EMERY G MIKULA - 1LT
- jersey city
- DATE OF BIRTH:
- March 20, 1942
- DATE OF CASUALTY:
- October 13, 1966
- BRANCH OF SERVICE:
- South Vietnam
Emery George Mikula was born on March 20, 1942, in the Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital in Jersey City. He was the first born to George and Ann Mikula. His father was born in Pennsylvania and his mother in California. Emery's grandparents were of Czechoslovakian descent.
Emery was baptized at St. Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church in Jersey City. He continued to practice and learn his faith while attending Our Lady of Sorrows Grammar School, St. Peter's Prep High School and St. Peter's College.
At the age of nine, Emery's parents brought him home a gift he may not have asked for, a baby sister. He held her, and for the next fifteen years, he would protect her, guide her and love her, and she would be his biggest fan.
As a young boy, Emery enjoyed his Lionel trains and often played with wooden clothespins that became a strong army of soldiers through his eyes.
Emery had great admiration for an uncle, who was a paratrooper, and a survivor of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This may have planted the seed of one day being airborne.
After graduating from Our Lady of Sorrows, he continued his education at St. Peter's Prep, where he was an excellent student. His interests were eclectic, from stamp collecting to Mad Magazine, and from stickball to CYO dances. He truly enjoyed life, always seeing the glass half full.
Emery graduated from St. Peter's Prep in 1960, and continued on to St. Peter's College. His studies in mathematics and economics led to a B.S. in economics. He continued to study German, having an interest in the language, which he began learning in high school.
A proud member of the Pershing Rifles Trick Drill Team, Emery enjoyed the camaraderie among the PR's, always referring to them as his brothers. The ROTC also played a major role in Emery's life. He was a member for four years and recognized as a distinguished military student.
In 1962, Emery's father suffered a stroke, at the age of 48, leaving him paralyzed for the next 20 years. This put a great strain on Emery. He had increased responsibilities to his family and less finances to help him through college, but no one in the outside world would ever sense his pain.
Emery's strength in all situations came from his faith and his sense of humor. He always attended mass, but when asked what he was giving up for Lent, he'd always reply: "kumquats and Worcestershire sauce", anticipating the laugh he would always receive. He had great compassion and a gift for making everyone in the room feel comfortable.
After graduating from St. Peter's College in 1964, he was stationed in Germany for one year, where his knowledge of the German language found its place. He returned home from Germany, before his tour in Vietnam, which began May 1966.
While serving in Vietnam as a First Lieutenant (1LT), he sent many letters home with no complaints, and only one request. He wanted his mom to put a stuffed pepper in an envelope and mail it to him; he missed her cooking.
Before Emery's tour in Vietnam ended, he put in for another year. In the short period of time he was there, he led a three man civil action team, including an Army doctor from Pheue Lei to Lo Gam, to save a wounded Vietnamese mother of two, despite warnings that heavy Viet Cong gunfire infested the road between the two villages.
On October 13, 1966, Emery's tour tragically ended. He was in a jeep as it drove over a claymore mine. He was killed instantly at the age of 24.
When a soldier arrived at Emery's house to bring his family the tragic news, his mother was initially happy to see the young man, believing it was one of her son's many friends. But his stoic expression gave her the message she never wanted to hear.
Emery returned home one last time to be laid to rest in Holy Cross Cemetery, in North Arlington, NJ. He was awarded the Gallantry Cross with Palm, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and National Order Medal Fifth Class.
Emery was the first St. Peter's alumnus to lose his life in Vietnam. Twenty years after his death, an ROTC Cadet Battalion was named in his honor, the Mikula Battalion.
Mikula's Bronze Star citation reads:
For distinguishing himself by outstanding meritorious service in connection with ground operations against a hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam during the period 28 April 1966 to 13 October 1966.
Through his untiring efforts and professional ability, he consistently obtained outstanding results. He was quick to grasp the implications of new problems with which he was faced as a result of the ever-changing situations inherent in a counterinsurgency operation and to find ways and means to solve those problems. The energetic application of his extensive knowledge has materially contributed to the efforts of the United States Mission to the Republic of Vietnam to assist that country in ridding itself of the communist threat to its freedom. His initiative, zeal, sound judgment and devotion to duty have been in the highest tradition of the United States Army and reflect great credit on him and on the military service.
Sources: Leona Cutone (sister) and NJVVMF.
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