Soft music plays constantly in Rich and Pat Pendroy’s home in Monroe, and in his man cave, which is in the rear of their garage that they converted to a workshop. Rich doesn’t say it, but the soft music helps calm his nerves that are frazzled from the explosions and gunfire he went through in Vietnam.
His man cave is every man’s dream (and every wife’s point of contention). Lining one wall and parts of two others are 20 beautiful deer head mounts (all his own), plus furs and different mounts of fish, fox, mink, badgers, birds, etc. He did the taxidermy himself. He used to be a taxidermist but just does it for himself now, and his kids. He got tired of having to meet other peoples’ wishes. He has display cabinets (that he made himself) full of Indian Artifacts, and old hand tools. Artifacts are harder to find now, he points out, because farmers don’t plow anymore. One of the pictures on his wall is of a yellow Plymouth Roadrunner he purchased when he came home from Vietnam. He wishes he still had that car, but Pat couldn’t drive it.
He ran his own construction business building houses, cabinets and doing finish work. He’s retired now, and turned the business over to his sons. His man cave and shop are one of the neatest and best organized man dwellings I’ve ever seen. Once again, he doesn’t say it, but I have the feeling that Rich’s neatness has to do with the lack of control he had while in Vietnam. There was chaos everywhere in a world gone crazy.
He was a year out of high school when he was drafted into the Army. He found out that if he volunteered for the Marines it would delay his departure by 120 days. He liked the idea of the Marines: pride, valor and honor. He’d seen the movies: John Wayne, Audie Murphy and Gary Cooper as Sergeant York. He talked his buddy David McMath, who had just graduated, into going in the Marines with him, on the Buddy System. They would be together through boot camp and post boot camp training.
They went to Vietnam together and were split into different units—Rich with Hotel Co., 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines; and Dave with Kilo Co., 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines as 0331’s, M60 Machine Gunners. The year was 1967.
Like most combat veterans, Rich doesn’t talk about the fighting. He doesn’t have to. His sergeant stripes in a display case full of medals speak for themselves.
He didn’t see Dave for a while. Then one night he heard Dave’s company was close by. They were both supposed to go out on patrol the next day, but accommodations were made for them to spend the day together. Their buddies chipped in and supplied Rich and Dave with all the beer they could drink.
That was the last Rich saw of Dave. Rich got a letter from his sister saying, “So sorry to hear about Dave getting killed.”
Rich was stunned. He had no idea what, how or when Dave was killed. Rich was to find out later that Dave drowned — how, Rich never knew. But a lot of Vietnam soldiers died by drowning. Crossing those swollen streams and rivers with full packs and weapon was very dangerous.
Vietnam shaped the rest of Richard Pendroy’s life. But he’s a survivor. Rich’s oldest son is named after Dave, which is a pact they made. If either one of them didn’t make it home, they would name their first son after the other. Rich has visited the Vietnam Memorial Wall a couple of times and found Dave’s name.
On a recent fishing trip to Decorah in northeast Iowa, Rich was observing a young Hispanic couple trying to fish for trout. Using a bobber, weight and worm, they had no idea what they were doing. Rich patiently showed them the proper tackle to use. A few minutes later the young man came running, all excited with a 16” trout. Rich told him some people fish all their lives and never catch a 16” trout.
It was raining. Rich also showed the young couple how to start a fire, and clean the trout.
The next morning there was a note for Rich thanking him for showing them how to fish, start a fire, and clean the fish. The man, who was an artist, had drawn a picture of the trout on the card.
Rich gets a little misty eyed when he tells this story, but not for long. It’s getting late, and there’s still time to get out into his tree stand for some deer hunting. He uses a crossbow now, because of surgery on his shoulders.
This Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, which is also Rich’s wife’s birthday, give a veteran a hug. God bless you, Richard Pendroy.
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