank him for his service in 2014.

In 1944, Keizerite Jon Vierra joined the Merchant Marines. Three wars and 30 years later he retired from the U.S. Army.

At age 16, Vierra enlisted to serve during World War II. He got out of the service in 1947 for about two years and worked in a steel mill.

“I was getting a little restless. I worked there for while then all of the sudden I just packed my bags and went down to the recruiting station and signed up for the Army,” Vierra said.

About the same time he reenlisted, in 1949, he met his wife, Nan.

“That was the best thing that ever happened to me in my life,” Vierra said. They married in 1950 and spent the next 61 years together. 

Not long after they married, Vierra was called to duty in the Korean War, and then joined fellow troops in the Vietnam War. 

“When it came time for my duty to Vietnam, I didn’t have to go,” Vierra said. His younger brother was killed, making him the sole surviving son in the family. He chose to go anyway.

His nephew was also sent to Vietnam. The two met up in the country briefly before going their separate ways for duty. His nephew was shot four times in the chest, though he managed to survive.

Vierra emerged from the conflict, but he did not escape entirely unscathed. 

“Agent Orange had messed me up pretty bad,” he said. Complications arising from exposure included diabetes and heart problems, though he said the heart problems were not recognized by the military or the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA).

Because of the close relations that were killed and wounded, Vierra was pulled from foreign assignment. He retired a year later in 1974.

Two days after retirement, Vierra took a job at the U.S. Postal Service where he worked for 20 years.

Vierra said transitioning from the military to civilian life wasn’t difficult for him. He credits that partially to the fact that he was able to train for work at the post office while he was still in the military. It meant he did not have to go job hunting after his retirement.

“[My time in the service] could’ve impacted me if I let it, but I didn’t let it impact me in any way,” Vierra said. He mentioned his family in particular, which was cared for by his wife.

“She took care of the house and I never worried about it. She did a real good job with that,” Vierra said. 

She only had to manage the house alone when he was in Germany during the Korean War and, later, when he was in Vietnam. Otherwise Vierra was there to help raise their seven children, too.