Julian Joseph Szewczyk, Marine, 71, died 29 March 2019 to service-connected injuries from the poisoned air of Vietnam and the poisoned water of Camp Lejeune.
Julian came to the United States as a child after being born in a war camp in Germany after his parents were forcefully relocated from Poland by the German Nazi Regime. Julian became a naturalized citizen of the United States so he could join the US Marine Corps.
He served with honor as part of the 1st Battalion 3rd Marine as a Grunt during the Vietnam war including Operations Kentucky and Lancaster II and the Tet Offensive earning a Bronze Star for acts of combat valor including securing enemy plans and rescuing POWs at great personal injury to himself, he declined the Purple Hearts. After his extended tour and having ‘only 1 hot shower and 1 hot meal in 13 months’, he came back to an unwelcoming country. It was difficult to find work as a Vietnam vet and Julian held a number of part time jobs until given a chance by Duane and Joyce at Dairyman’s Country Club in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin, where he worked until the age of retirement.
Julian was a proud member of the US Armed forces having served in the Marine Corps, Navy Reserves, Army Reserves, and the Army National Guard. He retired from the military after reaching over 23 years in the service and the rank of Chief, which wasn’t bad for a ‘dumb Grunt’ (his words).
Julian fought for rights for his fellow vets and himself. He retired to Tomah, Wisconsin, where he spent his time working with vets at the gym who needed help—both physical and emotional help. He credited his own emotional betterment to the vets he helped as only a combat vet can truly understand a combat vet.
Julian loved the outdoors in any season, he loved riding his Harley, and he loved visiting his son, Jo, and daughter in law, Stephanie, in Canada. He would often discuss the planning of the trips with his friends and would ‘talk nothing but the fun and when he could go back’. He enjoyed the Canadian outdoors and the trips he would take with Steph’s dad. His dream was to move to Canada to be with his family full time.
Julian passed away at the Madison VA Hospital as a result of his service-connected injuries. He said that the care in the VA Hospital in Madison was the best care he had ever received. He passed away after a day of goodbyes to his friends and family on the phone including his brothers Stan and Ted, his friends John, Becky, and Ray; he sent a special message to Steph.
He died after sharing the first and last beer with his only child, Jo, who smuggled the beer into the ICU at his father’s request. His last words were that he loved everyone, told his son not to work himself to death (‘money isn’t everything’) and to take care of Steph, his daughter in law, (‘don’t be scared to understand each other’) and that he wished for only one thing his entire life—to be happy—which is what he leaves as a request to his friends and family. To love everyone and be happy.
His remains will be placed at Arlington National Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers or cards, please donate to a local grass-roots Vets organization. A university scholarship is set up in Julian’s name.
If you are able, save for them a place inside of you and save one backward glance when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go.
Be not ashamed to say you loved them, though you may or may not have always. Take what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own.
And in that time when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane, take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind.
Major Michael Davis O’Donnell
1 January 1970
Dak To, Vietnam
Listed as KIA February 7, 1978