John Podlaski (1951 - ) was raised in Detroit, Michigan and attended Catholic schools until graduating in 1969. Immediately afterwards, John started to work for one of the automotive parts suppliers in the area and attended junior college full-time in the fall. During the next four months, John found himself overwhelmed by trying to jumble both work and school. At the end of the semester, John chose income over education and dropped out of school. This turned out to be a huge error as he had a school deferment which protected him from the military draft. Uncle Sam wasted no time and Mr. Podlaski soon found himself in the Army before the end of February, 1970. After a few months of training, John was sent to Vietnam in August and was assigned to the infantry; spending time with both the Wolfhounds of the 25th Division and the 1/501st of the 101st Airborne Division. During his tour of duty, John was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star, two Air Medals, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and a few other campaign medals for serving in the theatre. Back in the states, Mr. Podlaski spent four months in Fort Hood, Texas before until his discharge in December, 1971.
The author returned to his former position with the automotive supplier and was promoted to supervisor shortly afterwards. A few months later, he met Janice Jo and they were married in 1973. They purchased a home in Sterling Heights, MI and still live there to this day. A daughter, Nicole Ann was born in 1979. During this same period of time, John used funds from the GI Bill and returned to college on a part time basis; graduating four years later with an Associate Degree in Applied Science.
In 1980, John started to work on a memoir about his experiences in Vietnam. While there, he had carried a diary, and his mother saved all the letters that he had written to her from the war zone - these were used to build an outline. He toiled on a manual typewriter for four years before finally completing his work. Meanwhile, Mr. Podlaski had joined the newly formed Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 154 and helped to launch their inaugural Color Guard, which marched in parades and posted colors for many local events. The members of the chapter were a very closely knit group and many of the wives felt left out in discussions about Vietnam. When they learned that John had authored a book, the wives had asked to read it to better understand what their husbands had endured during their time in Vietnam. It was very well received and all the wives said they felt closer to their spouse after having read the manuscript. The group was very supportive and urged him to find a publisher. After many rejections, a publisher was located in Atlanta, who offered to consider the book if it were re-written in a third-person.
Atari had just come out with a new computer console and word processor that made the re-write and editing much easier; his work could now be saved on floppy diskettes. The re-write continued until 1989. John had completed half of the manuscript and lost interest in working on it any longer - it had been a long ten years already. So everything was boxed up and stored in the garage.
Mr. Podlaski continued to work in the automotive sector, primarily in Plant Management positions and claims that he will retire in three more years. John had returned to college eight years ago, and received a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration four years later.
Last year, at his 40th high school reunion, many of his former classmates had asked him about his Vietnam book. John had forgotten that he had offered a copy of his manuscript for others to read and comment on twenty years earlier. Unbeknown to him, many of them had already read the book and urged him to pull it out of storage and continue his work.
Converting the diskettes to Microsoft Word was cost prohibitive; John's daughter, Nicole, offered to retype the entire manuscript and then saved the document on a memory stick. Fourteen months later, the book is finally finished and published. It took almost thirty years to complete, but seeing it now in print makes it all worth it.
The author and his wife, Jan. own a 1997 Harley Davidson Heritage motorcycle and enjoy riding when possible; both are members of the Great Lakes Chapter of the Harley Owner Group.