John "Bud" George Domagata, 1LT
First Lieutenant John “Bud” Domagata began his service in Vietnam in January of 1968 as a transportation specialist, at the civilian port, at Saigon. However, his three year tour would take him from the streets of Saigon during the Tet offensive, across the globe to jungle training in Panama. Bud also served as a forward observer attached to the ARVN [Army of the Republic of Vietnam] and 101st Airborne Division. Domagata worked closely with Vietnamese civilians and military throughout his tour. In this interview, Bud recounts his varied experiences in Vietnam and in OCS, Officer Candidate School, during 1967-1970. He also describes his return home to an increasingly hostile public during the 1970’s.
Bud was born on September 13, 1947, in Chicago. His family moved to the then unincorporated Downers Grove. He attended Downers Grove High School and graduated in 1965. He attended college for a year a half before leaving in 1967. As soon as he left school, he was notified to go in for a physical. Shortly afterwards, when working in a transportation company, he received his draft card in July of ’67. Coming from a family with a storied past of service, he had no second thoughts about enlisting, personally calling it his duty. He would first enlist for three years as a transportation specialist. He deployed in January of 1968 and served in the 125th Transportation Command, as a Port Authority in Saigon. After six months, he received orders for OCS and returned to the United States for training as an artillery officer at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. After finishing his training, he was sent to Panama for jungle training and then back to Vietnam.
Bud joined the 27th Artillery Division, 5th Battalion. Because of his experience working with the Vietnamese in Saigon, he was assigned to a company of the ARVN, offering a unique experience of Vietnam through the lives of the Vietnamese. His tour with the ARVN and then with the 3rd/506th of the 101st Airborne would take him from the mountains and flatland jungle to cities and Blues clubs. His experience as a forward observer showcases the intense work demanded by all on the frontlines in Vietnam. He ended his tour in Vietnam as an air observer with the 183rd Aviation Company, Reconnaissance Airplane Company. He would fly with the 183rd until he was discharged in 1970.
Upon his return to the United States, Domagata experienced an increased disdain for veterans among his peers and family. At college, he was encouraged by fellow Vietnam veterans to hide that he was a veteran and avoid acting like one. Some family members even ridiculed his service. Over the next fifteen years, Bud would not share his feelings or stories with anyone about his service. It wasn’t until he was sought out by fellow veterans that he finally opened up. Bud states that he has no memory of combat at all and has difficulty recalling with whom he served. He is currently a member of his local VFW post and attends reunions regularly. He is active in his community and especially with the VFW post, helping to ensure that younger veterans feel welcome.
Today, Bud speaks highly of his military service stating that the leadership experiences helped him throughout his career as a car insurance salesman, as well as helping him make decisions in his personal life. He credits his wife and his faith. His story is a reminder of the broad and unique experience of those who served in Vietnam. Bud refers to the service of himself, and his family before him, as patriotism.