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  • Honoring Vietnam Veterans
  • Author avatar
    DK McDonald
  • vietnam

Honoring Vietnam Veterans

John Podlaski originally intended his website to help market his fictionalized memoir, Cherries: A Vietnam War Story. It has since grown into an amplifier for stories that still need to be told.

“We weren’t there for politics and we weren’t there for our government,” Podlaski said. “We did go because the government asked, but we were actually there for each other and we did what we could to help each other survive and be able to go back home.”

CherriesWriter.com serves as a repository for more than 500 personal and contributed narratives, photos, videos, movies, artwork, book reviews and music of the time.

“I initially set this up in 2010 and it was going to be a place to let people know about Cherries, the first book,” Podlaski said. “I had written articles about what it was it like to hump out in the jungle, what were the insects, how did mother earth greet or treat you  ̶  going out and wearing the same clothes for 30 days and they might be in shreds. There was an episode where we got hit by a typhoon and we were out in the jungle and we had to tie ourselves to trees.”

Strong reader support and active commentary on his posts provided opportunities to expand the website to include historical information and the personal stories of warriors who served, Podlaski said.

“It’s just a wealth of things that I consider an opportunity to keep the legacy of the Vietnam soldier alive,” Podlaski said. “When I would relay some of the facts from the book, it got (Vietnam veterans) to open up a little bit. I also have had Iraq and Afghanistan vets write, ‘substitute scorpions and sand for spiders and snakes and you’ve got my story.’” 

Podlaski served as a U.S. Army infantry soldier in Vietnam from 1970 to 1971 with both the Wolfhounds of the 25th Infantry Division and with the 101st Airborne Division, earning among other awards, the Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star, two Air Medals, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.

“For every 25 air assaults that you would make, you qualified for an Air Medal and I got two of them,” Podlaski said. “Each time you went into a landing zone you had no idea what to expect until you were on the ground. You had the anxious feeling each time that you went, filled with dread and then sometimes there were people waiting for you and you had to react the way you were trained to react. Looking back, I’m surprised that I did survive.”

 

Podlaski’s service spanned combat in the flat jungles of the south and the steep mountainous terrain of Northern Vietnam.

“The difference  ̶  down south we battled against the Viet Cong which were soldiers that lived in nearby villages,” Podlaski explained. “Up north in the 101st we fought against the NVA, the North Vietnamese Army, which were trained soldiers. They had uniforms, they studied tactics, they had modern weapons and so forth and so the challenges were much greater up north than they were down south.

“I experienced things that I never thought possible; you’re carrying 80-100 pounds on your back, you’re going up a mountain that is a 30-degree grade and you have to pull each other up. It takes 3 days to climb this mountain so for two nights you have to be tied to a tree so that you don’t roll downhill," Podlaski said. "We did have soldiers lose their balance and fall and break a leg and so forth, but it was quite night and day difference between down south and up north.”

Six years after the publication of Cherries: A Vietnam War Story, Podlaski published his award-winning second book, When Can I Stop Running.

“I decided to write a second book based on one night out on the listening post,” Podlaski said. “Two of us about 300 meters outside the wire to listen and be an early warning system for the base camp in one of the more notorious areas of the country. We had a platoon of enemy soldiers stopped for a break not more than 10 feet away from us. If you were detected, you would have died right on the spot.”

Events from that night formed the nexus of his upcoming book, Death in the Triangle.

“It’s a sequel to When Can I Stop Running, coming out in June or July,” Podlaski said. “When we got back to the base camp we had to turn right back around and go back out; what was supposed to be a couple hour thing ended up three days long.”

These days, Podlaski spends each Sunday responding to emails and comments, posting on social media and adding new articles to his website.

“It’s a job,” Podlaski said. “But I do it not for the recognition but for the appreciation of the people who read the stuff. I enjoy reading the comments from the wives, from the mothers, from the other soldiers and actual Vietnam vets who continue to look forward to my articles and to share them with their family. Soldiers who say I’m telling what they couldn’t so that their family can understand what they’ve gone through. That gives me a great feeling to be able to do that.”
  • Author avatar
    DK McDonald
  • vietnam

Comments on this post ( 15 )

  • Jun 02, 2021

    John, I am a 2 tour 100% disable Vietnam Vet. Like so many of your readers agent orange is slowly killing me. I look forward to reading your emails. I put them in archives so if I don’t get one for a while I can go back in time and read an old one. Keep up the good work.

    — CLARENCE HOOPER

  • May 16, 2021

    I loved When Can I Stop Running? It’s so vividly told. As an Army brat, I understand the sacrifices you’ve made for our country, and I commend you for choosing to share your experiences and for creating a space for other vets and family members to connect and find comfort. You are a fantastic author and great man, John. Kate McDonald, thank you for sharing his life story with others. :-)

    — Yvette M Calleiro

  • May 11, 2021

    John, I know you from your writing with RRBC, and this article shows yet another side. I am so grateful that you served and returned safely. Thank you for your service to our nation. So many of my high school class mates also served, some sadly are a note on the wall.

    Your writing is amazing and my post for Cherries in audible format should post soon.

    With my regular job, I was introduced to Jake Wood, the founder of Team Rubicon. A group of authors and I got together, wrote an anthology from which all proceeds are headed toward that group.

    It is such an honor to learn about our brave warriors who are changed forever in ways regular people find it hard to understand. Keep writing John. You are amazing. RoxB

    — Rox Burkey

  • May 10, 2021

    So much about the Vietnam war needs to be told and John Podlaski does an excellent job telling some of it. Thank you for your service, Mr. Podlaski and for bringing your experiences to the forefront.

    — Karen Black

  • May 10, 2021

    Congrats John, it is an honor to call you friend. Looking forward to the next installment of your story.

    — Liz DiGiovanni

  • May 10, 2021

    You are doing a fine thing John. I wonder how many of us can really forget that place? Welcome Home.

    — Martin J Pielech

  • May 07, 2021

    What a fascinating look at a man who is dedicated to upholding the memory of so many soldiers from such a troubled time in American history. Thank you for sharing!

    — Jan Sikes

  • May 07, 2021

    J. Podlaski, is a special person that has done much not only to bring Vietnam Vets and others together and help them share their experiences and stories during their time there, which is something that many prefer not to talk about, but one of the most important aspects, as he also quotes,
    “telling what the Vets couldn’t or did not want to talk about, so that their family can understand what they’ve gone through.”
    My sincere compliments and respect for John.
    Regards
    Robert

    — Robert Sagramati

  • May 07, 2021

    I was a Fleet Marine Forces Corpsman in Charlie Company 1/1 in 1967. I was shot and By the Grace of God I also have overcome two and I’m working on overcoming my 3rd Disease from Agent Orange. I read both your first two books and will purchase the 3rd one when it comes out. I enjoy reading the articles that come out with the emails and I appreciate you and am glad we survived and are still able to help other Veterans. God Bless you and your Family. Jumpin Jim Jarvis AKA DOC
    said that.

    — Jim Jarvis

  • May 07, 2021

    John as always you honor us all, and especially us ‘the combat infantrymen’ CIB wearing veterans… But I have a great appreciation for those Artillery Guys at the many FSB that were attacked in huge defensive battles… Keep up the good work keeping those memories and stories alive…. But I learned something recently with a friend who had the website “theoriginalboatpeople” the story of the 3rd Brigade 4th ID that were mostly drafted together, trained together, and traveled by ’Troop Ship" to Vietnam…. Jim Neeley died this past year, and with him the website… A shame to loose these sites is a tragic

    — Michael Doolittlle

  • May 07, 2021

    Thanks for this terrific profile about John. His writing provides an insightful retrospective for all of us of a certain age who remember what those times were like. The turmoil around the Vietnam War in this country is indescribable. John’s novels and his blog invites people of all perspectives to take a deep breath and recall the chaos of those days. I deeply appreciate his writing and this profile. Thank you.

    — Wanda Fischer

  • May 07, 2021

    I follow John’s blog religiously. This man performs an exceptionally valuable service to Vietnam Vets and those interested in the history of the history of the war. He honors the fallen and gives voice to those who served their country but have been silent and unrecognized for so many years.

    — Robin Bartlett

  • May 07, 2021

    Thank you for all of your writings. I share them with all my Vietnam veteran coworkers I met over the years with The Phone company here in Southern California

    I served in country Nov 68 to Nov 69. I was a Huey Cobra crew chief with 9th avn bn at Dong Tam, then 3/5 Air Cav, then 7/1 Air Cav under the First Avn brgde, Vinh Long, in ground maintenance.

    — Bill Vaughan

  • May 07, 2021

    Its nice to see the recognition you are getting for your service. The Vietnam War was too much for us to take. I can’t imagine what you had to go through trying to survive to live another day. You were so fortunate to be able to live and tell it.

    My husband was an Air Force Vet and he didn’t go to war. He was training officers while being denied becoming an officer himself; so he got out after four years.

    — Shirley Harris-Slaughter

  • May 07, 2021

    John, thank you for your articles. Some of them have really moved me. Helped me, also. I was a 212th MP Sentry Dog handler out of Tay Ninh in 67-68. I also wrote an article for The NY Times (personally, I hate the rag) but they did an admirable job with their on going column “At War” Its a newsletter about war & the soldiers who fight in it. Covers all the myriad conflicts.
    Now I have to read your book(s). Welcome home. Rich C.

    — Rich Cunningham

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