37th Veteran of the Quarter, Lenny Van Driel, US Army

December 1, 2019

Sergeant First Class Leendert (Lenny) W. Van Driel enlisted in 1967, at the age of seventeen. He went to Fort Jackson, SC for Basic then Wheel and Track Vehicle mechanics school at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, MD. His first duty assignment was with the 1st of the 12th Artillery, South Korea. While there, he had temporary duty to play starting offensive lineman for the 2nd Infantry Division Football team with players who graduated from West Point.

In December 1968, he was transferred to C Battery 6th Battalion, 61st Artillery Fort Bliss TX. Within two days he approached the unit clerk about transferring out: the clerk showed him a Request for Transfer to the Republic of Vietnam, which would be the only way out. July 1969, Lenny was bound for Vietnam, arriving in Cam Rhan Bay with assignment to 61st Transportation Company, later re-designated 360th Transportation Company. This unit supplied petroleum fuels for ground and air operation, and he was assigned to convoy duty as a mechanic/tire truck driver.

Lenny volunteered to support the Cambodia Campaign in May 1970, where fuel was relayed from Cam Rhan Bay to Buon Me Thout then onto Duc Lap Special Forces Camp on the border. Returning from that operation, he had less than a week before his expiration of term of service (ETS), but something came up that he had to return to Buon Me Thout, so without weapon he partnered up with another driver hauling fuel.

As the convoy was heading up Buon Me Thout Mountain, they began taking on small arms fire, and a fuel tanker directly in front of his truck was hit by a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG). Though the tanker did not explode, the aviation gas in it poured out from the hole onto the hot engine and exhaust system. The driver of that truck, SP4 Charles Pedigo, began to exit the truck, but realizing it was rolling back, he reached back in to engage the trailer brake. This act, in all probability, saved Lenny and his companion, as in that instance, the truck ignited, drawing Specialist Pedigo back into the truck. In 2005, Lenny met up with Peggy Pedigo, wife of Charles, who was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

Lenny returned to the United States in July 1970, and by October, he found himself not only back in the Army, but married to Mary. They honeymooned for three years in Hawaii while he was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company 1st Battalion 27th Infantry. There, he eventually became Battalion Motor Sergeant, and Mary gave birth to their son, Michael. In November 1973, the family moved to Fort Campbell, KY where Lenny was assigned to D Company 158th Aviation, 101st Airborne Division. The opportunity to serve as a US Army Recruiter came four months later, so the family packed up again and moved to Connecticut for assignment to New Haven Recruiting Command duty station Waterbury, where Mary gave birth to their son, Eric.

In November 1979, he was transferred to the Reception Station Ft Dix, NJ as a training NCO. In May 1981, he was transferred to 7th Army Training Command Grafenwoehr, GE with attached duty to 1st Battalion 2nd Armored Cavalry in charge of Army Community Services. In 1986, was redirected back to 7th Army as the Army Emergency Relief Officer, one of few NCO’s to be given that responsibility. In September of 1987, with his final military assignment, he found himself with United States Transportation Command Scott Air Force Base, where he retired in January of 1989.

Military Awards and Decorations include: Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal; Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Vietnam Service Medal; Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Vietnam Campaign Medal; Mechanics Badge w/Bar; Sharpshooter Qualification Badge M-16, Gold Army Recruiter Badge.

Lenny and his wife Mary, who have been married 49 years, live in Blue Eye. His two sons and four grandchildren live in Illinois.


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