CROWN POINT | Sixty-nine veterans of the armed forces will step out of the ranks of Lake County government to be recognized in a special ceremony.
From law clerk to elected official, they work for the Lake County prosecutor, the assessor, the planning commission and 18 other county offices.
Ray Guiden, service officer of the county veteran's department, said county government will celebrate the 69 men and women who served in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force at 10 a.m. Friday in the county's Crown Point government complex.
They will be called out and given lapel pins by Sandra Zacharias, the Mrs. Indiana America crown holder, and Lorrie Stulmacher, widow of Vietnam veteran John Stulmacher, in honor of the combined 408 years of service. That cumulative service included action in Vietnam, the Gulf War, the Iraq War, Afghanistan and the Panama conflict.
Among them will be Joseph Kwasny, a Lake Superior Court bailiff and former Highland police chief, who received two Purple Heart decorations for action on China Beach near Da Nang, Vietnam.
"I graduated June 19, 1965, from East Chicago Roosevelt and entered the Marine Corps in August of 1965," Kwasny recalled recently. "David Polich and I were friends. We weren't able to afford college, so we decided to join before we got drafted. So we enlisted in the Marine Corps under the buddy system.
"My friend and I stayed together all the way until we got to Vietnam, and then they separated us. I went to a unit, Lima Company 3rd Battalion, in Da Nang. I was in several firefights, and I got wounded in second one in March 1966. I was on a routine patrol in two (armored cars). There were six of us. I was sitting next to the driver. We were driving along the (water's edge) taking supplies back to our company area when a mixture of Viet Cong and Vietnamese regulars hiding behind some sand dunes ambushed us.
"We kept up the firefight, and another Marine unit saw us and attacked them from the back. It all happened within 20 minutes. Three of our six were killed, including one guy was from Seymour, Ind., who was on the final week of his tour. I felt some rounds go through me. I didn't realize I was hit five times until I was in hospital there. I spent eight months at the Great Lakes Naval Hospital, and during that time David Polich, my friend, got killed in a place called Quan Tri (Province)."
Kwansy said he appreciates ceremonies such as the one planned for Friday at the government center, particularly given the unpopular nature of the Vietnam war when it was being fought and the cold reception many of those veterans received when returning home.