• highlands
  • Monmouth
  • February 01, 1948
  • March 22, 1968
  • Army
  • RANK:
  • SP4
  • KIA
  • South Vietnam


Thomas John Ptak was born on February 1, 1948, the second son of Geraldine & Ben Ptak.  His home of record is Highlands, NJ.  He was part of a family of eleven - 4 brothers and 6 sisters, William, Thomas, Karen, Greg, Eileen, Andrew, Maryann, Joan, Anne, Peggy, and Peter.  His home of record is Highlands, NJ.

Tommy was baptized and attended eight years of grammar school at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church.  He joined Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Little League.  He also tried guitar lessons for a short time.

He liked swimming in the Shrewsbury River where he learned under the Highland Bridge.  We had a 12-foot runabout and before he mastered the racing motor he ran over men's fishing lines at the T-Dock which gave us all a laugh.  It wasn't a laughing matter to the men.  He also took a dare to ride his bike off the T-Dock for a dollar.  The boys cheered and off he rode!  For spending money he had a paper route for 4 years.

Tommy attended Red Bank Catholic High School for 2 years.  During the summer, he worked for Mr. Seigal at the State Park.  In Red Bank Catholic, he was into wrestling and also in the "Music Man" his freshman year.  Junior and senior years he transferred to Henry Hudson High School where he made a lot of nice friendships.

He wanted to travel and see the world so off he went on his motorcycle to California.  He stopped in Indiana to visit his older brother, Billy at college in Bloomington.  From Nam Tommy wrote that Billy made the best decision for education rather than sleeping in rice paddies with the sky as your roof.

Rather than wait to be drafted, Tommy enlisted in the US Army so he could choose the branch he wanted (paratroopers).  He left for Ft. Dix then on to Ft. Benning and jump school.  He attained the rank of Specialist 4 (SP4).  He came home on leave in December 1967, as they were leaving for Vietnam.  His family received letters from him in Nam and he said how lucky we were as kids to be raised in the US.  He was kept busy patrolling outside Hue.  He took many slides of the mountainside and sea as he said they were beautiful.  Always asked us to keep prayers rolling and if we had time he'd like cookies.

Tommy was killed in the Tet Offensive on March 22, 1968, one month after his 20th birthday.

Highlands honored him with a plaque at Henry Hudson High School, a playground at Highlands Grammar School, and a plaque at the Senior Citizen Complex, as he was the only one from town killed in Nam.

Ptak was awarded the Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Medal, as well as the Vietnam Service and Campaign Medals.

Information provided by Geraldine Ptak (mother) and NJVVMF.


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