Remembering Tom W. Dudley

This is sent to me from Terry Gawel 981st 70-71 via Steve Steven Dragovich981st 69-70.


March 11, 1950 to January 1987

Tom Dudley and I served together in Vietnam in Team D at An Khe from around April 1970 when I got there until I left for Tuy Hua in December. He pulled sentry dog handling duty, while I was a vet tech. He was a diligent dog handler who cared for his dog and performed his duties with great attention to detail. I don’t remember much about his dog, which probably means he had no serious health problems that I was called upon to treat.

In our time off we and other of our friends played volleyball and basketball to keep fit, and cards to sharpen our wits — primarily poker, blackjack, and euchre. As can be seen in the indoor photo, while the rest of us mugged for the camera Tom was intent on his euchre hand, probably looking at his “bowers” (while Joe Geueke handled the “counter cards”). Something you can’t see in this photo but can probably sense: Tom had an excellent poker face and used it to great purpose in our games. Note too our makeshift card table and skillfully designed and executed candle holder.

Our group of close dog handling pals in addition to myself, Tom, and Joe, included Leonard Lausch and Luther Adkins. Later when I shipped out to Tuy Hua, Tom remained in An Khe.

After we all left Vietnam behind us in the early 1970s and went home, most of us kept in touch by occasional phone calls. Several of us married and began families during this time. In 1979 it was Tom’s turn, and Len and I were invited to his wedding as part of the wedding party. He and his lovely bride Martha were married in Anderson, South Carolina, on September 1st of that year. As can be seen in the wedding photo Tom still had very blond hair and Len’s was the same dark color as in Vietnam but with a lot more volume. My light hair had turned a deeper red and I was by now sporting an extravagantly fancy facial hair arrangement. Someone even said that I looked like a ginger version of Warren Beatty!

My recollection was that the wedding was a good sized one with a correspondingly large wedding party. It was a happy occasion for Tom’s family and friends (with way too much beer consumed the night before, especially by Tom!), the weather cooperated, the bride looked beautiful, and Tom dutifully matched his bride’s white gown with a white tuxedo of his own. It was a day to take part in the solemnity of the ceremony, the festivity of the country club reception, and the mildness of the weather. It was a day to remember.

Two specific recollections of that day: I caught the wedding photographer staring at me a few times. She finally approached me and said that at a wedding the month before, she had seen someone so like me that he could have been my identical twin. And a young man in attendance at the reception came up to me and thanked me for my service in Vietnam. The first occurrence was an odd one at any time, and the second a rare one for 1979.

Over the years our phone calls gradually dwindled, but we remembered each other at Christmas with holiday cards. By the time Tom died in 1987 at 36 we had lost touch, and it was only after I saw his name on the Sentry Dog Alumni roster that I realized he had passed.

We had many good times both in Vietnam and afterwards. Many of these times were commemorated in photos taken by us and shared with others. I was glad I knew Tom and had him as a friend, but regret what a short time we had together. I salute you now Tom. Rest in peace.

Submitted by Terry Gawel, vet tech, 981st 70/71


Vietnam 1970 at the euchre table. L to R: Tom Dudley (eyes on cards), Luther Adkins, Joe Geueke, Terry Gawel.
South Carolina wedding, 1979. L to R: Usher Leonard Lausch, groom Tom Dudley, usher
Terry Gawel channeling Warren Beatty.



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