Local veteran reflects on service

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  • PHOTO BY JANET REDYKEVeteran Tom Gundlach will be remembering on Nov. 11 his friends who lost their lives while serving in Vietnam.

Veterans Day is celebrated in the USA on Nov. 11 honoring veterans of all wars. This year the Nov. 11 holiday falls on a Saturday which hopefully will warrant more remembrance and tributes. The simplest honor is to thank and acknowledge a veteran individually.

According to iveteransday.org, the holiday was originally known as Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. However, the holiday was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.

Sussex County is home to countless veterans from the many wars and conflicts. Since 1776, 48 million Americans have served in the armed forces, bravely defending our freedoms and way of life.

This correspondent has chosen to showcase Vernon resident Thomas Gundlach, proud army veteran and active member of the Vernon VFW. As a high school student, Gundlach acquired an interest in rocketry and explosives, so enlisting and serving in the military seemed a correct fit. He was stationed in Korea from 1964 to 1967 dealing with reactive and explosive materials. Gundlach’s specialty was maintenance, upgrading, disposal and eventual management of a high security classification camp in mid-southern Korea.

“Korea was an extreme learning experience,” he stated. “The country is still in a formal state of war.”

According to the Korean Armistice signed on July 27, 1953, the document was to insure complete cessation of hostilities of all acts of armed force in Korea until a final peaceful settlement was achieved. No final peaceful settlement has ever been achieved. According to Gundlach, the “hot spot” has always been the DMZ, the Demilitarized Zone, separating North and South Korea. He speaks fondly of his time in Korea noting how teamwork in the army is so important, his love for the South Korean people, living and surviving in total poverty, with no electricity, no running water and sometimes no food. Mostly, one can see Gundlach’s eyes light up as he speaks of his service time, his pride and his humility in handling explosives and maintaining safety for over 40 years.

“If I had to do it over again, I’d do it the same- explosives work, the military and Korea,” he said.

Gundlach still “keeps his hand on the detonator” so to speak, by working part time and consulting for companies.

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