TOPEKA (KSNT) – For these brothers, not even war halfway around the planet could separate them.

“Most of the people I dealt with in Vietnam were there because they were drafted or activated in the guard,” Ernie Gerhardt said. “Nobody was really there by choice, everybody came over and did their job.”

Ernie and his brother Jim joined the national Guard around the same time. Assigned overseas separately, the pair reunited in Vietnam – serving at the same base. Nearly a year after serving in Vietnam, the two were finishing up their time abroad.

“We actually flew out of Vietnam on Thanksgiving day 1969,” Jim said. “We flew home on the same plane. Along with a whole lot of other Kansas national guardsmen.” 

Being reunited with loved ones, meant more to the duo than words can describe.

“All veterans who are deployed or overseas, your families go through it with you,” Ernie said. “I know my wife went through it with me, and I’m very proud of her for that.” 

Their return stateside wouldn’t mark the end of their service. The pair volunteers as maintenance crew every week at the Museum of the Kansas National Guard in Topeka. They do what they can to keep the home of the 35th division running.

“It helps to show what the national guard has done from the very beginning,” Jim said. “The museum here has displays that start with civil war times and go on through the war on terror and Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s a good history of what the guard of Kansas is. From the active side of it, and doing things within the state, such as feeding cattle in a snowstorm and things such as that. The guard does a lot for the state of Kansas, and the museum preserves that heritage.” 

For Jim and Ernie, supporting their fellow soldiers doesn’t end once the battle is over. To this day, they’re continuing outreach to veterans in the Kansas community, and honoring those who have given their life for this state.

TO NOMINATE A VETERAN – EMAIL matthew.johnstone@ksnt.com WITH THE SUBJECT LINE “Veteran Salute Nomination”