Sgt. 1st Class Frederick J. Lechak, 30, was posthumously awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart during special services at Fort Carson in November 1967. The medals were accepted by his wife, Magdalene I. (Martinez) Lechak of Salida.
Major Gen. Charles A. Corcoran made the presentation. At the time Magdalene Lechak was living with her mother, Anita Martinez, in Salida.
Sgt. Lechak was killed in Vietnam on June 14, 1967, just seven weeks after his arrival there. A member of the Special Forces (Green Berets), he was looking forward to going to Vietnam during his training because, according to a report in The Mountain Mail of Nov. 24, 1967, most of his friends had already been there and he thought there was “a job that needed doing” there.
His wife, now Magdalene Lehnerz, later remarried and lives in Denver. She has two sons and three grandchildren.
She and Fred Lechak met at the World’s Fair in New York City. She was from Salida and he was from Cleveland, Ohio.
“I was a flight attendant for TWA, flying international flights, and Fred was temporarily stationed at the fair with a display for the Army,” she said. “I was between flights and thought the World’s Fair would be a fun place to go. We were engaged two months after we met and married in December of 1965.”
They were married about 18 months when she was notified on June 16, 1967, that he was missing in action.
“I was hoping he hadn’t been captured by the Vietnamese,” she said. “Twenty-two days later I was notified that he had been killed and his body had been recovered.”
He is buried at All Saints Cemetery in the Cleveland area, where his parents are.
At the time of his death he was serving as a Special Forces advisor to a Vietnamese company during search and destroy missions in hostile territory. In a letter, his commanding officer said his gallantry and action at the cost of his life was in keeping with the highest tradition of the military service and reflected great credit on himself, his unit and the U.S. Army.
“I believe my husband’s sacrifice gained for him a place in the hearts of all men who love God’s gift of freedom,” Magdalene said.