By Ryan Berry
GREENVILLE — In recent years, March 29 has been recognized as Vietnam War Veterans Day. Why this date? On that date in 1973, the last combat troop left Vietnam. Many of those that went over did not come back the same way they arrived in that country and many others did not come back at all. One of those that lost their life while serving in the U.S. Army during Vietnam was 1st Lt. Gerald Greendyke. He will be recognized in June with the renaming of a portion of State Route 49 as the 1st Lt. Gerald Greendyke Memorial Highway.
Greendyke will be honored near where he is buried at Abbottsville Cemetery. The portion of the state route from Heritage Road to Arcanum Bears Mill Road will be dedicated in his honor. According to Debbie Nisonger, Fort GreeneVille DAR, a request was submitted to State Senate President Matt Huffman on Sept. 17, 2022, and both chambers of Ohio’s legislative bodies approved the request in December. Governor DeWine put his seal of approval on House Bill 578 on Jan. 5.
Gerald’s (Gerald) brother, John Greendyke, recently recalled his brother’s life, time in service and the day he lost his life.
Gerald graduated from Greenville High School in 1960 and excelled in sports. So much so, that he went to the University of Miami on a football scholarship. However, he left college before he graduated and joined the U.S. Army.
John remembers Gerald going to Iran to serve. Although no longer a friendly nation to the United States, in the early 1960s the countries got along much better when the Shah reigned. John said Gerald was an MP, but later learned he did much more than most military police do. He was on the Middle Eastern All Star Basketball Team which was a front to allow those on the team to spy on the Russians. Gerald served in Iran for two years or more. His son, Gavin, was born in Iran.
After leaving Iran, Gerald went back to Miami, but left again to go to the U.S. Army Officer Training School. While Gerald was going through OTS, John made a decision to become a Marine. Gerald called John and asked him to come and visit. John recalled it was an effort to get him to change his mind about being a Marine. The visit lasted three days. Little did John know at the time, but that would be the last time he would see his brother. That was in 1966.
On Feb. 3, 1968, during the Tet Offensive, Gerald was out on patrol when another patrol came under heavy fire. Gerald’s patrol went to help, but their position was overrun. “They were outnumbered. I couldn’t tell you how bad the numbers were. They were severely outnumbered,” said John.
Gerald left behind a wife, Patricia “Trish” and two children, Tracy and Gavin.
John said he volunteered to go to Vietnam so his brother wouldn’t have to go because he had a wife and two kids. “Unannounced to me, he volunteered to go so I wouldn’t have to go. So, we both screwed ourselves.”
Although John has not talked with any of Gerald’s fellow soldiers, he said his niece heard from someone that had the last known recording of her father’s voice. It was when they were under heavy fire and because his radio man had been shot, Gerald was calling in airstrikes and giving his unit’s position. Tracy was asked if she wanted a copy but declined.
John was only a week away from seeing his brother. They had plans to meet in-country on R&R, but instead, John said his commander called him to talk with him. The commander said he had bad news. John thought it was that John was going to lead his unit into battle, instead he said, “Your brother’s dead.” He was told a helicopter would be there in 15 minutes. His orders would get him home.
“When I came home, nobody knew he was dead, but me,” said John. “They thought he was Missing in Action. That was how they had to report it because they didn’t have his body, or it hadn’t been processed through. There were so many things going on death wise and they were backed up. When I got home, I got the lovely pleasure of telling them all of that. It was probably another two months before they got his body home. I think we buried him in late April or early May or maybe later than that.”
Gerald’s wife passed away approximately 20 years ago. “She never quite got over that whole mess,” he said.
With the renaming of the highway, John feels a lot of pride. He said this is something that he has wanted to do for the last four years. “I just wanted everybody to know that didn’t already know.” Nisonger added that she grew up with Gerald’s daughter and didn’t know the story.
To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected]