Roger Buchta grew up on his family's farm in Lohman, went on to college and graduated looking to become an educator. But before he could start his career, he was called to serve in Vietnam.
Most who knew him never heard about his life in Vietnam. His life is being chronicled in a new book, "Dinner Music in a Combat Zone," by local author Jeremy Amick.
In the book, Amick traces Buchta's family history, starting with his grandfather who immigrated from Germany and became a successful farmer in the Lohman area. Buchta was raised on the family farm and listened to people speaking German, which led him to develop an interest in the language. After he graduated from Russellville High School in 1962, he went to Lincoln University where he got his bachelor's degree in education and in German in 1966.
Shortly after graduating from LU, Buchta was drafted, sent to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, and was assigned as an Army medic.
"He said he never knew why he was put in that position," Amick said. "He said the only piece of training he had before the Army was helping deliver a calf on the farm."
In Vietnam, Buchta served in a medical hospital that traveled throughout the country but mostly along the demilitarized zone.
"He saw a lot of the worst of humanity as he dealt with the consequences of the fighting," Amick said. "He helped treat American and Vietnamese soldiers and even treated some dogs used to sniff out bombs."
Several years later, Amick found himself being taught history and German by Buchta at Russellville. Buchta had gotten his master's degree from LU after he came back from Vietnam.
"We knew there was some trauma in his life because he was very quiet and reserved, but he was one of the most brilliant people I ever knew, and many of my friends would say the same thing," Amick said.
A bachelor, Buchta lived on the family farm with his brother, Don, and Amick said most people didn't know he was a veteran.
"He'd sneak in a slide during a presentation in school when he was talking to us about culture, but he tried to forget his time in the service," Amick said.
Several years after he was out of school, Amick was able to interview Buchta for an article.
"He was honest about his time in the service, and it was a surprise to most what he talked about," Amick said.
Buchta died in February 2019. His brother brought letters and photos to Amick from the time Buchta spent in Vietnam.
"I became so fascinated by what I read I decided I would write his biography," Amick said.
Amick interviewed people who grew up with Buchta, and his brother gave an in-depth discussion on Buchta's life.
"The book came out on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, and there's been a lot of interest especially for those who were a veteran or knew a veteran of Vietnam," Amick said. "A lot of people only knew him as a teacher, but when you're a quiet person, people don't necessarily get the whole story of your life."
While "Dinner Music in a Combat Zone" is available for purchase from online retailers, including Samuel's Tuxedos on East High Street in Jefferson City, Downtown Book and Toy at Capital Mall, Community Point Bank in Russellville, The Covered Bridge Market in Russellville, Campbell's Creations in Russellville, and Sweet Buy and Buy in California.