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Thomas Stolarczyk

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Main Source: (A. Bauer Personal Communication [interview], May 15, 2018)

Thomas Stolarczyk
Born(1949-03-26)26 March 1949
Ashland, Wisconsin, U.S.
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army USAMPC-Regimental-Insignia.png Military Police Corps
Years of service1971-1993
RankArmy-USA-OR-07.svg Sergeant First Class
Battles/warsVietnam War
Other workAmerican Legion

Thomas Stolarczyk (born March 26, 1949) is a veteran of the U.S. Army and served as a military police officer from 1971-1993. He grew up in Ashland, Wisconsin, and followed his family’s tradition of military service by enlisting in the Army in 1971. He was first assigned as a military prison guard in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. After this, Stolarczyk served in various military bases in many foreign countries, as well as around the United States. After Stolarczyk exited the military, he began work as a civilian deputy for a police force, and he joined various veterans' organizations.

Early Life[edit | edit source]

Thomas Stolarczyk was born on March 26th, 1949, in Ashland, Wisconsin. He was born into a farm family, where he was the youngest of six siblings. As a child he also had a dog by the name of Lassie. Stolarczyk lived with his mother, who had Parkinson’s disease, as his parents were divorced. In high school Stolarczyk played several sports, including football, basketball, and track. After graduating, Stolarczyk attended a junior college to receive two two-year degrees in teaching and mechanics. Since his five older siblings had all previously served in the army and had enjoyed their time serving, Stolarczyk decided to enlist before he was drafted..[1] His mother had passed away a year prior to his enlistment, and his father passed away five months after his enlistment, but Stolarczyk knew that his family would have been supportive of his decision to enlist due to his siblings’ experiences in the army.

Military Career[edit | edit source]

Enlistment/Bootcamp[edit | edit source]

Upon arriving at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri in 1971 with only a duffel bag in hand, Stolarczyk was faced with harsh Drill Instructors (DIs), who were focused on intimidating recruits. However, if Stolarczyk and his fellow recruits followed orders, the DIs would not yield any harsh repercussions. Basic training included courses such as infantry, artillery, engineering, and other specializations, including firing a gun[2][3]

By the time that Stolarczyk finished bootcamp, he had experience with M16 rifles and M45s. M45s had such poor aim that one could barely shoot in the right direction. On top of the rigor of daily training, Stolarczyk aimed to become a road guard, or a recruit who stops traffic while the Drill Instructor marches the rest of the recruits forward, due to his wish to lose weight. Other recruits were slightly heavier, however, and were sometimes granted that responsibility. More technically speaking, the fast-paced nature of the military training experience did not allow for long mealtimes, so the meals that consisted of foods such as burgers and potatoes were palatable. After eight weeks of basic training, Stolarczyk was deployed, albeit reluctantly, to a military prison in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

Military Prison Experience[edit | edit source]

In 1972, after his basic training had finished, Stolarczyk began to work what would be for many months in a military prison that housed those who were convicted of committing violent or drug-related crimes. He was first assigned in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and worked in stocking. He was equipped only with his hands and a whistle, and since some prisoners were serving time for violent crimes, Stolarczyk had to remain vigilant constantly so as to ensure his own safety.

Military Travels[edit | edit source]

Overseas Experience[edit | edit source]

During the Vietnam War, Stolarczyk was sent into service during the beginning of the Nixon-era draft cutbacks, so he was deferred from service in Vietnam. Instead, he traveled around Europe to other US military bases, serving as a military police officer[4] who enforced military law and regulations. The countries that Stolarczyk visited included Egypt, Israel, Japan, Italy, Switzerland, Luxembourg, France and the Netherlands. He additionally had the opportunity to visit Auschwitz and Dachau, Nazi-era concentration camps, in Germany. During Stolarczyk's military experience, he established various relationships with citizens of the countries he toured in, and maintained contact with his friends in the Netherlands. Stolarczyk spoke fondly of a woman who was his translator throughout his service, and who he additionally maintained prolonged contact with.

Stolarczyk noted the cultural differences between the United States and the overseas locations in which he served, and how what he experienced influenced how he saw the United States when he returned. After embarking on his travels, Thomas Stolarczyk grew more globally aware. Growing up, Stolarczyk had little exposure to life outside the United States. Aside from PBS, the news programs on television only discussed national affairs. As a member of the army, Stolarczyk got to see firsthand how other countries operate. Some cultural differences were minute, like the higher prices for gas in Europe, while others contrasted sharply with American life. For example, in Switzerland he had to keep his weapon at home, because of Swiss policy to prevent invasion or a surprise attack. His military training ingrained the virtues of preparedness inside him, so it was strange to not have his pistol at all times. In Stolarczyk’s eyes, America serves as the police force of the world. He was proud to be a part of the American military overseas.

Post Military Life[edit | edit source]

American Legion and Life After Service[edit | edit source]

Thomas Stolarczyk was relieved from duty in the army after 22 years of service as a 7 rank (Sergeant First Class [5]) military policeman. He wished to stay in 24 years, however the United States Army was cutting back on its personnel during this time. After Stolarczyk’s service, he continued his interest in the police force by becoming a civilian deputy. For over 22 years, Stolarczyk took photographs, took fingerprints, and did other Deputy work. Stolarczyk also joined the American Legion, a veterans’ organization that works with kids and, in Wisconsin, sponsors weeklong camps in Ripon, Wisconsin that teach high school students about US Government. The American Legion was formed in 1919 by the American Expeditionary Forces and works to support veterans. More specifically, American Legion members act as lobbyists to Congress regarding care for veterans, particularly Vietnam War veterans who continue to suffer from Agent Orange. Agent Orange was a dangerous chemical used by the United States that was designed to kill foliage that the North Vietnamese used as cover. However, it is estimated that 1-3 million people contracted life threatening illnesses, such as leukemia or other cancers, from this herbicide. Stolarczyk joined the American Legion in order to help and support other veterans, which seemed like the next logical step after he finished his service. Stolarczyk would recommend the military experience due to the education and healthcare benefits that can be received due to the G.I. Bill and because not every job in the military requires active duty. Additionally, Stolarczyk greatly benefitted from the travelling he did while on duty, and thinks that all Americans should experience the world through a different lens to truly appreciate America.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. “The Vietnam Lotteries.” Selective Service System, United State Government , http://www.sss.gov/About/History-And-Records/lotter1.
  2. Knapik, Joseph J, et al. “A Prospective Investigation of Injury Incidence and Injury Risk Factors among Army Recruits in Military Police Training.” BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, BioMed Central, 17 Jan. 2013, http://bmcmusculoskeletdisord.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2474-14-32.
  3. J. Llewellyn et al, “Vietnam War soldiers”, Alpha History, accessed [23 May, 2018], http://alphahistory.com/vietnamwar/vietnam-war-soldiers/
  4. “Army Military Police Jobs (31B).” Goarmy.com, U.S. Army, http://www.goarmy.com/careers-and-jobs/browse-career-and-job-categories/legal-and-law-enforcement/military-police.html
  5. United States Government. “Military Ranks.” Go to VA.gov, Department of Veterans Affairs , 2012, http://www.va.gov/vetsinworkplace/docs/em_rank.html

Thomas Stolarczyk[edit | edit source]

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