Veteran Spotlight

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By REBECCA BRITTINGHAM

Eddie Vilcek, USMC veteran, 1943-1946

Eddie Vincek, an 88-year old World War II veteran, leaned across the couch in his quaint Chesapeake home of 66 years. He sat back and sunk into the cushion. “I still remember when that road there didn’t have any lights,” he laughed.  He crossed his legs and took a look around the room.

The laughter was silenced as Vincek paused, recalling memories of his military experience.

It was May 1943; America is already engaged in World War II when the government issued a military draft for those between 18-21 years old.  “I was going to be drafted into the war,” he explained clasping his hands, “I didn’t want to join the Navy, so, I joined the Marine Corps” he chuckled as a smile stretched across his face.

Vincek’s military journey began at the naval airbase in Norfolk, Va., followed by a season at Camp Lejeune. He was then transferred to Oceanside, Calif. where he helped prepare the ships for a Japanese invasion.

Vincek paused for a moment and scratched his head, “I was a country boy and never been anywhere. Traveling the world was a new experience.” The notion of traveling and seeing new places excited this farm boy. Vicek grew up in New York helping his father on their dairy farm by day and working with General Electric at night. Becoming a Marine and traveling the world had never occurred to him until war broke out.

The novelty of traveling soon changed for Vincek as he boarded his ship LST 634 (Landing Ship Tank) bound for Japan. For 42 days the Marines voyaged across the ocean unsure of whether they would survive. Every day Japanese submarines circled the convoy harassing and threatening them. While the Japanese never fired on the ships, the constant threat of attack kept them on edge.

“Oh, yes, I was afraid” Vincek spoke softly. “I thought…I thought that we were never goin’ to get there.”

February 19, 1945, the Marines invaded Iwo Jima, Japan. As Vincek walked off the ship his heart grieved. “Working on a dairy farm,” he explained, “I was used to seeing animal blood, but not human blood spilt over the ground.” As he walked ashore for the first time and saw sailors soaked in puddles of blood, Vincek realized the horror of war and the dangers that threatened his very life.

For the next several days death, gunshots and agonizing screams filled the air. More than 6,000 Marines died during that invasion.

Vincek shook his head gently. He stared out the window as if reliving those three years of combat.

“I was one of the few that walked off carrying my own gear.” Vincek flinched and further explained. “So many soldiers had been killed or wounded and weren’t able to carry their own gear off the island.”

Eddie Vincek is a true military hero who served this country from 1943-1946. He resides here in Chesapeake, Va. with Mary, his wife of 66 years, their three children and three grandchildren. Vincek says that his experience in the military completely changed his life.

“Being in combat, seeing all these people killed, it was opening up my mind and vision to what can happen. You see a picture of people who died in combat, but you never understand it until you see it for real. It changes your outlook on life,” Vincek explains.

Today, Vincek is an active member of the Grassfield Ruritan Club on Shillelagh Road in Chesapeake.  He has been a member since 1956 and is the only charter member still alive. As a Ruritan he takes great pride in helping organize events to help improve the community and enhance the well-being of widows and students.  The club also organizes fundraisers to provide scholarships for high school students, with the understanding that they will go to college.

In addition, since 1988, Vincek and his wife have been actively involved with the Meals on Wheels ministry.  Every month, they pick up the meals from Chesapeake General Hospital and deliver them to homes in Chesapeake from Great Bridge down to Centerville Turnpike. Vincek says that it has been a very special and rewarding experience. “Sometimes, we are the only people they see all day long. Isn’t that something?”

Vincek’s sphere of influence does not end there. He and his wife are also very actively involved in their church, St. Mary’s Catholic Church.  His wife has been a member since childhood, and he has been a member since 1950. Not only do Vincek and Mary assist with community bazaars and suppers, they are a part of their church ministry that collects clothes for families in need.

After serving in the military for several years, Vincek holds the belief that every young man should serve some time in the military. Vincek placed his elbow on the armrest and said, “The military changed my life. It gave me a different perspective on life, but I hope that we never live through another war like that one.”

Eddie Vincek – The Citizen of Chesapeake salutes you and thanks you for your service to our nation.

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We want to spotlight your veteran.  Email your nomination to Info@TheCitizenOfChesapeake.com

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