Louis Dudeck was 22 years old in 1965 when the ship he and fellow Marines were on landed in Vietnam, near Da Nang. With a loaded M-60 weapon and live ammunition strapped to his chest, he was scared, then shocked to see the beach was sprinkled with little old Vietnamese ladies selling beers and sodas.
Dudeck will be among 30 veterans participating in the presentation series, “My Year in Vietnam - Vietnam Veterans Share Their Stories,” organized by Professor James Smither, director of the Veterans History Project at Grand Valley State University.
“Send the Marines!,” will kick off the series Wednesday, September 25, at 7 p.m., in Loosemore Auditorium, DeVos Center, 401 W. Fulton, Pew Grand Rapids Campus. Dudeck will share his stories, along with Michael Woods and Michael Burton. In each of 10 presentations, September 25 - April 9, three Vietnam veterans with overlapping experiences will tell their stories and take questions from the audience. All presentations are free and open to the public.
Woods quit school in 1961 at age 17, and joined the Marine Corps, one of only three blacks in his platoon. Shortly before he was to be discharged in 1965, after serving mostly with a fleet in the Pacific and on Okinawa, his service was extended and he was sent to Vietnam.
Burton attended Grand Valley for one year before joining the Marines in 1966. He spent about two weeks in Vietnam before serious injuries ended what he calls his “brief trip abroad.” After a long and difficult recovery, he returned to Grand Valley, became an anti-war activist, brought a student group’s petition to Washington, D.C., and delivered it to his congressman, Gerald Ford.
“More than 2.3 million Americans served in and around Vietnam between 1961 and 1973, and each one has a unique story to tell,” said Smither. “Their stories go well beyond the traditional stereotypes, both negative and positive, of the American soldier in Vietnam.”
The panelists include not only combat infantrymen from the Army and Marine Corps, but also radiomen, medical corpsmen, engineers, artillerists, officers, various support personnel, a dog handler, a prison guard and a Special Forces member.
For more details about the Veterans History Project and a complete schedule of the Vietnam presentation series, visit http://www.gvsu.edu/vethistory.