WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A Turon native was familiar with the military. His dad, three uncles served in WWII and two other uncles served years later.
Terry Rudkin ended up serving our country as well.
Rudkin graduated high school in Stafford, and at that same time, the draft went to a lottery system.
When the numbers were drawn, Rudkin was one of two in Stafford County eligible to go.
“I guess this is the document that started it all,” Rudkin said.
Rudkin is talking about his draft card.
“So, I went and talked to the recruiter, and decided to enlist at that point,” Rudkin said.
He said he never regretted that decision.
“Back when I was in, we wore green uniforms,” Rudkin said.
He also had a blue rope on his uniform as he was at one time a member of the Honor Guard.
He said the special unit marched in parades and participated in special ceremonies.
He was one of about 20 who was offered a chance to go to West Point while in basic training. He said he passed that up because it was a 10 years commitment.
Rudkin was a marksman and did well in basic training especially when it came to grenade practice.
“You could have all kinds of fun with the practice, then you went up right after that and threw live grenades,” Rudkin said.
A letter was sent to Rudkin’s parents to let them know he made it safely to his first assignment.
“What was affectionately referred to as a high-speed ditty code operator,” Rudkin said.
He was translating Morse code as part of the Army Security Agency.
He said then the Army decided to downsize.
“So they cut 300 of us out and sent us to Washington, D.C., because we had an extremely high clearance,” Rudkin said.
Rudkin went on to become trained in many things and was quite the jack of many trades.
“For serving at the Pentagon that was the insignia there,” Rudkin said.
Rudkin knew not all of his time in service would be spent stateside.
“Anybody that had enlisted was fair game to be send to Vietnam,” Rudkin said.
Rudkin said he wanted his mother to know exactly where he landed so he mailed her a map he made on a piece of paper.
“That is one of the guard towers like what we would be in,” Rudkin said.
He pulled guard duty and also helped prepare key reports.
“We plotted all the actions, that was going on, in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia,” Rudkin said.
He said they tracked all those who were wounded, missing in action, or even worse.
“Every day you were doing a body count,” Rudkin said.
Rudkin saw first hand the toll the war had taken, and when he thinks back, he remembers well the day the cease-fire was signed.
He said they had to have their boots off the ground in Vietnam by noon.
“Roughly 11:59, our wheels were not on the ground at Tan Son Nhut,” Rudkin said.
He received the Joint Service Commendation Medal for his time in Vietnam and a chief warrant officer made him a very special plaque.
“This is the Intelligence brass,” Rudkin said.
He collected quite a bit of brass over the years, but above all the insignia that he ever wore on this uniform, he’s most proud of a gift he got decades after the war.
“You kind of get a tear in your eye when somebody does something like that,” Rudkin said.
A member of the Daughters of the American Revolution presented a special Vietnam pin to him at his 50th high school reunion.
He kept his field jacket all these years.
“This one went through Vietnam with me,” Rudkin said.
He said going through all his memorabilia takes him back.
He even tried on his garrison hat, and it still fits.
He’s thankful he chose to sign up to serve.
“Just doing what Uncle Sam told me to go do,” Rudkin said.
He saw Bob Hope perform his final USO Show in Vietnam.
He said Hope’s wife, Delores, lead the troops in singing “Silent Night.”
He said it still touches his heart and brings tears to his eyes when he hears it around the holiday.
He said it wasn’t easy for the troops who returned from Vietnam.
“Being a Vietnam veteran didn’t always get you the respect it does today,” Rudkin said.
He also shared a story about years after his service when he was working in Social Services and hired a man for his Kingman Office.
He said they discovered one day the man had helped in chopping the jungle down to create space for barracks.
Rudkin later lived in those very quarters.