REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Before Hope Boroch was born, her father made a decision that would take him away from his young family to fight a war halfway around the world.
Boroch, who works as a program analyst for the Army Materiel Command’s Resource Management Directorate (G-8), was only 6 years old when her dad went to Vietnam. Her pride in her father’s combat service and 22-year military career led her to submit her father’s name for recognition as part of AMC’s Vietnam War Commemoration Program.
“I am happy that AMC is recognizing Vietnam veterans because so many of them came home to no recognition,” Boroch said.
“When my father came home from Vietnam, I do not remember any parades or recognition of his service. My father came home and was expected to assimilate to normalcy. He didn't ask for recognition, but did what he did to defend the Constitution of the United States. I do not think I have ever seen anyone outside our family thank him for his service. But I have seen my father shake the hand of a fellow veteran and thank them for their service.”
Boroch’s father, retired 1st Sgt. Peter Van Alstine, joined the Army National Guard in Tucson, Arizona, in 1959. Shortly after, he lost his civilian job. In love and with plans to marry, Van Alstine knew enlisting full-time in the Army was a way to support his young wife and their future family. In 1967, Van Alstine’s decision to enlist led to his deployment to Vietnam, leaving behind his wife Hope and daughters, Carolyn, 4; and Hope, 6.
Van Alstine went to Qui Nhon, Vietnam, where he was first assigned to an office job, filing papers and answering the telephone. Bored with his assignment, Van Alstine asked to be transferred.
“I wanted to be a little more active,” he recalled during a phone interview from his Helotes, Texas, home. “So, I was transferred to a tank farm with a Petroleum, Oil and Lubrication laboratory, and I was the highest ranking noncommissioned officer.”
As a staff sergeant, Van Alstine supervised the #36 Petroleum, Oil and Lubrication Distribution Tank Farm, consisting of six 45,000 barrel tanks of bulk fuel along with 500 drums of various types of lubricants. He supervised about 65 Petroleum Storage Soldiers, directed teams in the repair of the 8-inch fuel pipelines damaged by enemy fire at various locations; and oversaw the receiving, storing and distribution of fuel, including dispensing into tanker trucks and to tank farms using the pipeline. As the Quality Assurance Representative for #36, he met incoming commercial ships and bulk cargo tankers 10-15 miles out at sea to sample and verify quality and quantity of product, and documentation prior to off-loading into smaller T-2 tankers or barges. He also was directly involved in blending off-specification diesel and motor gasoline, completing the blending of 180,000 barrels (42 gallons each).
“We drove convoys of fuel to some of the air bases. We spent a lot of time repairing pipelines riddled with bullets. We got attacked a couple of times,” said Alstine, who injured his back jumping off a jeep to escape enemy fire.
Back home in Tucson, plenty of family members were pitching in to help Van Alstine’s wife care for her two daughters. Boroch remembers looking forward to letters from her dad.
“Mom did not hide the fact that my father was serving his country. She understood our fears because she was a child when her own father deployed during WWII,” Boroch said. “She would read us portions of letters she received from my dad and he would also send us cassette tapes where he would speak to each of us. She kept photos of dad all around the house so we would remember him.”
Wherever they would go, Boroch’s younger sister would gladly hold hands with any service member she saw in uniform.
“I remember she got caught once holding the hand of a mannequin at the Base Exchange,” Boroch said. “The mannequin was wearing the same type of uniform that she must have remembered our dad wearing.”
When Boroch lost a tooth, her mom sent in to her dad in Vietnam.
“He sent back a quarter. He told me that the tooth fairy took it and gave him a quarter for me,” Boroch said. “When I got the quarter, I was so happy. I kept it for a bit and then gave it to mom for safekeeping. Later, we put it in my piggy bank.”
Boroch’s mom tried to isolate her daughters from the confusion and anger associated with the Vietnam War, limiting their playmates to family members and only a few outside friends. Although her mom tried to maintain a happy family life, it wasn’t always possible.
“The hardest memory was when we would see the government cars on the road because we knew that they were not delivering any good news,” Boroch said. “At times there seemed to be so many government cars that my mom just closed the window curtains. We prayed that the government car did not stop at our place.”
The fear did not go away when Boroch’s father returned from war.
“When my dad came home, he immediately changed from his uniform to civilian clothes because there were so many demonstrators at the airport and they were not very friendly,” she recalled. “The homecoming was a bit easier for us because my mother made sure that we knew our dad was coming home and finally my sister could actually hold dad's hand. However, there were lots of demonstrations instead of parades, no breaks or leave for dad. My dad just assimilated from Soldier to dad and back to Soldier.”
Once home, Van Alstine put thoughts of Vietnam aside and took an assignment at Fort Lee, Virginia. The move allowed the family to live on base with other military families.
“It was wonderful to have my dad back in our lives. We were very happy and our family made very good friends there, which we still communicate with to this day,” Boroch said.
As they grew up, Boroch remembers going to military functions, including Family Day; helping her mother with Army Wives activities; and visiting her dad in the POL laboratories where he worked. They would sometimes overhear snippets about Vietnam that their dad shared with fellow Soldiers.
In more recent years, Van Alstine has shared more about his Vietnam assignment with his family. When his daughters married, he spoke about military service to their spouses, who both joined the Army. Later, he also spoke about military service to Boroch’s two sons when they joined the Army and Marine Corps respectively.
“When I was growing up, my father instilled in me a love and pride for our country. I learned from him that all life is precious. He also taught me that United States is abbreviated as US, meaning: not you, not me, it is all of us,” Boroch said.
Her father’s military and also government civilian service began a legacy that is still very much part of the family.
“Having my father deployed helped me to be stronger when my husband and both my sons were deployed,” Boroch said. “I understand some of the stressors, when to step back and when to take charge. It takes a lot for a person to wear the uniform and carry out his or her duties. Because of my father's experience and that of my husband and his father, both our sons made the decision to serve.”
Editor’s Note: Service Honored is an ongoing Army Materiel Command series highlighting AMC employees or their family members who served during the Vietnam War. AMC is a partner of the Vietnam War Commemoration Program. To learn more about AMC’s Vietnam veteran recognition program, contact Lt. Col. Travis Nauman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 256-450-6101.