By, Dale Sopkowiak - Pave Tech National Sales Manager
Many of you may know me as PAVE TECH Dale, mainly because I have been a proud member of the staff for so many years and because my last name of Sopkowiak causes anxiety to many when they try to pronounce it.
Back in the 60's, as in 1965 through 1968 I was among the many that served in the Army, a much different version than today's Army. Public opinion of the Army sucked. We were often advised not to wear our uniforms in public, though military personnel were easily distinguishable from the average long haired civilian. I am extremely pleased of how times have changed. PAVE TECH and many others are not ashamed to show their respect and appreciation for the soldiers, current and past veterans.
As Memorial Day approaches and we honor the veterans that have passed, the military has been on my mind. I received this video and it brought back a happy tearful memory. I would like to share...
Link to VIDEO
When I received orders to go to Vietnam there was a lot of unhappiness heaped on my folks. It also was the first time I actually felt my Dad loved me; when he took me to the airport he put his hand on my shoulder and said "you know you really don't have to go" - doesn't sound like much to you but believe me that touch was as close to a hug and I love you that he was able to do - but that's another story.
Anyway, we were all under the impression that I was to be stationed in Nam for 13 months. Upon arrival I found out otherwise, as the standard tour was 12 months. I never told my folks about this misunderstanding. I learned quickly that the last 30 days were the hardest, the family's worried most & seemed the longest to the GIs & their families. When I finally got my orders to go back home I decided to keep the secret going.
The plane ride home was long but very happy as I anticipated my homecoming reception.
To solidify the surprise I decided to take a taxi home from the airport.
As was the custom back in the 60's, we rarely locked our doors so when the taxi dropped me off I was able to just walk in. It was early and Dad had already gone to work, kid sister Jo Anne was at school, big brother John was away at college and Mom was still asleep. Mom, having only hearing in one ear, usually slept with her good ear in the pillow so she never realized I was there until I knocked on her bedroom door, stuck my head in and announced "I'm Home." Talk about hugging and crying, it was overwhelming (I am chocking up just writing this). Mom committed what was usually considered a no-no in the 60's by calling Dad at work. With his high work ethic he put in what he later admitted to be one of his longest days at work. Dad wasn't a hugging kind of guy but showed his pleasure when he got home with a rare smile that made up for it.
Even my kid sis seemed happy to see me... it was quite a day that all most made up for being gone.
Keeping secret for a year and the expensive taxi ride were definitely the right thing to do.
Remember, supporting & honoring the veterans is Not supporting war.