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#MemorialDay Series Day 4: Private 1st Class Joseph Strucel

memorial day May 25, 2022
A portrait of a hero

Today’s Memorial Day series highlights Private First Class Joseph Strucel. Strucel's name not only lives on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. but in the hearts of Trident’s Matt Hardy and those he left behind.

Private First Class Joseph John Strucel, or Joe as he was more commonly known, was killed in action on March 5, 1969. 

From Hardy, Joe was, in some regards, like a fourth son to his dad. He was drafted in the U.S. Army and began his first tour in November 1968. This was at a contentious time with Vietnam War protests popping up all over the U.S. “At this time, the local recruiting center had been burned down by arsonists,” said Hardy. “Joe wanted to know what he should do. Everyone told him, ‘do nothing’, if the Army wants you then they will call you, but Joe didn't listen and went back to the alternative center. His number was called shortly after that.”

Hardy remembered Strucel best at his farewell party prior to deploying to Vietnam. “Joe had been recently married and I still have pictures of him and his wife smiling and laughing on the family room couch,” he said.

'My understanding, Joe and his squad had been on patrol when they were ambushed. Some of his squad members had been pinned down by enemy fire and Joe tried crawling out to them for assistance, but was killed by enemy fire. 

I remember the day my dad received the call from Joe's dad that Joe had been killed in Vietnam - my dad was struck by a sadness and disappointment that he never really got over. There was an emptiness or hole in him that never healed - he loved Joe like one of his own. When I went to college, I was offered a full ROTC scholarship and always wanted to serve, but my father forbade me from going in. He said absolutely no way would I ever go into the Army. Although my dad was extremely proud of his service in WWII, he was so resentful of the way the Government had prosecuted the Vietnam war. So what does a loving and devoted son do? After I graduated from college, I enlisted in the Army's Infantry. Why? I did it for my country, my family, and I did it for Joe."

When Hardy travels to Washington, D.C. he always makes it a point to stop by the Vietnam War memorial wall and “run my hand over Joe’s name. I pray that he wasn’t scared and lonely on that fateful day.” For Hardy, “Joe always remains in my thoughts and prayers - God Bless and God's Speed.”