Joseph D. Duelk, Jr.,was born in a New York neighborhood known as the South Bronx, April 25, 1947. Joe was the first born child in a family of six children, and the only male. He had five sisters, Virginia, Mary, Loretta, Ruth and Nancy.
His Dad, Joe Sr., was a longtime resident of the South Bronx and was employed by New York City Transit Authority at the bus garage on West Farms Road. Joe’s Mom, the late Helen Duelk, nee Mullen, was the Town Supervisor for the Town of Blooming Grove. She was of Irish stock by way of Galway (grandparents) and was very proud of her Irish heritage. Joe Sr., also claims Irish background with a slight sprinkling of German.
Young Joe grew up in the South Bronx, an area claimed to be the 33rd County of Ireland. The majority of families during the 40s and 50s were either Irish born or first generation Irish Americans, so from his beginning he was exposed to the Irish culture.
As a young child, Joe attended St. Angela Merici and Immaculate Conception grammar schools. His high school education wove its way through St. Simon Stock and Cardinal Hayes High schools. However, because the family migrated to Orange County, (Blooming Grove), Joe completed his High School education at Washingtonville High School, and graduated. Following graduation, Joe was employed by the A&P in Monroe.
When young Joe was in his twentieth year, (1967), the United States had been involved in a conflict in Vietnam for almost five years. Media reports regarding casualties were none too encouraging. The youth of America were been drafted, trained and shipped out to “Nam” continuously. There were those who refused to serve and they ran away to Canada. Others burned their draft cards, demonstrated against the Democratic government in Washington, and to add insult to injury, scorned the returning veterans from the war zone.
Joseph D. Duelk, Jr., was not one of the aforementioned. His country asked and young Joe said yes. On September 25, 1967, Joe Duelk, Jr., enlisted in the United States Army and following his training was shipped out.. He landed in Vietnam, April 14, 1968 and was assigned to the 1st Cavalry in Hue. The Tet offensive was ongoing and Hue was a hotbed of activity. In addition to Viet Cong, North Vietnam regulars were also present.
Search and destroy missions conducted by the Army dictated the following procedures: to seek, engage and destroy the enemy. A simple task, or so it may appear. However, the enemy knew the terrain, they had ample time to prepare defenses and establish their booby traps, a foot soldiers nightmare.
It was on one such operation that Joe Duelk Jr., made the supreme sacrifice. Only two months “in country” Private First Class Joseph D. Duelk, Jr., was killed in action in Hue, Quang Tri Province, Republic of South Vietnam, June 14, 1968.
For his heroism in action, Joe was awarded the Bronze Star posthumously.
His citation read...................
Citation, By Direction of the President
The Bronze Star Medal (With V Device) is presented posthumously to Private 1st Class Joseph D. Duelk, Jr.
For heroism not involving participation in aerial flight, in connection with military operations against a hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, Private First Class Duelk distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous action on 14 June 1968, while serving as team leader with Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Regiment, 1st Calvary, during a search and destroy mission in Quang Tri Province, Republic of Vietnam. When his unit became heavily engaged with a large enemy force, Private First Class Duelk exposed himself to the hostile fire as he moved to a forward fighting position in order to place effective suppressive fire against the insurgents’ positions.
At this time, Private First Class Duelk triggered an enemy booby trap and was mortally wounded. His display of personal bravery and devotion to duty was in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
Vietnam Memorial, Washington D.C
Joseph D. Duelk, Jr. 57W - Line No17
Full Name: Joseph David Duelk JR
Hometown: Monroe, NY
Marital Status: Single
Rank: Private First Class / E3
Regiment: 5th Cavalry
Casualty Date: 14-Jun-68