Kenneth Charles Bissenden was born in 1947 and reared in Ogden Utah. In 1967, he was drafted into the U.S. Army where he found himself in basic training at Ft. Lewis, Washington and then advanced training at Ft. Polk, Louisiana. He was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, 18th Infantry Regiment, Bravo Company. Upon completion of his advanced training, Bissenden was sent immediately to Vietnam where he earned his Combat Infantryman’s Badge the first day in country. Not long after his arrival, he found himself in a cemetery known as “tombstone territory”, where he was told to dig in, and stay there to hold the position. For over a month, finding good cover behind and around the above-ground tombs, he remained in the cemetery enduring repeated attacks from the Viet Cong.
After a very short rest, Bissenden was quickly sent out again to an area called “VC Island”. In this location, he assisted the machine gunner as an ammo bearer where he endured many mortar attacks that killed and wounded many American soldiers. He was sent back a second time to VC Island, where he was made the machine gunner of his company.
During the next assignment, his company was sent south of Highway 1, to an area between the Delta and flatlands. Thirteen of his company were new to being in Vietnam and Bissenden felt a responsibility to protect them until they were fully trained. The company was dropped off before dawn and they began their mission to seal off a village. They climbed a rise to find a narrow road with a tree line behind it where they could hear and see significant motion in the trees, so they maneuvered into a defensive position. Bissenden was asked to cover the retreat with his M-60, however, his ammo bearer became lost in the dark as the enemy opened up with intense weapons fire, killing him. Now alone, he used his machine gun to place suppressive fire in order for his unit to reach a secure position. After firing a second barrage, Bissenden recovered the body of his ammo bearer, and carried his body back to security.
During his service in Vietnam, Bissenden was awarded a Bronze Star for meritorious service for his leadership and then later promoted to sergeant where he was then awarded a Bronze Star with V-device.
Bissenden shared in his interview, “I fell in love with the land and the people. But I was there to fight a war and I would do it again if needed. I cared more for my buddies than I did for myself.”