Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Navy Veteran Barton “Buddy” Kessler, who served as personnelman third class processing troops headed to Vietnam.
Barton “Buddy” Kessler, born October 14, 1945, volunteered for service during the Vietnam conflict and served four years on active duty and two years on Reserve duty from March 1964 to March 1970. Kessler went to Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois for boot camp and then transferred to the Naval Auxiliary Air Training Center in Meridian, Mississippi. Kessler activated in June 1964 into an elite unit working with the FBI and CIA. He supported the hunt for three missing voting rights activists – Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner of New York City and James Chaney. Following the discovery of their bodies, this event came to be known as the “Freedom Summer” murders and the “Mississippi Burning” murders, and their names are now indelibly linked to the civil rights movement.
Kessler then served with Military Sea Transportation in Oakland, California. This unit, which served on USS General Edwin Patrick, transported troops to Vietnam. The transport ship was a “Victory Ship,” originally bringing home troops following World War II. Over the next four years, Kessler befriended thousands of young men and women on their way to the battlefields of Vietnam, lifting their spirits with his words of compassion, encouragement and his good humor. t was during this time that Kessler determined he would make medicine his life career.
Kessler also served aboard USS General William Weigel which, also transported troops from all branches of service bound for Vietnam. The ship also transported Merchant Marines and Republic of Korea (ROK) troops allied with the U.S. During this time, Kessler’s travels brought him to many ports including Pusan, Korea; Cameron Bay, Yokohama and Sasebo, Japan; and Nha Trang and Qui Nhon, Vietnam.
Kessler, a Philadelphia native, returned home in March 1968 and began studies at the Pennsylvania College of Podiatric Medicine. In 1971 he married his wife, Audrey. He is the father of three children, Lainee, Candace and Dr. Chad Kessler, National Director of Emergency Medicine for the Veterans Health Administration.
Kessler has held leadership positions in the Jewish War Veterans of the USA and is also a member of Vietnam Veterans of America. Retired in 2015, Kessler, a 100% service-connected Veteran, receives his health care at the Durham VA Medical Center.
Thank you for your service!
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Writer: Michelle Spivak