Abbot Pennings 1965
2020 Academic Division: Military
Mike was born in De Pere on December 12, 1946 to Robert & Elizabeth Rademacher Hermsen. He was the sixth of fourteen children & Michael would joke that he figured his parents were so exhausted from trying to find names for their first five children, that they had to resort to ‘combing the Bible’ for names for him and his younger brothers. The family belonged to St. Mary’s in De Pere, where he was an altar boy. Mike graduated from Abbot Pennings High School in 1965 and went to Vietnam as part of B Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division, United States Army Republic of Vietnam, Army of the United States on September 6, 1968.
He had just married his wife, Suzanne, and received his draft notice on their honeymoon. Specialist Four Michael Hermsen died on March 22, 1969 as a result of a firefight in Kon Tum, South Vietnam. He was 22 years old. He was awarded the Purple Heart.
Michael’s wife, Suzanne, says, “I met Michael in the fall of 1965 at NWTC, where he was studying to be a computer programmer. I remained after class one day to look at some slides. I closed the door and started walking down a dimly lit hallway lined with metal lockers. Suddenly, a locker door burst open and out jumped a man with blonde hair, a wide smile and soft blue eyes, looking directly at me and uttering some silly jingle. Then he seemed to freeze, finally conscious of the fact that I was not his buddy, who I noticed laughing hysterically at the end of the hall. There was another side to Michael, with a strong commitment to his faith and especially the mass. He would take me to mass every Sunday. Here was a 20 year old during the social upheaval of the late 60’s, wanting to truly experience - to fully participate in the mass. I knew then, this was the man I wanted to marry and we did on August 26th, 1967. Upon arriving home from our honeymoon, Michael’s draft notice was waiting. Two and a half months later he left for boot camp. Lots of pictures came with comedic poses of him and his buddies, but he also wrote about his struggle with taking a human life and how to do it efficiently. But, his father had served in WW2, so he knew and understood the importance of serving your country. In August of 1968, after a month’s leave, he was sent to Vietnam. One week before he was to meet me in Hawaii for a week’s stay at the military resort on Wii Ki Ki and then fly home for discharge, he was out on patrol with his unit. According to his commanding officer, they were ambushed around 1:00 PM. The soldier manning the rapid fire gun on top of his armored personnel carrier was shot immediately. Michael grabbed the gun and returned fire. The armored personnel carrier was then hit by a mortar shell. I wish to thank you all at NDA for remembering Michael and the others who died while serving their country in Vietnam. His faith in God initiated by his parents, and nurtured and deepened at the Catholic schools he attended along with his delight in the fun and the funny, make him, for me, unforgettable too.”