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University of Wyoming Foundation

Donor Stories

One Who Serves

Barry GasdekThe following is an excerpt from the Distinguished Service Cross citation—an award second only to the Medal of Honor—for then-Captain Barry Gasdek for his actions in Vietnam on September 22, 1968.

When his unit came under intense enemy fire, Captain Gasdek exposed himself to the hail of bullets to encourage his men, fire his weapon and hurl hand grenades at the aggressors. … As he returned with the carriers, they came under accurate small arms and mortar fire which wounded him in the leg. Despite his painful injury, he continued on to his men and organized the evacuation of the wounded to the tracks. Carrying the most seriously injured man on his back, he crawled more than a hundred meters through a murderous barrage to the vehicles and placed him in the medic track. … When one of his radio operators was killed and the other wounded, Captain Gasdek administered first aid to the injured man and carried the radio equipment himself. … The following morning he led an attack on the enemy, forcing the aggressors from the area. During the engagement he received a shrapnel wound in the back, but again refused evacuation to remain with his troops.

During his 49 years of service in the military, Barry was a Pathfinder and a Ranger serving around the world, and in addition to the Distinguished Service Cross, he earned the Silver Star, five Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts, a Soldier’s Medal, the Legion of Merit, and 17 Air Medals. He retired at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Whether in military or civilian life, Barry has spent his life serving others.

The son of a Pennsylvania coal miner and steel worker, Barry was a Boy Scout and then an Eagle Scout. He supported his teammates as a football linebacker and offensive guard at Derry Area High and Indiana University in Pennsylvania, as well as wrestling heavyweight and serving as captain of the track team. He thought he might be a teacher and a coach, but then he was commissioned in the Army as a Second Lieutenant and had a distinguished military career.

“You just don’t know what freedoms you have in the United States until you spend time out of country,” Barry says.

Then a friend of his, a general, invited him to Wyoming to be a professor of military science for the University of Wyoming ROTC program, which he did for a decade. He then became the inaugural Wyoming State Veterans Service Officer, retiring just recently.

“That was really rewarding,” Barry says, “in the sense that you knew you helped an individual and they knew that you helped them.”

He has been active in various capacities—often as Commander—in the American Legion, VFW, Wyoming Veterans Commission, Disabled American Veterans, Army Reserve, American Red Cross, United Way, and Boys State, among other organizations.

But that was not enough. Ever generous, Barry not only gives his time but also his resources. He has established four scholarships in honor of his three siblings that support nursing, music, chemistry, and ROTC.

“When I went to Vietnam, everything I owned I could put in an AWOL bag, one of those little satchel bags,” Barry says. “So now that I’m a little better off, I don’t mind sharing with other people, and that’s one of the reasons I gave the money to the university.”

In a Congressional tribute, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso said of Barry,

LTC Barry Gasdek, Retired, has devoted his entire life to serving his country, his brothers in arms, and the people of Wyoming. He is a fighter, a mentor, a teacher, and a good man. He embodies the cowboy ethics and what it means to be a citizen of Wyoming. It is certain that the legacy of his leadership will inspire new generations of brave soldiers. On behalf of the State of Wyoming and the United States of America, I thank Barry for his service. His boots will be hard to fill.

Indeed, very large boots to fill.

Lieutenant Colonel Barry Gasdek (retired)

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