By John Montesano –
The Fox Valley Veterans Breakfast Club has named Tom Mlynek the October Veteran of the Month.
He was born April 24, 1947 in Chicago. He grew up in McKinley Park, was graduated from Holy Trinity High School, and earned an associates degree at Wright Junior College.
In early 1967, Mlynek went into the Navy Reserve and went active in July 1967. He was assigned to the USS Herbert J. Thomas DD833, as a seaman and port watch, during battle stations. He was in the Tin Can Navy (served on a destroyer).
He was involved in the Cold War and the Vietnam War. The “Thomas” took him to North Korea, the Sea of Japan, the Sea of China; offshore South and North Vietnam and on the Saigon River. The “Thomas” provided many forms of support: Plane guarding, by staying with the carriers recovering pilots who had crashed into the sea, while protecting them from any subs in the area; guarding the waters of South Vietnam and North Vietnam for enemy boats, ships or suicide planes; and providing fire support to U.S. Army.
When the USS Pueblo was attacked and captured by North Korean forces in January 1968, the USS Enterprise task force left Hawaii for North Korea. Tom’s ship was part of the anti-submarine warfare Yorktown task force that went to scare off any Russian submarines that were shadowing the Enterprise task force or any destroyers shadowing the Yorktown task force.
The most intense period for his service was when The “Thomas” conducted harassment and interdiction gun fire missions off US Army II and III Corps areas of responsibility in April/May 1968, as part of the Vietnamese counter-offensive after Tet, which targeted enemy concentrations onshore. During 26 days, the “Thomas” conducted 48 of these missions firing more than 4,200 rounds, mostly antiaircraft common projectiles. She conducted patrols off Taiwan in June before sailing home in July, by way of Sasebo, Japan.
Tom’s active duty ended in November 1968 and he returned to Chicago. He was honorably discharged as a radioman third class in 1972 from the Navy Reserves. In his words: The Navy was an adventure. He got to see the world: Hawaii, Japan, Philippines, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
He worked for Shell Oil in Production Control, 1969-1972, and worked For Harris Bank, 1972-2009. He worked with computers the entire time.
Tom met his wife, Janet, in 1976. They were married in September 1978 and moved to LaGrange Park. In 1990, they moved to Countryside and in 2010 to Plainfield. They have two daughters and three grandchildren. Janet, a wife, mother, and grandmother died in 2016.
He is active in his Plainfield American Legion Post 13 as a service officer; a member of the The Forty and Eight, a charitable and non-profit veterans organization; and treasurer of the Will County Veterans Assistance Commission.
Although he still suffers the effects of his time in the Navy, he is proud of his service and continues his service to his fellow veterans and community.