In this episode Mack Payne, the podcaster, will be sharing a “feel good” story with the listeners about an upbeat Vietnam Veteran named Ted Durante from Cheyenne, Wyoming. Gayle M. Irwin wrote a story about Ted for The Casper Star Tribune titled: Chief Warrant Officer 4 Ted Durante, Cheyenne.
Ted served in Vietnam with the Navy Seabees. His time in country was a little unique in that he served a full twelve month tour all in the same calendar year. He got to Vietnam on the first of January of 1971 and his plane ride home on December 31 arrived at Oakland, California at the stroke of midnight just in time for the planeload of returnees to see a massive fireworks display as they landed.
As a result of his experience of working summer construction jobs during high school in Cheyenne, he decided to opt for the Navy Seabees when he joined the military to beat the draft. He had another ulterior motive in entering the military and that was to qualify for the G.I. Bill. You can tell from that Ted was person of wisdom beyond his years.
In Vietnam he was assigned to a small team of advisors and Seabees that was tasked with building housing for Vietnamese Naval personnel and their dependents. Ted came away from that assignment with a great deal of satisfaction and respect for the Vietnamese people. He put it this way: “The South Vietnamese people, sailors and their families are just like all the rest of us – they’re fathers, they’re brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles … they raise families just like we do.”
After his hitch in the Navy, Ted went to college then went back to working in construction where he put his knowledge of building as a Navy Seabee to work. He did that for eighteen years. In 1989 he became a civilian construction inspector and quality controller for the Department of Defense. He worked at F.E. Warren Air Force Base for 23 years. He stayed in the Naval Reserves after his active duty in Vietnam.
He retired in May 2012 but he still serves the military by volunteering with Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. He now serves as the state chair for the ESGR committee, and he helped plan the 2015 Wyoming Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans event.
Durante remains upbeat about his Vietnam experience. Hope you enjoy listening to his story on the podcast.