HARRY W. SCHREINER
December 28, 1945 – September 5, 1973
Harry spent his early years in a terribly broken home, being removed at the age of 9 to live with foster parents Howard J. Pett (1918-1992) and his wife Marjorie M. Pett (1919-2010) in Lower Genesee Lake, Wisconsin. While childless of their own, the Petts raised Harry and his foster brother Robert Weedall (1942) who went on to earn a PhD a University of Toledo. Harry often expressed, in letters home, the gratitude and love he felt for this wonderfully kind couple. In 1964 he graduated from Oconomowoc High School in Wisconsin and worked part-time at the local filling station.
Harry enjoyed small game hunting with his best buddy – his Beagle “Boots”. Mrs. Petts would recall for the Waukesha Daily Freeman in March of 1967, “He would wrap himself up in a white sheet for winter camouflage and sit in the woods all night waiting for a fox.” He also enjoyed fishing and scuba diving whenever he had the chance. Can there be any wonder, then, that this young man was to become an exceptional Ranger?
He entered the Army in November 1965 receiving Basic and Infantry AIT at Ft. Bliss, TX before shipping to the Central Highlands of Vietnam in July of 1966.
In the initial stages of the United States presence in Vietnam, the clear lack of real-time intelligence nearly allowed the NVA to overrun Col. Hal Moore’s 1/7th Cav in the Ia Drang, a battle related in the book and movie “We Were Soldiers Once….and Young”. Shortly after that hard-won battle, the Cav was replaced by the 4th Infantry Division with the mission to “Tame the Ia Drang”. One of the first decisions was to determine how best to know the enemy. The solution was to insert 4-man teams of Rangers, then called LRRPs, to surreptitiously live in the jungle amongst the enemy. They would be inserted into the jungle for extended missions and patrol an area of suspected enemy concentration to uncover weaknesses. The first of these units was the 2nd Bde. LRRPs (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol) of the 4th Infantry Division. Harry was to find himself recruited by Lt. Mike Lapolla for the newly formed 2nd Brigade LRRPs running missions out of “The Oasis” in Kontum Province.
Harry proved himself to be fiercely courageous and consistently reliable. He was unsurpassed as a warrior and had numerous successful contacts, to the dismay of the enemy. In one such incident in February of 1967 while serving as ATL, his team came under fire while surveying a well-used trail. Although wounded, he returned fire killing the only enemy soldier in his view. The team, all wounded, made their way, under enemy fire to the extraction point with Harry and the TL covering the escape. All five members were wounded, all survived and all received the Bronze Star w/ V as well as Purple Hearts. In the long interview with the hometown newspaper, he downplayed his efforts preferring to give credit to the team. In a letter home to the Petts he wrote “There are a lot of guys over here that did more and received nothing for it. I feel I don’t deserve such an honor.” He described his wound as just a nick on the arm although it required, he be hospitalized.
Harry, when on the High School Football team developed a dream of coaching or to work in the field of conservation after he returned home. War is funny like that. It has a way of making some dreams unreachable. In one of his letters he wrote: “Whoever said “War is Hell” knew what they were talking about. I can’t wait to get back. All I can say is I’m frustrated, confused, just plain mixed up. I’m in great physical shape but I think a few more patrols and I’ll be a nervous wreck. The last patrol I was on (after I got out of the hospital) we came upon a “Hooch” and I couldn’t stop my legs from shaking. I was sweating the whole patrol – jumpy as hell. I’ll tell you what I was – just plain scared. Maybe the next patrol will be better, I sure hope so. I hate to think I’m losing my nerves….they’re being torn apart.” Little did he know then that he would continue to distinguish himself in battle until he finally came home. Courage is not lacking fear, it is being in fear and accomplishing the task in spite of it. Harry defined Courage.
Upon Harry’s honorable discharge, he married the most beautiful girl in his world, Henriette Norton Schreiner. Together they had two beautiful children Ricky and Theresa. He was determined to shower them with the affection that had been denied him while he was a child. He landed a job that he could look upon as a career. It was steady, paid a good wage, and let him work outdoors. He was hired to work on a 3 man power line crew for Wisconsin Power and Electric Co. On September 5, 1973 they were stringing a high voltage power line in the Town of Brookfield, WI. Harry was leaning against the side of the boom truck. Perhaps he was thinking of his beagle “Boots”, or maybe how good life was for him now that he was home. We will never know because the boom operator accidentally came in contact with the energized wire and it caused the electrocution death of Harry instantly, at the age of 27. It seems the unfairness of this warrior’s early death has no limit. On October 4, 1973, a month after the tragic incident, WP & E, was assessed a $600.00 fine by OSHA which they apparently considered excessive. Their team of lawyers appealed the fine at every level. It was finally affirmed in Federal Court in May of 1977 – almost 4 years later. A $600.00 fine. You can be absolutely sure none of the people representing WP & E ever had an ounce of the honor or courage that Harry had.
Harry was laid to rest in Summit Cemetery, Summit Corners, Wisconsin. His grave marker implies he was married and had at least one child. At the present time we are unable to identify them yet we need for them to know how highly regarded by brother Rangers their father / husband was.