Veteran, 74, has message for people reluctant to get vaccine

Vietnam Vet says we have to take care of each other


A familiar face to Milwaukee-area Veterans and the Milwaukee VA is doing his part to make sure people get the COVID-19 vaccination.

John Ziegler, 74, is one of a handful of Milwaukee residents featured in the Healthy MKE multimedia outreach campaign designed to reach people reluctant to get the vaccine.

“I feel it’s doing my duty,” he says in one of the commercials. “The more we get vaccinated, the sooner we can get back to doing what we want to do. We have to take care of each other. That’s what life is about.”

A Navy Vietnam Veteran, Ziegler is the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ state representative to the Milwaukee VA Medical Center. He has logged thousands of hours volunteering at the hospital and works tirelessly to raise funds and whatever else is necessary to help Veterans.

When he was approached to take part in the campaign, he didn’t hesitate.

Supports the science – vaccinations best path forward

“If it helps get the word out, it’s worth it,” he said. “The more people that get vaccinated, the quicker we get out of this thing, I hope.”

While he supports the vaccinations, he believes getting the shot is a personal choice and understands why some are hesitant. But he supports the science, saying vaccinations are the best path forward.

Ziegler got his shots as soon as possible earlier this year. Having been exposed to Agent Orange, he has diabetes and has “Only one working lung, and that’s at half capacity.”

That condition put him at high risk for COVID-19 and he responded by spending the past year being as safe as possible. He has limited outside interactions with others, dutifully wears a mask and keeps his distance among others.

Targeting residents who are still undecided

According to Healthy MKE, a coalition of local government, nonprofit, health care, public health and community organizations, the campaign targets residents of Milwaukee County who have been “disproportionately affected by the pandemic and are undecided about receiving COVID-19 vaccinations.”

“This campaign recognizes the importance of hearing authentic, relatable stories from local members of the community, from schoolteachers to retired Veterans, health-care workers, clergy, small business owners and more,” said Mara Lord, chairwoman of the Milwaukee area vaccine communications and community mobilization efforts. “It’s a way to both honor their unique perspectives and show how getting vaccinated is a way to express personal strength and commitment, so we can all get back to the people, places and things we love.”

“At least we tried.”

The campaign includes TV, radio, digital outdoor billboards, online digital outreach, and social media.

Ziegler realizes some people won’t get the vaccine. Though vaccine is plentiful and available for free to all who want it, clinics are having trouble filling time slots.

“We now have more vaccine than Vets who will take it,” Ziegler said. He added he hopes the ad campaign is successful but realizes some people won’t get the vaccine.

“I don’t know if this will change anybody’s mind. If it doesn’t, at least we tried.”


David Walter

David Walter is a public affairs specialist with the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.


  1. Prentice L Hill    

    How about we don’t use our service to con people into something, that they don’t want.

  2. Tee Rump    

    There’s two options here, eventually get the virus (most likely multiple times because natural infection does not provide heightened immunity from variant) or get the shot. With the shot at least you know what you’re in for and can plan on a day or two of “possibly feeling bad”. If you catch COVID and get seriously ill or die because you didn’t get the vaccine, it’s your own fault. Think of it like putting on your seat belt when you get in your car….. Also something people used to think was “invading on their rights” and didn’t work…

    Think about it, don’t be “that guy”..

  3. Donald L Haynes    

    Don Haynes May 6, 2021 at 11:30am

    I joined the Marines in 1965 at 18 years old to go to battle for my Country and to die for my Country
    as, I was left on the streets as a small child and never having a family or proper schooling and it seemed a good idea at the time. I wanted to be a part of something that was positive to help our Country. Little did I know that there was a force that was with me that saved my life over 100 times in combat. (Psalms: 27: Vs: 10) That even spoke to me to give me instructions that saved my life and our Division. (First Kings Chp: 19 Vs:12). When, I came back to America I started going to Church but, did not receive the Anointing until 2004 in which the Lord had me out on the streets giving people Bibles and praying for them. Fast forward, to today, I am a Pastor, Minister Chaplain and Prayer Warrior in Hawaii. I will be 73 this September. It is so wonderful to know when no one in the world cares about you that Jesus Christ loves you and all people on the planet. He will never leave you or forsake you! God bless you all, your families and God bless America.

  4. Steven camposan    

    Why do all of these things end up the same, shameless attempts to manipulate people in to doing what you want them to without any open honest discussion of the pros and cons. Just once i would like to hear one of these “experts” lay out a fact based case with an honest attempt to represent both sides.

  5. Ross Craigie    

    I was attached to the 25 Inf Div in Vietnam from February 66 to August 68. Agent Orange caused my Diabetes. If I had chosen not to take the series of drugs to control it, I probably would not be alive now. Taking the vaccine to hopefully will prevent, or lessen its effects to me. The BIG plus is the chance of me spreading COVID-19 to my wife, family, and those I come in contact is almost nil. Take the shot. Wear a mask. Help protect your community.

    1. Dan Utinske    

      “Shall We Play A Game” – remember that movie? Now to the specifics.. I was in Vietnam, 116th Assault Helicopter Company, Dec 66 – Mar 69, then Soc Trang/Can Tho Jul 70 – Jul 71! Heart Attack (Coronary heart disease) July 2015 attributed to Agent Orange exposure, complete blockage of the Coronary artery, certainly not a fun event. Had my wife not been there and been a huge fan of “Greys Anatomy” I’d be quite dead. She recognize the symptoms and called 911; within less then 10 minutes a Medic One Medic had me wired as I sat on my bed and told me “you’re having a heart attack!” Within 40 minutes of that a stint was in place and blood flow to the heart restored and because it happened so quickly (within the golden hour) there wasn’t any damage. I was quite lucky but one day it probably will end my life. Now here in lies the problem; I assume you’re disabled and hopefully have been for 10 years.. I’m still a year shy, they your spouse will receive @ $1200 a month for the rest of her life. Now the big “but” that no one can answer yet; what if you pass and the doctor puts complications from COVID? You must die related to your disabilities for you spouse to receive the “benefit”.. so I ponder that question. See the vaccine has an unusually high number of heart attacks after taking the vaccine.. especially in my age group.. I don’t need nor want another heart attack. No vaccine for me thank you!!

      [Editor: The American Heart Association said in a statement issued on Jan. 15, 2021, that it’s important for people who have had heart disease or stroke (or who are at high risk for these conditions) to get vaccinated as quickly as possible, because they are at higher risk for severe disease if infected.]

  6. James Y. Duncan    

    My doctor has a message especially for all Senior Veterans to wit: We will all die sooner or later. Why should we not get vaccinated? The older we are when and if we come down with the Covid 19 infection, the less chance we have to survive it. That is not the problem. The problem you see is the suffering. Yes the suffering. Please get the vaccination, you do not want to suffer!

  7. Brian “Doc” Burry    

    I too am a Vietnam Combat Veteran, 2 Purple Hearts and served a total of 32 years. It is a PERSONAL CHOICE to vaccinate or not.
    If you want it fine, quit trying to force, bully or intimidate others who choose not to vaccinate!
    Yes, we both fought for the Freedoms our US Constitution in war. I respect that freedom, yet I don’t believe others do?

  8. Paul Rutan    

    VA here in Philippines will not give to us here .they don’t support veteran here at all VA abanded the vets living in Philippines

    1. Anthony Grimm    

      The VA in Manila is giving Covid vaccines to veterans in the Philippines who want to have the vaccine. Three of my friends who live there have received their first vaccine out of two vaccines.

  9. John    

    As a 76 year old U.S. Air Force Veteran, I completed my shots and still observe the CDC recommendations to ware my mask in public.
    It is not only a preventive and protection of others, it is the TRUE Patriates duty to speed the recovery, promote national health and get the country back to full economic and productive health.

  10. Michael Lomsak    

    I joined the service to defend the constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. I will defend the right of the people to their choice. Whether it’s to get the vaccine or not get the vaccine its your choice. I don’t look at the decision to get the vaccine as being patriotic nor do I look at the decision to not get it as being unpatriotic. By even classifying it in that context I consider that un-American and definitely not compliant with the oath we took.

    That being said, I pray and support both the ones that got the vaccine and the ones that didn’t. It’s a chance either way. I want nothing more than for us as Americans to come through this by any means possible, no matter what road we choose to take. To all my brethren, may God Bless your souls. ML USAF

  11. Ed Stokes    

    I appreciate my fellow vet for trying to make a difference but I doubt that he has studied all the non- government information available. The media has painted everyone with a different opinion as lunatics and crazy. As a soldier I was given pills against malaria. Many years ago I received a letter from the VA warning that I may develop cancer caused by them, I do not trust the government and will wait and see the affect on others

    Edward Stokes
    25th Infantry
    Vietnam 1969-70

    1. Jerry Hickman    

      Right. Trusting the government is unAmerican. This covid scam is unAmerican and the VA should not have participated.

      The government poisoned us with Agent Orange. The government used people aboard Navy Ships as guinea pigs without our consent and knowledge. (I wonder if some of my health problems are from my time aboard the USS Waldo County).

      They have been trying to make a flu shot for over 100 years and have never been successful. This one will not be either.

      The government sent us to Vietnam and then tied our hands so we lost the war and then give all the equipment to the Communist enemy. Do not trust the government.

  12. Art Gemer SP-2 Army Signal    

    I hope all the Korean War veterans still able to get their covid shots support the efforts of all the people furnishing and giving the shots. Help your friends and neighbors by getting your shots and wearing face masks.

  13. Patrick A. Lundquist    

    We had what it took. We climbed onboard and traveled to a foreign land to fight a war on behalf of our nation. There was a chance we would not survive. We took that chance. To give America herd immunity we’ll take a chance and get the vaccine on behalf of our nation. There is a slight possibility the vaccine could make us ill but chances are excellent we will survive. Join us. Take that chance. Prove you still have what it takes.

  14. Art Gemer    

    I hope all the Korean War veterans still able to get their covid shots support the efforts of all the people furnishing and giving the shots. Help your friends and neighbors by getting your shots and wearing face masks.

  15. Ron Jackson    

    Attempts at shaming will not work. Be a patriotic citizen, meaning what exactly. What’s shameful is the bs comments…my body, my choice…leftist slogan stolen…

  16. Ron Evans    

    You know how it works. If reluctant to take the two shots and only want the one shot, you get ignored. Reregister and that really fowl’s em’ up. Nobody calls. Try finding a reachable vaccination site that administers the one shot vaccine. lol; Still love ya’ though.

  17. Thomas Wayne Hatcher    

    I feel sorry for my fellow Vietnam era vet. I don’t have “vaccine” hesitancy or “denial.” I have “vaccine” refusal until we see what happens in the long term. I also believe in science, real science. It isn’t science when you censor opposing ideas or when you don’t allow other methods of therapy, such as HCQ or Ivermectin to even be tried. We shall see. I’d like to get back to “normal” as much as anybody. But we shall see if that happens.

  18. George Morales    

    I will not get vaccinated! I served my country proudly and have the right and freedom to say $&@! OFF! If you want to get it, good for you! I have not had the flu shot since I got out the service in 09 and have not had the flu. It’s a virus people and it’s here to stay. Show me a cure for the common flu or cold. Our bodies have been around since the dawn of time with viruses floating around and we are still here! Like when I joined the Infantry and went to combat knowing I could possibly die. Pretty sure the pollution or some idiot driving like crap will get me before the virus! Just my opinion , which I fought for!!! 11Bravo

  19. Alan Rife    

    I just can’t see riding in a minivan for an hour with people not wearing masks to get a covid shot, then an hour home and risking getting covid because the shot takes two weeks to work !
    Then doing it again for the second shot.
    I don’t drive. I have to depend on the local transit system, a fleet of mostly minivans and no rules on wearing masks !

  20. Gregory Velders    

    How come no one is talking about what shot the VA is giving out ?

  21. Jack Qualman    

    I am 85 years old. No side effects what so ever. My wife is 75 years old, Filipina, 4′ 5″ 60 lbs. Absolutely no side effects. Do it .

  22. Ronnie Hendershott    

    It’s a no-brainer. Get your shot. A badge or a button would be nice. I’d wear it proudly!

  23. Chandler Smith    

    I believe I had the virus before it was nationally known. I even tried to call out on my first day of a new job. So I went in with my DayQuil, Tylenol, and luckily I had some antibiotics that killed the virus in my lungs fairly quickly. I wanted to say though, that I got the Maddens shots. Nothing bad. I am scheduled for a biopsy though at the VA and I won’t go because they want to nasal swab me again. I had a bloody nose the last time, plus I learned you can also get very sick from sticking the swabs so deep in the nose. Also, I have my Real ID now. If places won’t recognize Ive been through the procedures put in place In not going to get swabbed. So, if you want people to come in you need to update the SOP when receiving medical help as an inpatient.

    1. Roger Landriault    

      I can only imagine that you “learned” that you can get very sick from having a nose swab, through Facebook or some other “spread a lie faster than 3 old women gossiping over a backyard fence” social media.

      1. Dan Utinske    

        You really used FB fact checkers to justify your comment – you’re kidding right? FB fact checkers would make better pecker checkers in a porn theater, that’s more their speed and knowledge. OMG I can’t believe you actually used them as a source..

    2. Jerry Hickman    

      That nose swab is abuse. They could test saliva. This whole covid shutdown, face diapers, testing, and invasion of privacy was wrong. It is just a virus and the shots are not going to do any good. I will not get the shot.

  24. Robert Brightman    

    So at the young age of 18 I joined the Marine Corps. I was not drafted, I was not forced to join the Brotherhood. Arrive at boot camp, get processed, and next thing you know, you are going single file, with a Corpsman on each side of you, shooting your shoulder with who knows what vaccines and medicines. You went about your business, graduate, and carry on. You then go to a combat zone, get shots there upon arrival. Business as usual. If you are fortunate enough you come to the states after your hitch and complete your enlistment obligation. Some stay on board, others go to school, get married, raise kids, put em thru school, become grandparents, go fishing, retire, and then age and compromised health problems have your name on it.
    You busted your tail to make the best out of life. Why ruin all your blood, sweat, and tears because you don’t want to be a sheep, and do the right thing. Protect yourself, your family, your friends. Just like you did when you enlisted.
    God Bless all of you for your dedication and service to the preservation of the freedoms we fought for. And for those of you who lost a family member from defending our flag, may they rest in peace.

    1. Desi Dinero    

      you must have become a Marine in the 70’s then. right?

  25. John Bultman    

    Had Covid and got through it. My VA Doc told me to get the first shot, which I did. The day I got it, Monday, I landed in the hospital on the verge of having a stroke due to the spike in my blood pressure. I remember nothing until Thursday when I finally was able to stay awake and respond to the staff.
    I spent the rest of the week in the hospital and was transferred to nursing home for therapy.
    The nursing home was worthless so I went home and rested.
    I called the C.B.O.C. and they said I didn’t have to have the second shot. No kidding. I have, absolutely , no intention of trying that again. I wrote Maderna and was ignored. Fine, I’m a Vet, I’m used to it.
    One thing I never do is give medical advise, just pass along my experiences to my fellow Vets.
    There, mission accomplished.

    1. John Clogston    

      Had the Maderna shots with absolutely no side effects. Just do it.

  26. H. James Hulton III    

    Well written article. Veterans, and non-Veterans alike, should never feel reluctant to get vaccinated. It is nothing but Fake News and untruths that cause people to not get vaccinated! There is all the reason in the world to get vaccinated and finally put this deadly global virus to an end. Good for you, John Ziegler!

    H. James Hulton III
    USAF Veteran, Vietnam Era
    North Wales, PA 19454

    P.S. I am a freelance personal historian and write histories of private individuals, including Veterans. Anyone interested, please contact me. Thank you.

    1. Gary Crittenden    

      Couldn’t agree with you more. We have not been told what is in the ‘vaccine’ for one thing. We don’t know the long term effect and won’t know the effect until the vaccine has been in the body for a long term and then it could be too late.
      . For me NO thank you.

  27. Patrick Greenlee    

    Even if you don’t want the vaccine for your own reasons, please consider it an act of patriotism not unlike volunteering for military service. You may hate war but volunteer to fight in one to support the life of your country. Please be a patriotic citizen and get vaccinated.

    1. Lee Perry    

      I strongly disagree. Our highest Act of Patriotism is to defend the Constitution, not to give up our Rights and Freedoms to placate the fears of brainwashed sheeple.

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