By John Freiberger III

Photos By Joe Kochanski

Frank Gundaker made ‘Nam homier

Have you ever seen Vietnam veterans greet each other with words "welcome home" and wondered about the birth of that ritual? I’ll bet it started with Frank J. Gundaker.

My detachment was the last of the Army’s 10th Aviation Battalion to leave the mountain jungles of Dak To. The rest of the 48th Assault Helicopter Company crossed the central highlands and set up camp between the rice paddies and fishing villages of Tuy Hoa. On our arrival, Frank made sure he was at the camp’s entrance. As each of us filed by, he called out our names and welcomed us home. No one had a chance to return his greeting. Days later he lay dead in the sand next to the South China Sea. His chopper crashed, killing all on board. The date was August 1, 1966.

Frank was admirable because he recognized us as part of his extended family. In short, someone very close cared about our survival. It’s gratifying that his spirit lives on when vets come together to welcome each other home.


Major Frank Gunkader at home before leaving for Vietnam

Frank's grave at Arlington National Cemetery, Section 35, Grave 4709

Maj_Gundaker.jpg (32852 bytes) Frank's_Grave.jpg (104640 bytes)


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