County Veteran Reflects On Time In Vietnam
Chautauqua County veteran Roger Adamczak from Dunkirk honorably served his country during the Vietnam War.
Graduating from Dunkirk High School in 1966, Adamczak was drafted into the Army that November and returned home two years later after being wounded in Vietnam. While he said his injuries were “not enough to get a medal,” Adamczak said he did his job.
On returning home Adamczak spent 10 years as a fireman and some time working for a local food company before it closed. He married and had three children, became a member of the firemen’s club and retired at 69 years old. Adamczak now qualifies as a VA 100% disabled vet, and the VA takes care of him, though he said he is able to function well on his own.
Adamczak was officially discharged in 1972.
Adamczak said he met a lot of people in Vietnam, but one of the highlights was his ability to go to one of comedian Bob Hope’s shows while he was in Vietnam to entertain the troops.
“I went with six friends to the show,” Adamczak said. “I got lost on my way to the bathroom and ran into Bob Hope. He shook my hand and thanked me for my service. I then ran into Raquel Welch, who thanked me and hugged me and gave me a kiss on the cheek.”
Welch was an actress who traveled with Hope to do his shows in Vietnam.
Adamczak spent time in combat battles and was educated as a quartermaster and machine gunnist. “What I have left of that time now are the memories and the nightmares,” Adamczak said.
Adamczak said that while he was drafted into the Army, he would have gone anyway. The nation was in need and they were drafting as many as they could. Overall, 36 men in Chautauqua County gave their lives in Vietnam.
“I served my country and am a great patriot,” Adamczak said. “I owed it to my friends who did not come home.”
Adamczak’s best friend, Harry Kaus, was the first man from Dunkirk who was killed in the Vietnam war.
Additionally, Adamczak said the after effects of the war were hard for many veterans, including himself. This includes problems with Agent Orange — which Adamczak said every man he knows from the war has had a problem with, including himself — and the lack of honor that was given to Vietnam veterans. He said this honor is beginning to be felt more now, in ways such as the Honor Flight, which Adamczak was able to go on with six other local veterans during a weekend in April.
“It was a great honor to be picked for the flight,” Adamczak said. “I took my daughter, because I promised her that I would take her to the wall. She will pass that on to her family.”
Another highlight of that trip for Adamczak was that Buffalo Bills player Reid Ferguson was also on the plane with the veterans. Adamczak said he signed autographs and took pictures but was most of the time a “very nice and ordinary person, just like us”.
Following his time in service, Adamczak spent time as a volunteer firefighter in Volunteer Fire Department Hose Company One, and served there until volunteer firefighting was done and all of the firefighters were being paid. He spent almost 50 years there, though after a while he had to quit fighting fires because of his age and became a fire police officer so he could keep serving until retiring.
Overall, Adamczak said his time in the service made him a better man.
“I taught my children about the service,” Adamczak said. “They are very educated. I have six grandchildren and they are educated about it. I am fortunate to have been able to come home and have a family. I served my country and my community, and I think I did well.”
When it comes to those who serve, Adamczak said the most important thing to do is to remember the veterans who are no longer with us.
“I think we should all remember,” Adamczak said. “They served with honor and we should remember them. I think everyone should stop and say thank you any time they are in a cemetery. I do. Our freedom is not free. There is a price to pay, one way or another.”