Staff Sergeant

Ernest Wayne Gajdosik
U. S. Army

September 24, 1945 - February 20, 1967
Roselawn Memorial Park
Van Vleck, Matagorda County, Texas


Gold Star Mother
Alice Lucille Hudler Gajdosik Adams Avery



School Years
Awards & Decorations

 


Courtesy of Robert Gajdosik



SSG ERNEST WAYNE GAJDOSIK

UNITED STATES ARMY

 

Ernie was born September 24, 1945 at Bay City, Matagorda County, Texas.  His parents were William "Bill" Vernice Gajdosik [December 24, 1902 – November 11, 1969] and Alice "Mutt" Lucille (Hudler) Gajdosik [July 30, 1917 – July 2, 1997] who were married on May 11, 1933 in Bay City, Matagorda County, Texas. William was a farmer, and in those early years the family lived near Wadsworth. Later, they moved near Pledger. 

 

The family included Mom and Dad, sister, Barbara Helen, who later married Ralph John Popek, and brother William Gene (died 1989).  Within a couple of years the family was blessed with another son, Robert Lee.

 

Due to the proximity of the Boling schools, the children attended school there.  As a Freshman at Boling High School, Ernie established himself as a strong football player.  In December 1961, he was selected as an All-District Linebacker by the coaches of District 26-AA. Ernie transferred from the Boling schools to Bay City High School in 1962 as a Sophomore, and graduated with the Class of 1964.  Prior to his graduation, in December 1963, he was awarded both the Bay City High School "Most Valuable Player" trophy, and the Carey Smith "Most Valuable Player" award for his excellence on the Bay City Black Cat football team.  He was also an all-district guard for the 1963 Black Cats.  In addition to his athletic awards, he was also State-FFA.   

 

On December 28, 1964, with war looming in Vietnam, he joined the United States Army at Bay City and attended Basic Training at Fort Polk, LA from January 4, 1965 to February 27, 1965.  He was assigned to 3rd BN, Co. N, 1st Training Brigade.

 

After completing his basic training at Fort Polk, Ernie then transferred to Fort Knox, KY for his Advanced Individual Training (AIT), and graduated with a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) of 11D40 – Armor Reconnaissance Specialist. 

 

Ernie was sent to Vietnam on June 10, 1966, and was assigned to A Troop, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry, 1st Infantry Division – The Big Red One, which had arrived in Vietnam in June 1965.  Army life was good to him, and it is obvious he liked the Army as seen by his rapid advancement in rank to Sergeant.  He was well liked by his fellow Troopers, and was nicknamed “Ski” due to the difficulty in pronouncing his Czech name.  On August 26, 1966 he was wounded in both arms during the Battle of Bong Trang. While recuperating from his injuries, he was assigned to the troop club and mailroom.

 

His military career was tragically cut short on the afternoon of February 20, 1967, when he was accidentally shot and instantly killed by a fellow Trooper who was unloading a mounted 50 caliber machine gun. 

 

Within the narrative of his posthumous Bronze Star Medal award you find an insight into his military life in Vietnam.  Quote:  “For participation in numerous operations as commander of an armored assault vehicle, which he directed into Viet Cong infested regions.  His unwavering dedication to mission caused Sergeant Gajdosik to repeatedly risk his life in successfully inflicting severe losses of personnel and equipment upon the Viet Cong.  During one encounter, Sergeant Gajdosik was painfully wounded, but refused medical attention and moved to assist more seriously wounded comrades while continuing to fire against the enemy force until it was routed.  The courage and personal initiative demonstrated by Sergeant Gajdosik were of immeasurable significance to the overwhelming victories his unit achieved against the Viet Cong.”

 

“Ski” was brought home, and on March 4, 1967 he was buried at Roselawn Memorial Park at Van Vleck, Texas, with military honors provided by the El Campo American Legion Post No. 251.  He was posthumously promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant. 

 

Ernest’s name is located on Panel 15E – Line 65 of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.
 


WOUNDED

 

WOUNDED IN ACTION - Word was received by Mr. and Mrs. Leslie Adams, Rt. 2, Bay City, that her son, Ernest Wayne Gajdosik had been wounded in both arms during action in Viet Nam on August 25. Mr. and Mrs. Adams were able to talk with Gajdosik last night by radiophone, but no details of his injuries were available. He is a member of the First Squadron, Fourth Cavalry, First Infantry Division.

 

Paper and date unknown
Courtesy of Robert Gajdosik

 


Excerpts From a Letter Ernie Sent To His Sister Barbara

 

                           16 Dec 1966

 

Dear Sis & family

 

....      Glad to hear you are having beautiful weather.  Here it is always hot and sometimes it rains.  Over here your never clean and it is so hot you sweat and can’t sleep nights.  It’s awful.  I’ll be glad to get home so I can get a good clean bath. Oh boy!

 

....      My arms are great.  They are not stiff.  I can use them just as good as before.  No I don’t go out on patrols.  They have me running the troop club and mail room.  I don’t have to go out no more.  The day I got hurt there was about 9 boys wounded and 2 killed in my platoon.  In the whole battle we lost quite a few boys.  Not from my unit though.

 

....      Well I don’t have much to say except God bless & take care.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Tell the kids I said hello.

 

Love
     Ernie


Courtesy of Barbara Gajdosik Popek
 


Sgt. Ernie Gajdosik Killed in Viet Nam War

 By Bud Chambers Tribune Managing Editor

Army Sergeant Ernest Wayne "Ernie" Gajdosik, 21, became Bay City and Matagorda County's third Viet Nam war death this week. The former Bay City football star was killed Feb. 20. The mother of the outstanding young soldier, Mrs. Leslie V. Adams of the West Columbia Highway in Bay City, was notified of her son's death Wednesday evening by an Army representative. The veteran of combat in Viet Nam since June, 1966, Gajdosik held two purple hearts for wounds suffered while in action against the Viet Cong. The preliminary report of Ernie's death, however, was that the fatal occurrence did not take place in combat. Rather, it involved the accidental discharge of a weapon while an Army convoy was in motion. Gajdosik, a member of the 1st squad of the 4th Cavalry in the 1st Infantry Division of the U. S. Army, was a 1964 graduate of Bay City High School. He was awarded the Most Valuable Player trophy his senior year at BCHS for his outstanding play and leadership on the Black Cat football team. Ernie was an all-district guard for the 1963 Black Cats. The Bay City man joined the U. S. Army not long after his 1964 graduation and had risen to the rank of sergeant at the time of his death. Ernie's father, W. V. Gajdosik, resides in Pledger. Both previous Matagorda County deaths in Viet Nam occurred during the second half of 1965 when the active involvement of U. S. ground troops in the war went into high gear. Pfc. Johnny Winfrey was the first Bay City combat fatality in Viet Nam in Sept., 1965, and Pfc. Joseph R. Hilliard, also of Bay City, was killed Nov. 17, 1965. Now, just slightly over 15 months later, the name of Ernest Gajdosik once again brings the daily tragedy of the Viet Nam [war] near to home. At press time today, no details were available on funeral arrangements or when Gajdosik's body will arrive from Viet Nam.

The Daily Tribune, February 23, 1967
 


A Viet Nam Letter

Not long ago, Army Sgt. Ernest Gajdosik wrote a letter to his church, the First Christian Church of Bay City, thanking the membership for a card sent him in Viet Nam. Ernest Gajdosik's life was taken away in Viet Nam on Feb. 20, and it somehow seems fitting to share with the world his own words concerning that conflict before he died in the service of his country:

A LETTER FROM VIET NAM

Members of First Christian Church:
I want to express my gratitude and appreciation for the card you sent me. I was very glad to know that there are people back home who still think about the boys over here in Vietnam. It takes away the loneliness and shows the troops more about what they are fighting for. The people back home don't realize the hardships the people over here live in. I didn't realize it until I went to one of the many villages that is terrorized by the Vietcong. It is a horrible sight! The Communist aggression is horrible itself. I guess I let myself run away with the thought of the Viet Cong. I pray that everyone is in good health. I pray also that everyone knows the good life you have in the United States. May God bless you and keep you well.

Sincerely, Ernest Gajdosik Sgt. US Army

The Daily Tribune, March 3, 1967
 


Ernie Gajdosik Rites Saturday

Funeral services for Staff Sergeant Ernest Wayne Gajdosik, who was killed Feb. 20 in Viet Nam will be 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the First Christian Church. Interment will follow at Roselawn Memorial Park [Van Vleck, Matagorda County, Texas] with full military honors. Rev. Don Larick will officiate for the services. The 21-year-old lifelong resident of Matagorda County is survived by his father, W. V. Gajdosik of Pledger; his mother, Mrs. Leslie Adams of Bay City; sister, Mrs. Barbara Helen Popek of Bay City and two brothers, William Gajdosik of Bay City. Services are under the direction of Taylor Brothers Funeral Home.


The Daily Tribune
, March 3, 1967
 


A Personal Reminiscence From a Fellow Trooper

 

November 21, 2001

 

To: Kenneth Thames, Post Historian

 

I will attempt to tell you what I remember about Sgt Gajdosik’s death; but please remember that memories grow dim over the decades.  I was just another (19 yoa) PFC at the time assigned to 1st Platoon, Troop a, 1/4 Cav.

 

I remember Sgt Ski (the nickname we all called him) being promoted from E-4 to Sgt E-5 while in Vietnam; if he were promoted to SSGT, E-6, it occurred posthumously.  He was assigned as a member of Troop A, 1/4 Cav, not just “attached” to it.  His collar branch insignia would be the crossed cavalry sabers.  No CIB, no blue infantry cord.

 

Sgt Gajdosik died on February 20, 1967 when a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on an M-113 ACAV discharged inadvertently while being cleared by another soldier.  Troop A had been on road security duty and pulled into a RON* position in the afternoon.  I know that we were in the field and had been for some time before he died.  Like many other members of Troop A, I was busy with my own vehicle when we pulled into the RON but remember the sound of the round being discharged (a .50 caliber round has a distinct sound and a single shot was very unusual at that time) and then a lot of commotion.  In the immediate aftermath of his death, the “rumor” was that the gun that discharged was on the medics track and that a medic unfamiliar with the weapon had improperly tried to clear the “50" when they entered the RON.  The rumor also was that an investigation was going to be conducted into his death.  Sgt Ski was not killed by his own weapon and as I remember it, certainly not while vehicle was moving. The round not only killed Sgt Ski, it seriously injured another person (a leg amputation, I think) who I vaguely remember being a Lt., but am not sure after 34 plus years.

 

The Vietnam Memorial Wall site describes his death as “Non-hostile, Ground Casualty, Accidental Homicide.”  I guess that’s the way it remains.

 

Boyd Johnson

*Remain Over Night

 


ERNIE'S MOTHER RECEIVES BRONZE STAR

Mrs. Leslie W. Adams is shown holding the Bronze Star presented posthumously to her son, Army Staff Sergeant E-6 Ernest W. Gajdosik. Mrs. Adams received the medal for Ernie's gallantry in action at a presentation at the U.S. Army National Guard headquarters in El Campo Sunday. The former star Black Cat footballer and all-around outstanding young man was cited

"for participation in numerous operations as commander of an armored assault vehicle which he directed into Viet Cong infested regions. His unwavering dedication to mission caused Sergeant Gajdosik to repeatedly risk his life in successfully inflicting severe loses of personnel and equipment upon the Viet Cong. During one encounter, Sergeant Gajdosik was painfully wounded, but refused medical attention and moved to assist more seriously wounded comrades while continuing to fire against the enemy force force until it was routed. The courage and personal initiative demonstrated by Sergeant Gajdosik were of immeasurable significance to the overwhelming victories his unit achieved against the Viet Cong."

Mrs. Adams also has received a resolution of tribute to Sergeant Gajdosik from the Texas House of Representatives. A rising vote of the House was taken on March 16 upon the motion of Rep. Otha Birkner of Matagorda County.

The Daily Tribune, March, 1967
 

A posthumous Bronze Star Medal with a V (Valor) was presented for Staff Sergeant Ernest W. Gajdosik who was killed in Viet Nam in February. His mother, Mrs. Alice L. Adams of Bay City, is shown receiving the medal from Lt. Col. Garrett as she stands beside the battalion adjutant, Captain Mickey Dominy.

The El Campo Leader-News, Wednesday,
May 24, 1967
Mark Wenglar Photo



Avery

Alice Lucille Adams Avery, 79, of Bay City, died July 2, 1997 at Matagorda General Hospital in Bay City.

She was born July 30, 1917 in Bay City to the late Lee Ander and Maggie Ann Ryan Hudler. She was a life long resident of Bay City, a member of the First Christian Church, and a life member of the Ladies Auxiliary of VFW Post #2438. She was also one of the last surviving Life Time Goldstar Mothers of Matagorda Co.

Survivors include husband Bill Avery of Bay City; daughter Barbara Helen Popek of Van Vleck; son Robert Lee Gajdosik of Bastrop; sister Minnie Ann Kana of Bay City, six grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held 10 a.m. Saturday, July 5, 1997, at Taylor Bros. Funeral Home Chapel with Ken Flannery officiating. Interment will be at Roselawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Van Vleck.

Pallbearers will be David Popek, William Popek, Vincent Popek, Dale Withrow, Bill Cordes and Ed Miller.

Honorary Pallbearers will be Dylan Cole Byrns and Michael Manna.

Arrangements with Taylor Bros. Funeral Home.

The Daily Tribune, July 3, 1997
 

 

GAJDOSIK

 

Graveside funeral service for William Vernice Gajdosik, 66, of Pledger will be held at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, November 13, 1969 at Roselawn Memorial Park, Van Vleck, Texas.

 

Mr. Gajdosik was born December 24, 1902 at Needville, Texas to the late Joseph and Mary Kulcak Gajdosik and died at his home near Pledger on November 11, 1969.  He was a farmer, and had been a resident of Matagorda County for many years.

 

Survivors include:  daughter, Barbara Helen Popek and husband Ralph J. of Bay City; sons, William Gene and Robert Lee Gajdosik of Bay City.  He was preceded in death by his son Ernest Wayne Gajdosik, who was killed accidentally in Vietnam on February 20, 1967.

 

Arrangements are with Garmany & Company Funeral Home, Rosenberg, Texas

 

*November 13, 1969

 

* No obituary was published.  This obituary constructed from available local records.


 

Family pictures courtesy of Barbara Popek.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial rubbing courtesy of Anette Uher.

School Years                         Awards & Decorations

 

Copyright 2006 - Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
All rights reserved

Created
Feb. 5, 2006
Updated
Jun. 12, 2009
   

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