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Honoring Woodridge Veterans: Bob Kolling

Bob Kolling is a Purple Heart recipient who served during the Vietnam War.

NAME: Bob Kolling

AGE: 63

MILITARY BRANCH: Army

HOMETOWN: Bolingbrook, but lived in Woodridge for 30 years

FAMILY: Wife, Linda; two sons, Christopher and Brian, from a previous marriage

Bob Kolling was drafted into the Army and served in Vietnam for six months in 1969 as a sniper in the First Cavalry Division.

Kolling would spend three weeks in the jungle before returning to base camp for a shower and to change into clean clothes before spending another three weeks in the jungle.

"We worked in two-man teams," he said. "We would go out ahead of the patrol for surveillance. ... Our job was to engage the enemy."

Kolling was wounded in a machine gun ambush on Nov. 4, 1969 and lost his right leg.

"It was 41 years ago last week," he said.

Kolling spent a month in a hospital in Vietnam before returning to the United States, where he spent ten months in rehab at an Army hospital.

In 2000, Kolling learned he had Hepatitis C, which he likely had contracted from the 35 blood transfusions he received in Vietnam.

"They didn't test the blood then like they do now," he said.

In 2002, Kolling was diagnosed with stage four liver disease and placed on the list for a liver transplant. He was told he had only weeks to live.

He received a liver transplant on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2002.

Kolling was a co-founder of Woodridge's Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1578 in 1983 and served as post commander for five years. He helped organize the 1986 Chicago Vietnam Veterans Welcome Home Parade, "the largest veterans parade in the history of the country," he said. Kolling is now the chairman for "Welcome Home 2011," a week of events being planned for June to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the parade.

Kolling said people need to remember to honor the warrior, even if they don't honor the war.

"When we came back, people took it out on us," he said. "We weren't to blame for the war. We were just pawns."

Kolling said the United States needs to continue to honor the sacrifices being made by troops fighting now.

"They're coming back to no jobs," Kolling said. "People just need to realize what they're going through and the effect it's having on their families. People don't think about that enough."

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