Vietnam veteran celebrates 70th birthday with trip down memory lane

Published: Sunday, Aug. 25 2013 6:05 p.m. MDT

Darlene and Steven Rasmussen talk about KSL video footage of Steven that aired from the Vietnam War in 1967 at the KSL studio in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013. They are surrounded by their children and grandchildren.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Steve Rasmussen, of Ogden, had just returned from a mission with his unit, Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines.

It was 1967, and the 24-year-old and several hundred others in his unit were stationed on a mountain about 35 miles southwest of Da Nang, South Vietnam.

“We got back from on a patrol, and somebody says there was a newscaster that was interviewing people from Utah,” Rasmussen said. “So they sent me over.”

Minutes later, sitting in the hot sun of Southeast Asia on the back of a flatbed, he was interviewed by KSL-TV anchorman Dick Nourse.

When the Vietnam War was at its peak, Nourse and a photographer spent a month there, interviewing several hundred Utahns in all branches of the military. After filming a number of interviews, Nourse would have the undeveloped 16 mm film flown back to Salt Lake City to be aired on KSL newscasts.

Rasmussen’s interview with Nourse was less the four minutes in length, and when that piece of film aired in Utah, the Ogden Marine was still in Vietnam and obviously didn't see it.

Last week, the Rasmussen finally saw the entire interview. His wife of 41-plus years, Darlene, contacted KSL and asked if the interview could be rebroadcast for Rasmussen on his 70th birthday.

The Rasmussen clan visited the KSL-TV studio and watched a smiling, more innocent Marine sitting and talking about what he was going through.

After watching the film, Rasmussen, now with a long white beard, laughed and said, “That was a long time ago.”

Rasmussen says he remembered doing the interview with Nourse and that he couldn’t tell the newsman too much about what was going on or the specifics of his mission.

“There were a lot of officers standing around (behind the camera),” said Rasmussen, who had only been in Vietnam for six months when the interview took place.

When the interview aired in Salt Lake City in 1967, a young woman named Darlene Moser was watching it at her parents' house. She remembers when Nourse asked the Marine: “Do you have a girl back home who writes to you all the time?" When Rasmussen said he didn't, Darlene says she chuckled and said to the TV, “I’ll be your girlfriend.”

As it turned out, that’s exactly what happened. A few years after Rasmussen left Vietnam, he and Darlene happened to meet at a church function and were soon married.

It wasn’t until then that Darlene learned the man she married was the same Marine she saw on TV.

“During that time talking to his brothers and sisters, they talked about him being with Dick Nourse, and I knew who Dick Nourse was,” she said.

Darlene Rasmussen said she wanted younger members of the family to see this little bit of history, and KSL made copies of the film on DVD for the family to keep.

Steve Rasmussen was injured by a land mine about six months after he was interviewed and was discharged in 1968. He was awarded the Purple Heart.

Nourse recalled that he interviewed as many as 300 people while on that trip in 1967, but a lot of the films got lost in transport back to Utah. He was glad to know that Rasmussen’s interview made it, and that the Ogden man was able to see it after all these years.

“When I would conclude an interview, almost every person would hand me a phone number and ask, 'Would you call my mom when you get back and tell her I’m OK?” Nourse said.

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