Our 2019 Veteran of the Year was drafted and served in the Army from 1966-1968. He was stationed at Fort Carson, CO training units going to Vietnam. A Sergeant E5, he was a radio operator in an artillery unit deployed to La Vang, Vietnam serving there from early 1968 until August that year. While there, he (with others from his unit) helped at a an orphanage in Quang Tri. After he left Vietnam, his unit was moved and continued assisting another orphanage nearby in Hue.
Back stateside, he taught truck mechanics at what is now SCTCC when he was recruited away by Harold Anderson to be the general manager of Anderson Trucking. He has been active within the community and service organizations including past president of Pantowners, Secretary of VAA, board member of Vinh Son, Vietnam Memorial Day and others. He continues to volunteer educating in schools locally, in Monticello, Wayzeta, Milaca, and the Hmong Academy.
While there is much that could be focused on in his service, it is his educating, relationship building, reconciliation efforts, and continued work in support for Vietnamese orphans and orphanages that has made a difference in many people’s lives – their understanding of history, people, actions as well as a number of children and adults.
This journey and quest began in 2000 when he looked for history on his unit which contained orphanage information lead eventually to him being connected to another orphanage and being asked to go to Vietnam. While this was scary, he made his first trip in 2007. While he found that neither orphanage connected to his unit remained, he (and he will quickly point out – with others) began working with 2 orphanages – it is now up to 7. He has made about a dozen trips including in the last couple of months. He strives to tell the story, to work towards atonement/reconciliation. He helps fundraise for capital and scholarships. The efforts have helped 850 children.
He reminds us all that relationship building takes time – as he says, “when hear, listen with all of our own experiences, we really don’t know”. He’s striven to get to know the children and understand; learning & struggling with learning Vietnamese; politics getting in the way of what he/others are trying to do at times.
Clyde Lewandowski is an educator, a diplomat, role model for the rest of us!