Joseph M. Belardo sr.
Joe was drafted in October 1966 and was sent to Ft. Hood, Texas for basic training and advanced individual training. In August 1967, he was sent to Vietnam and assigned to Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion (Twin 40 mm - Automatic Weapons – Self Propelled) 44th Artillery, and better known as “Dusters”. Although Joe was in the Army, his unit was deployed to Vietnam as the 3rd Marine Division’s combat mobile fighting team and body recover unit under Marine control. His area of operation in Vietnam was along the DMZ, fighting primarily in the northern mountain regions from Camp J.J. Carroll to Khe Sanh.
Joe and his crew of Duster C131 hold the distinct honor of being the last to leave the finally abandoned Khe Sanh Combat Base. Joe was discharged in August 1968 with the rank of Sgt. E5.
Joe’s combat medals include the Bronze Star w/Valor, Purple Hearts, Gallantry Cross with Palm, Marine Combat Action Ribbon, Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Honor Medal, both the Army and Marine Presidential Unit Citations, Valorous Unit Awards, Meritorious Unit Commendations.
Joe is married and has three children and four grandchildren. He has been inducted into the Order of the Four Chaplin’s, and the South Plainfield High School Hall of Fame. He is the New Jersey State Commander and Middlesex County Commander of Military Order of the Purple Hearts. Joe is a very active board member of his Vietnam Combat association; the Dusters, Quads and Searchlights Association. The past President Vietnam Veterans of America. He is very active in the VFW, American Legion and DAV. Joe is a past board member of the New Jersey Vietnam Memorial and Education Center. He was an original member of Victims of Agent Orange, the predecessor of the first Agent Orange Commission. Joe has conducted 230 oral power point photo presentations about Vietnam to high schools, colleges, universities, civic and military organizations.
He has appeared in two television Documentaries: the Learning Channel “The Soldiers’ Story” and the Fox Network History program “Vietnam War with Oliver North”.
Joe is an author and published “Dusterman – Story of the Last Great Gunfighters” which is based on his diary and memoirs of his combat experiences in Vietnam. He has also been published in “The Soldiers’ Story – Vietnam in Their Own Words”, Vietnam Magazine – “Dusters’ Battle for Route 9”, “The Khe Sanh Book of Poetry” and the Khe Sanh Vets Magazine “Red Clay”. He had the honor of being a key speaker at the dedication of the “Vietnam Women’s Memorial” in Washington, DC and the National Gold Star Mothers’ Convention. In 2013 he represented all Vietnam veterans as one of the honorary Grand Marshals in the National Memorial Day Parade held in Washington, DC.
Joe was the founder of Support Systems, a custom metal fabrication company. Joe now enjoys retirement, working with veterans and tournament bass fishing.