Vet still isn’t sure why US was at war, but would serve again

August 27, 2014

PatrelloBy Kate Krieger. MCP Senior Correspondent.

LUDINGTON – Serving a two-year commitment in the United States Army from 1969-1971, Ludington summer resident, Chuck Patrello still isn’t too sure why the United States was in Vietnam in the first place.

“It didn’t make any sense why we were there,” Chuck said. “I’m glad I did what I did though.”

Chuck served in the northern part of Vietnam during his two-year stint and he saw some things that he would never forget for the rest of his life and some of those things really made the transition back to civilian life hard.

A Detroit native, Chuck knew he was going to be drafted when he was of age to serve, so instead of waiting for the draft, he volunteered to enter the service a few months earlier because his job was being relocated. He entered in November and was sent to basic training at Fort Knox, Texas and then he received Christmas leave.

While in Vietnam, he served in the 8th Battalion 4th Artillery, where he was “as far north as you can go in Vietnam.”

Chuck’s battalion was in charge of firing cannons and projectiles upon the enemy. He also said there were times when they would go out and assist other troops in and around the area.

“We would do an operation for quite a while and we went back and forth supporting other troops,” he said. “We were really in the middle of nowhere.”

Chuck can remember sitting around, speaking to other men in his battalion and just hearing bombs and mortars going off around them like it was another normal day. He became quite used to hearing the noise and seeing all the different action going on around him, he said.

One highlight Chuck has while in Vietnam was at a USO show where he met Miss America, Pam Eldred. Eldred was also a Michigan native and Chuck remembered two years later he was at a party in Bloomfield and his friend introduced him to a young woman there and it was Eldred. Chuck said she didn’t remember who he was, but he did mention to her that they had met before over in Vietnam.

“It was unbelievable,” he said. “It really blew me away that she was there.”

Chuck had a lot of experiences while in Vietnam and met a lot of interesting people there, he said.

“You see a lot of stupid stuff. You made friends, did your job, but we weren’t really fighting a war, it was more political.”

When Chuck returned to Detroit in 1971 he met with a lot of respect and he remembers that all of his neighbors on his block had signs up welcoming him home.

“The challenges were when you got out,” he said. “There can be a lot of post traumatic stress stuff.”

During the fall of 1971, Chuck stated that he remembered being able to burn leaves at the curb in Detroit and seeing all the smoke would cause a lot of anxiety and panic attacks because he had been gassed while serving in Vietnam.

“I was there and I did it for my country,” he said. “I would do it again if I got the same results. Some of the situations I would think, ‘I can’t believe I’m here.’”

Chuck said he thinks it’s great that the Vietnam Traveling Wall is coming to Ludington and he said he was asked to volunteer at it.

“I feel the wall represents that someone was looking out for us (America),” he said. “They paid the ultimate price for their country. Nowadays people don’t look out for anybody. It was unbelievable some of the stuff we saw. You really counted your days there.”


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