Written by WCPO’s Michael Coker
From a young swim instructor at Beechwood Swim Club in Fort Mitchell to a Marine on the battlefields of Vietnam, Fred Hellmann’s has always carried one message through life: never give up.
Hellmann wrote his autobiography “Never Give Up: A Vietnam Veteran’s Memoir” to tell his story.
“Never Give Up” includes his and family members’ letters, entry reports from unit diaries and photographs, many of which were taken by Hellmann himself.
“As Marines lie out in the open and bullets whizzed by within a foot of my head, I took these pictures,” Hellmann said. “The American fighting man is needed… so, we go…because it’s our job.”
Hellmann was raised in Crestview Hills and graduated from Covington Catholic High School in 1962. He attended the University of Kentucky and later worked at The Hellmann Lumber Company in Covington.
After becoming eligible for the draft in the fall 1965, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and was sent to Vietnam in August 1966.
Hellmann was wounded by a North Vietnamese mortar round on July 6, 1967, which hit him in nine different places on his body. He still carries with him at least 35 pieces of the shrapnel from that explosion.
At the end of his military service, Hellmann had accumulated eight medals including the Combat Action medal and the Purple Heart medal. He was honorably discharged at the rank of Staff Sergeant in 1969. The 79-year-old is now retired and spends majority of his time with his family.