John Podlaski (1951 – ) was raised in Detroit, Michigan and attended both St. Charles and St. Thomas Apostle catholic schools, graduating in 1969. Immediately afterwards, John started working for one of the automotive parts suppliers in the area and then attended junior college full-time in the fall. After four months of overwhelming pressure, John dropped out of college – choosing income over education. This turned out to be a huge error in judgement as a school deferment protected him from the military draft. Uncle Sam wasted no time and Mr. Podlaski soon found himself inducted into the Army in February, 1970. Then after six months of training, John was sent to Vietnam as an infantry soldier; serving with both the Wolfhounds of the 25th Division and the Geronimos 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 that campaign. Back in the states, Mr. Podlaski spent the next four months in Fort Hood, Texas before receiving an early military discharge in December, 1971.
The War Veteran returned to his former position with the automotive supplier and was soon promoted to shift supervisor. He met Janice Jo a few months later and they were married in 1973. The G.I. Bill helped them purchase a home in Sterling Heights, MI, where they continue living there to this day. A daughter, Nicole Ann was born in 1979. Using additional benefits from the G.I. Bill, Mr. Podlaski returned to college on a part time basis; graduating four years later with an Associate Degree in Applied Science.
In 1980, John began working on his memoir about his Vietnam experiences. He had carried a diary during his year in Vietnam, and his mother had saved all his letters from the war zone – both were used to create the outline. He toiled on a manual typewriter for four years before finally completing his work. About the same time, a new national veteran group, akin to the V.F.W. was formed in Washington, DC. They called themselves “Vietnam Veterans of America” and chapters quickly sprung up around the country. John joined Chapter 154 in Mt. Clemens, MI, and as an active member, helped to launch their inaugural Color Guard – marching in parades and posting colors for local events. The members of this chapter were a closely knit group, but wives often felt left out during the many discussions about Vietnam. When learning that John had authored a book about his tour of duty, the wives asked to share a copy of the manuscript, hoping it will help them better understand what their husbands might have endured during their time in Vietnam. The memoir was well received, and wives were now joining the men in these discussions. All were increasingly supportive and urged him to locate a publisher. After hundreds of rejections, a publisher from Atlanta, GA finally came forward and offered to consider the manuscript if it were re-written to a third-person format.
Atari had just come out with a new computer console and word processor – making re-writes and editing much easier; his work now saved on floppy diskettes. The re-write continued until 1989, consuming all his spare time. John had finished half of the manuscript, then suddenly lost interest – not wanting to work on it any longer – it had been a long ten years already and there was no light at the end of the tunnel. So everything was boxed up and moved to the garage for storage.
Mr. Podlaski continued working for various companies within the automotive sector; primarily in Management roles tasked in either plant start-ups, financial turn around, or plant closures. John returned to college in 2000, and received a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration two years later. He and his wife retired in mid 2013 and spend their time pursuing their passions.
At John’s 40th high school reunion, he was reminded that many of his former classmates had read his original manuscript twenty years earlier. They were relentless in their efforts to get him motivated and finish the rewrite – offering help wherever needed.
When learning that a conversion of Atari diskettes to the Microsoft Word format was extremely cost prohibitive, John’s daughter offered to retype both the completed manuscript and the rewrite, saving both on a USB memory stick. Nine months later, “Cherries” was completed and published. It took almost thirty years, but seeing it in print made it all worthwhile.
The author and his wife own a 1997 Harley Davidson Heritage motorcycle and enjoy riding when possible; both are members of the Harley Owner Group.
John is a published author of two books which chronicles his experiences as an infantry soldier in Vietnam during 1970 / 1971:
“Cherries: A Vietnam War Novel” went live in April, 2010.
“When Can I Stop Running? – A Vietnam War Story” published in June, 2016.