Obit: Bandor, Gary (1946 – 1968)
Surnames: Bandor, Buba
----Source: THORP COURIER (Thorp, Clark County, Wis.) 28 Mar 1968
Bandor, Gary (20 FEB 1946 – 23 MAR 1968)
Gary Bandor, critically injured in a jeep accident last Tuesday at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, died Saturday night of a cerebral hemorrhage and basil brain damage at Ft. Sill.
Bandor, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Jess Bandor of Thorp (Clark Co., Wis.), was injured Tuesday at 4 p.m. and died Saturday at 10:15 p.m.
Bandor was riding in a jeep with three other servicemen when the mishap occurred. He was not driving the vehicle.
Bandor was one of the great athletes in Thorp history. He was selected All-Northwest quarterback in both 1962 and 1963, and also made the All-Northwest basketball team in 1963-64.
He graduated from Thorp High School in 1964 and entered the University of Wisconsin. He played on the freshman football team that fall and was elevated to the varsity as a sophomore the following year. Bandor was a letter winner as a defensive back and offensive flanker.
He entered service in the spring of 1966 and had already served a eyar in Vietnam when the accident occurred.
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Mary's Polish National Catholic Church, Lublin, with Rev. Matthew Buba officiating. Interment will be in the church cemetery.
The Rosary services will be recited at 8 p.m. Thursday.
(The following article was written by a college roommate of Gary at the University of Wisconsin, Madison)
By DIRK VAN SUSTEREN
Once a year, in late fall, I reach into the rafters of our small barn for the family’s cross-country skis. And when I do, I usually take note of a snapped-off piece of fiberglass pole stored there. Its inscription reads: “Gary Bandor, Freshman Track, University of Wisconsin, Feb. 16, 1965.”
It was Bandor’s pole-vaulting souvenir, one he had forgotten when he left our dormitory room in Tripp Hall and the university in June 1966. I had taken it home at the end of our semester together, figuring I would return it to him the following autumn when I would see him next.
We had been sophomore roommates, drawn together by shared interests and backgrounds. We were both small-town Wisconsin, interested in sports and, as it turned out, experts at wasting time. We traded hours of valuable study time watching Untouchables reruns in a basement recreation room or playing ‘dorm-room basketball’ with wadded papers and wastebasket. Bandor had another distraction, though, and this one was legit: He was a flanker on the university’s football team, and a good one. He had been named the team’s “most improved” player in 1965.
That was a rough year for many on campus. The university was known for its political activism, That year the Vietnam War had begun raging; there were teach-ins, marches as a growing number of our classmates began struggling with the moral and geopolitical implications of the war, not to mention the prospects of being drafted and killing or being killed. Bandor and I were not immune to such concerns, but we didn’t dwell on them. North Vietnam was being bombed; a U.S. Senate committee had begun hearings into the causes of our involvement, and fellow students were protesting. But for the most part, we preferred denial to dissent.
Things changed quickly. With lackluster grades, Gary lost his student deferment over the summer of '66 and soon found himself in boot camp, then Vietnam. I stayed in school, thanks to better grades and a bum knee that brought a medical deferment, but I soon found reasons to march against the war. Bandor mailed a few letters to me and other friends on campus, providing snippets of life, sometimes death, in Vietnam. And I responded with campus news.
He was no whiner, but once wrote: “I hate the army with a mad passion. ... So does everyone else. ... Glad to hear you may get out of the service. ... Lucky dog!”
Bandor survived his year of combat – he drove a mail truck near the DMZ -- and then during a short leave in his two-year hitch, he managed a trip back to Madison. He looked me up and we bought a six-pack and drank it on a seawall behind a fraternity house on the shore of Lake Mendota. “It's surreal to be back here,” he said, looking at the sailboats and the co-eds. He expressed confidence he would return to the university and play football: He had the assurances of the coach. He reported that he “shook like a baby” during a rocket attack on his first day in a combat zone, but then, he said, he learned to take things in stride. I described how student vigils had morphed into street protests, some violent – police sticks, bloodied faces, smashed windows, tear gas. He said he might become a teacher. I said I was majoring in history to learn how we’d gotten into Vietnam. I mentioned courses by Harvey Goldberg and George Mosse. I said I might become a journalist.
Though once roommates, it was our first serious conversation. It was also our last. Several months later, Gary was critically injured in a jeep rollover at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He was a passenger in an accident in which the driver received only minor injuries. Gary's mother, in her first plane trip, flew to be at his side. He died four days after the accident.
A while ago, around the 40th anniversary of Bandor’s deployment, I tracked down by phone one of his old army buddies, a Larry Albrightson, of Woodville, Wis. Albrightson recalled Bandor’s joyful spirit and generosity, and mentioned how Gary used his athletic stature and diplomatic skills to defuse occasional racial tension in their unit. He said Bandor, while on that short leave in Wisconsin, once drove 70 miles to the family farm, just to tell Albrightson’s parents that all was well with their son in Vietnam. “I really appreciated that,” Larry said.
After we talked, Albrightson mailed me a video of their unit in action in Vietnam. The images, jerky from the handheld camera, are augmented by the Good Morning, Vietnam soundtrack. One segment shows the aftermath of a Viet Cong attack; another shows Bandor and army buddies clowning and sharing candy with Vietnamese kids.
Bandor and I had spent only a few months together. Still, memories of our sophomoric antics, the war’s growing intensity, the protests, his service, that poignant conversation we had on the lakeshore and the terrible irony of his death in Oklahoma after surviving Vietnam have stuck over the years.
They come back when I note that UW track souvenir of his as I haul the cross-country skis down in early winter and return them in spring. Twice a year I ask, “Why was I the lucky dog?”
Dirk Van Susteren is a Calais, VT., freelance writer and editor. He can be
reached at email@example.com.
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