For Steve Dukkony, an 87-year-old resident of La Posada (a premier senior living community in Palm Beach Gardens), being a professional military officer and solider was a way of life. While at Texas Western College in El Paso, he enrolled in the ROTC program and became the cadet colonel, and upon graduation he entered into the Army as a second lieutenant at Fort Bliss Texas. Dukkony was a combat arms officer whose leadership skills propelled him to leadership positions in the Air Defense Artillery Branch, Field Artillery Branch and the Infantry Branch. His first duty station was with the 7th Infantry Division in Korea in 1954. Ten years later, he served the first of two tours in Vietnam. His career was somewhat unusual, as his training as an airborne ranger led to several infantry-type assignments, including an assignment with the U.S. Army Special Forces. Toward the end of his service, he fulfilled public affairs assignments in Germany, the Pentagon and the Military District of Washington. Throughout his service, he aimed to live up to the standards of what a professional solider should be. As Memorial Day approaches, Dukkony reflects on the many positions he held during his time in the Army and the many brave men and women who served alongside him.
“Most military careers did not follow my pattern. I received various assignments and usually ended up in command of whatever unit I was assigned to. I found it both challenging and interesting,” said Dukkony. “When I began my service, I was assigned to the field artillery for my first year in Korea. Even though the truce had been signed, the units remained in place with new arrivals replacing those returning home. The living conditions were still harsh. I’ll never forget the bitter coldness of the Korean winter, which we endured while living in tents and bunkers. For the next six months, I was assigned to division headquarters, where I was responsible for flying as an aerial observer in an L-19 aircraft for two to four hours a day over the demilitarized zone. We took binoculars and maps with us, scouring the enemy zone to observe who was moving and what they were doing. We were responsible for monitoring a 60-mile front.”
After Korea, as part of the Air Defense Artillery, Dukkony was assigned to the Air Defense of New York City where he served as the battery commander of a 90 mm gun battery. They were trained to defend against the Soviet bomber threat. This was crucial because they thought there was a threat of nuclear warfare. Looking back, many people think the efforts were unnecessary, but at the time they were serious about defending against the Soviet threat. It was a tense period of time. He was later recognized as being an outstanding lieutenant in the First Army Area.
The next major historical event Dukkony took part in was the Vietnam War. He served two assignments, one at the beginning of the war in 1964 and 1965, and another at the end of the war in 1972 and 1973. He said they were vastly different experiences. In the beginning, the American soldiers had a great deal of optimism and thought they could accomplish all assigned missions and bring the conflict to an end. During his second tour, much of the optimism had since dissipated. At the end of the war, he saw American forces being withdrawn and the abandonment of the South Vietnamese military.
“At the end, most U.S. advisors were withdrawn. The negotiators in Paris decided there was a need to create a four-power military commission made up of Hungarians, Canadians, Poles and Indonesians who could facilitate a peace treaty between North and South Vietnam,” said Dukkony. “The commission failed because the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong decided they could win the war militarily without negotiation. Although many efforts were made, the North Vietnamese did not see any need for negotiations, and the American advisors assigned to support the four-power military commission were withdrawn and returned to the states. I returned home and set about getting my master’s degree.”
U.S. Army officers are encouraged to obtain a master’s degree. Since the Army needed Public Affairs officers, Dukkony went to the University of Alabama to get his master’s in journalism. He first served in Germany as the Chief of Public Affairs for the Army 32nd Air Defense Command, then served as the chief of community relations with the office of the chief of public affairs at the pentagon. For his last assignment, he served as the chief of public affairs for the Military District of Washington. The Military District of Washington is responsible for many of the military ceremonies, supporting the white house and fulfilling the president’s requirements. As a public affairs officer, Dukkony was responsible for organizing communications and handling journalists for various events. He was also the editor of Pentagram, a weekly news publication in support of Army activities in the Military District of Washington.
“Memorial Day is the one time our nation pauses to reflect upon the sacrifices men and women have made since the nation was founded,” said Dukkony. “Many gave their lives in service to the United States, and the least we can do is take one day to remember those who are no longer with us because they paid the ultimate price for the freedom we enjoy today. I knew a number of advisors who lost their lives during Vietnam, and several of my high school friends were killed in Korea. All career officers have lost a number of fellow officers and enlisted people we served with through the years. So come Memorial Day, it is particularly meaningful for us as it has touched our lives through the loss of friends during our careers. This coming Memorial Day, I will reflect on my service and the people who served our country just as I tried to do.”
This Memorial Day, La Posada residents will gather for a presentation of colors and a performance of patriotic songs by the community’s resident chorus.
“It is a rare opportunity to hear the accounts of veterans from the Korean War and Vietnam War, and Steve’s experiences are both varied and fascinating,” said Brad Cadiere, executive director of La Posada. “We are honored to come together and recognize the sacrifices made by the United States military. It is a solemn time of remembrance for many, and as we come together, we will think back on all the outstanding individuals who gave their lives to preserve our freedom.”