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By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
It was either play college football or go to war.
“I chose war,” said Anthony S. Tisler, who will be inducted into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame for Valor on Friday in Columbus.
“About 10 or 20 of us went down and joined the Marine Corps on July 4, 1967,” he said.
Tisler was an offensive lineman and captain of the 1966 Campbell Memorial High School football team, which featured future college and professional football player Bob Babich.
Tisler said he had offers to play football from The Ohio State University, the University of Michigan and Youngstown State University but chose instead to enlist in the Marines.
“But we all wanted to go fight — that was the whole thing. We were gung-ho,” he said.
Tisler quickly found himself in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal with “V” for valor “for heroic achievement” in saving the lives of several Marines on April 7, 1968, while on a search-and-destroy mission assigned to secure Hill 725 near the Khe Sanh Combat Base.
According to his citation, Lance Cpl. Tisler was a fire-team leader with Co. F, 2nd Battalion, 26th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, when his unit came under heavy mortar and automatic-weapons fire from a large, well-entrenched North Vietnamese Army force.
Tisler saw several wounded Marines lying “dangerously exposed to hostile fire” and left his covered position and survived enemy fire to bring the casualties to a less-exposed position and “skillfully treated their wounds.”
But Tisler, who retired from Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. in April 1982, does not consider himself a hero.
“The heroes are the ones who died,” he said.
Nonetheless, he said tears came to his eyes when he received the call from the Military Hall of Fame for Valor telling him he was chosen to be among the Class of 2012 inductees.
“I feel real honored. I never thought I would get it,” he said.
Tisler has always had tough jobs.
At Sheet & Tube, he was a billet roller, turning the steel as it came out of the furnace, and a heater helper.
Tisler, who started in the steel mill in 1969 when he returned and was discharged from the Marines, said working in the steel mill was worse than Vietnam. But his experience in Vietnam was anything but pleasant.
He suffered shrapnel wounds three times.
He was hit in the right thigh and head in the Battle of Hill 725 in April 1968.
“We went days without eating much more than a few wild onions. We lost a lot of weight. We had to go back the next day to get the bodies. There were rats on the bodies, and they jumped all over us,” said Tisler, who is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and has 100 percent disability through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
His right foot and thigh were injured in the Battle of Hill 881 in May 1968; and shrapnel hit his right hand and buttocks in November or December 1968, when his unit was ambushed on the Rock Pile.
The Rock Pile, an outcropping near the former demilitarized zone of South Vietnam reachable only by helicopter, was an important Army and Marine Corps observation post and artillery base from 1966 to 1968.
Tisler was point man when his unit was involved in an attempt to take Hill 721 from North Vietnamese forces.
“That’s probably why I lived. They let me through so they could ambush the main patrol,” he said.
Most of the patrol was killed, with only eight or nine men left.
“I asked myself what am I doing here? How did I get here and how am I going to get home?” he said.
Tisler, married to the former Joann Berardi, a graduate of Western Reserve High School in Berlin Center, is a member of Disabled American Veterans Chapter 2 in Mahoning County and Tri-State Marine Corps League Detachment 494.
He has two stepchildren, Michael Senchesak of Columbus and Nicole DeWitt of Youngstown, and a granddaughter, Theresa Senchesak.
He is the son of the late Joseph Sr. and Anna Tisler. His mother, of Campbell, died Tuesday.
He has three brothers, the late Frank, who served in the Marines; and George Jr. and Joseph, both of Campbell.
After leaving Vietnam, Tisler spent time rehabilitating from his wounds in the states and trained officers at Marine Corps Base at Quantico, Va. He also played a year of football for the Quantico team.
When he was discharged in June 1970 at age 20, Tisler was highly decorated and a sergeant.
In addition to the Navy Commendation Medal with “V” for valor and three Purple Hearts, he had received the Combat Action Ribbon, the National Defense Medal, Vietnamese Service Medal, Vietnamese Campaign Medal and Presidential Unit Citation.
“I’m not sorry I went to Vietnam. I was proud to go fight for my country and proud to be a Marine,” he said.