Veterans Spotlight: Col. Jeff Petrucci
WEST FALMOUTH, Mass. — Jeff Petrucci served his country admirably in the Army for 30 years, retiring as a colonel.
He grew up in Kalamazoo, Mich., and attended Western Michigan College. After being commissioned in 1968, he did his basic training at Fort Riley, Kansas.
"They focused on an aggressive style of leadership by the NCO's — lessons learned — focused on the realities of what we were going into," he remembered.
He landed in Vietnam in April 1970 (he would spend 12 months there); he was a platoon leader in an automatic weapons battalion. The main job of the battalion was to provide convoy escort support and general support of ground troops. He also served as a forward observer.
Col. Petrucci's first combat experience took place in Cambodia.
"I'd been in country for five days and was out on patrol. The VC fired at our convoy, we engaged, we had a positive body count with the enemy — no casualties on our end," he said. "We got bounced around a bit from mortars, had a couple of twisted knees and a few aches."
I asked Petrucci about entertainment and he offered this: "We had had none, never got a chance to see Bob Hope. Actually, my mother was on tour with Bob Hope as a dancer in World War II. She did two USO tours with him."
Holidays? "I missed my family a great deal, it was just another day and you didn't dwell on it because there was nothing you could do," he said. "You looked at it as another day off the calendar and you getting closer to coming home."
During his years of service, Col. Petrucci and his family would move a remarkable 24 times in 28 years. He was also deployed to major combat zones an amazing five times.
"I was extremely proud to be able to serve alongside people I respected," he said. "I had really good people by my side." he said.
Col. Petrucci's military service took him many places: Fort Bliss, Texas; deployment to Germany as a battery commander; graduate school at Indiana University; faculty member at West Point; Fort Bragg battalion commander; the War College; special assistant to the commander of the Southern Command; garrison commander in Panama, and, finally, post commander at Fort Dix, N.J.
After retiring after 28 years of service, he was having a conversation with a general friend and the colonel offered this: "I said, you need to get me back in the battle (Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan) and the general called me a couple of weeks later and said, 'were you serious or drunk?' My wife said, 'drunk.'"
He added, "I have to say that we wouldn't have succeeded if it weren't for the loyal support of our spouses."
But Petrucci was serious and landed in Kandahar Province at 59 years of age.
"I was walking on patrol in bad guy territory on my 60th birthday. I didn't think I got closure on my first tour, that's why I went back in," he said. "I was also in Kandahar the same time as my son Andy who was in the geographic area with the Marines."
"My son did six tours and is a highly decorated Marine," he said with fatherly pride.
Thoughts on service to his country?
"It was a great deal of pride. I felt I owed my country — I'm a firm believer in giving back. My father
was a World War II and Korean vet and my father-in-law was a World War II vet as well," he recalled.
He resides in West Falmouth with his wife of 53 years, Jill. Col. Jeff Petrucci, thank you for your service and welcome home.
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