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Before This Vietnam War Veteran Dies, He Would Like To Become An American Citizen


Werner Trei is 71 and in hospice care in Longmont, Colo. He was awarded three Bronze Stars and a Vietnamese gallantry cross for helping save 100 Vietnamese civilians when he was a U.S. Army ranger. Before he dies, he would like to be a U.S. citizen. Werner Trei was born in Germany, came to the U.S. when he was 2 and drafted as soon as he graduated from high school in Lincoln, Neb., in 1968. He served as what they called a tunnel rat crawling through Viet Cong tunnels with just a knife, a pistol and a flashlight. The tunnels were often booby-trapped with scorpions, snakes or bombs.

I still have nightmares about it, he told the Longmont Daily Times-Call. The snakes would make this noise when they spit their venom. He had post-traumatic stress when he returned home in 1970 and difficulty understanding the process and paperwork to apply for citizenship. The Peaks Care Center in Longmont is trying to help him complete the process now. It would mean the world to me, says Werner Trei. I don't have that long left.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.