Jim Purtell was born and raised in Oshkosh, WI, together with eleven siblings. He left his home at 18, following graduation from high school, and joined the U.S. Army, training at Ft. Campbell, KY and Ft. Sam Houston, TX. After receiving his first aid training in Texas, Purtell was sent to Vietnam in February 1968 where he was attached to Charlie Company, 1/6th 198th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division. He served as a combat medic from February 1968 until October 1968 and then completed the remaining four months of his tour at LZ Bayonet in Chu Lai. Following his service in Vietnam, he finished his enlistment at Hunter Army Hospital in Savannah, GA in June 1970.
On the GI Bill, Purtell attended the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1973 and his masters in 1974. While going to college, Purtell played guitar and sang in a musical duo and upon his graduation traveled on a musical circuit throughout the Midwest until 1975. When he finished performing in 1975, he began songwriting which has continued to this day.
Purtell began his professional employment with the the State of MD finding jobs for disabled veterans and worked in that capacity until he accepted a job with the Federal Government in Alexandria, VA with the Defense Logistics Agency. He was promoted to jobs with the Navy Department in Balston, VA and then the U.S Department of Labor in Madison, Wi and then finished his career as a whistleblower investigator in Appleton, WI.
While working for the Federal Government, Purtell also enjoyed a separate real estate career as a Realtor and land developer. With partners, he co-developed three subdivisions in WI and purchased multi-family vacation properties in Ft. Myers Beach, FL.
Upon his retirement, Purtell became very active with his songwriting and he has placed his own songs in films and songs written with Ricki E. Bellos and Al Torsiello in indie films and documentaries.
In July 2016, Purtell became an author for the first time writing a Vietnam Memoir titled Vietnam: There and Back - A Combat Medic’s Chronicle. After editing, it was picked up by Hellgate Press in March 2018 and released. Early reviews of the book are very positive. Purtell has entered into a partnership with an organization devoted to ending veteran suicide and he is donating a potion of the sales from the book to Impact 22.