Tracing My Grandfather’s Navy Service

Kuznicki, Thomas2
Thomas Kuznicki, Jr.

My grandparents–Tom and Janice (Zielinski) Kuznicki–celebrated their Golden Anniversary last October; they were married on October 12, 1968 at St. Hedwig’s Church in Dunkirk, New York, and they moved to the city of Jamestown soon after. Gramps proposed through the mail–he was stationed in the Philippines at the time–and my grandmother accepted via return letter. That’s the part of the story that has always been missing, though: I don’t know why my grandfather was in the Philippines or anything else about his Navy service. It’s been 50 years since Gramps was released from active duty, and it’s about time I started searching; and, as always, I started with the local newspaper.

My great-grandmother did not disappoint; like her aunt, she chronicled every part of her son’s service in the Dunkirk Evening Observer, providing updates for friends and family about his latest whereabouts when she could. On March 9, 1964, my grandfather–then a student at the State University of New York at Fredonia–enlisted in the United States Navy along with three other “area men,” including John Manzella, Louis Galofaro and Edward Begier. He was 20 years old at the time of his enlistment, and joining the Navy seemed like the obvious choice, as his father had enlisted in the Navy himself 20 years before.

Kuznicki, Thomas
Monday, August 23, 1965 // Dunkirk Evening Observer

The four area men left Dunkirk to attend basic recruit training at the Naval Station in Great Lakes, Illinois; by May 23, Gramps had completed training and was enrolled at Great Lakes’ electronic technician school. For 38 weeks, he studied the maintenance and repair of Naval electronic equipment, and he graduated in August 1965. Louis Galofaro–one of the men who enlisted with my grandfather–graduated from the same program that year; Louis was sent to Japan, while Gramps was stationed in the Philippines. Gramps doesn’t talk about the Vietnam War, but I know he worked as an electronics technician for a number of years; and the entire time, he and my grandmother kept in touch through letters.

According to the local newspaper, my grandfather was released from active duty in February 1968; he and my grandmother eloped in August of that year before marrying in front of their families and friends on October 12, 1968. The last article I have from this period is my mom’s birth announcement in Jamestown; I don’t know much about my grandfather’s Navy service during the Vietnam War, but it’s a start. And 50 years after my grandfather’s release from active duty–50 years after my grandparents were married and my mother was born–I finally have a few more pieces to the story. I’m so glad my great-grandmother shared every announcement in the newspaper. All the best–Jamie

11 thoughts on “Tracing My Grandfather’s Navy Service

  1. My husband hasn’t talked much about Vietnam either. I guess it’s time to go through our old letters. Our son has a friend who escaped from Vietnam. Three of them visited there a few years ago, including Nha Trang where my husband was stationed in the Air Force, but also remote places where Loc’s native language was especially useful.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s not surprising; for my grandfather, at least, I don’t think they are happy memories. I’m sure your son’s trip to Vietnam was incredible, and visiting the location where your husband was stationed? That would make an incredible impact as well–he’s lucky to have had the opportunity!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. He is! I just visited all of my extended family in Buffalo for Spring Break. It’s not something he’s willing to talk about, though—I realized I should stop asking years ago, when I was a kid. He talks about the letters from my grandmother, though!

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  2. You can contact the National Archives and find out about his tour in Vietnam. As a Vietnam Vet myself, I have also helped some other Vets get their decorations which were not given to them when they were discharged.
    On his DD-214, it will show if and what awards he has earned. If he is a Navy veteran, he probably served on a ship off the coast, there were some Navy. Crews that served in the “brown water” rivers in Vietnam.
    I hope this helps you!

    Liked by 1 person

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