Tom grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and attended Washington High School before getting his draft notice on August 14th of 1963. Upon getting the notice Tom went down to his local Marine recruiter and enlisted for 3 years. He entered the Marine Corps Recruit Depot - San Diego (MCRD-SD) as a boot recruit of Platoon 385, 1st Recruit Training Battalion on 13 November 1963 and graduated in January of 1964. He completed Infantry Training Regiment at Camp Pendleton, California and was assigned to Basic Electronics School at MCRD -SD.
At MCRD, he was a private learning how to fix the various electronic equipment. After trying to get out of this boring MOS for 16 weeks he successfully flunked out of the school in it’s 14th week (not an easy task). Tom was assigned to the Second Battalion of the Seventh Marine Regiment at Los Puglas in Camp Pendleton, California. He reported to the Communications Section of the H&S Company at Camp Pendleton in July of 1964 and was promoted to PFC. After a basic radio communications school he was assigned to the 2/7 Tactical Air Control Party team along with 11 other enlisted Marines and 2 officers.
On 21st of May 1965 the battalion formed up and was transported to San Diego. After several days they boarded the USS Pickaway on May 23rd. The next day we shipped out to Okinawa. Two-three weeks later they boarded the USS Okanogan (APA-220) and left for QuiNhon, Vietnam where they landed on 7th July, 1965.
The 2/7 Command Post at PhuTai (4), where they were to be based was about 15 miles west of QuiNhon in an area, was used by the French in the 1940's/'50's. He participated in numerous combat operations while in the PhuTai (4) area including clearing Highway #19 to Pleiku for the 1st Cavalry.
He spent time between that main command post and HMM-161 at the airport in QuiNhon for the first month as the headquarters communication link. After Qui Nhon, 2/7 moved to Chu Lai where they set up a new Command Post and acted as a blocking force to repel any incoming VietCong attacks. There were many small Search & Destroy missions some of which he went on but nothing of any large scale.
During the second week of December of 1965 (08DEC65 on), 2/7 set out on an operation called, "Operation Harvest Moon." The battalion was beefed up with companies of other units. 2/7 had about 1200 Marines when they went north to Tam Ky to begin the operation.
It was a wet and “crappo” operation that saw an untrained and incompetent general officer in charge get relieved of commanding duties; lots of beautiful scenery during the column march; “immersion foot” problems on many Marines and ambushes that took many good lives.
When December 18th came, 2/7 was ambushed and Tom wounded in a little marketing hamlet called KyPhu. After the battle was finished 2/7 had won the conflict but lost 13 KIAs including his partner Jack Swender. The VC/NVA lost 456 KIAs. The Second Battalion/Seventh Marines would receive both the Presidential Unit Citation and Navy Unit Commendation for their efforts in this action.
Tom would be transported to Saigon and then to Clark Airforce Base hospital in the Philippines. After a weeks stay at Clark he was flown to San Francisco and then finally to Great Lakes Naval Hospital in Illinois. He remained there until he was medically retired on the 31st of March 1966.
Tom returned to his home state of Wisconsin and attended the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater starting in 1967. He became the “Floor Co-ordinator for meetings” for the UW Whitewater Vets Club for 3 years and graduated in 1971 with a Bachelors of Science Degree (teaching) in Broadfield Art. He married and moved out to Idaho to attend the University of Idaho in 1972 and graduated in 1974 with a Masters of Fine Art in painting and sculpture degree.
Tom moved back to Wisconsin and bought a horse farm in Merrimac in 1974. In 1979, he had a son, Seth and 3 years later a daughter, Samantha. In 1984 he founded and directed the Wisconsin Vietnam Veterans Memorial Project. The project would later be known as “The Highground” and turn out to be the most beautiful memorial park in the United States dedicated to 20st and 21st Century veterans. It can be found on the Web under https://www.thehighground.us.
Tom divorced in 1987 and moved to New Jersey to run a mail order catalogue business he owned. 1989 found him as an Art Director at the training facility of Merrill Lynch. In1997 he started back to school at Fairleigh Dickinson University and in 1998 started in a Certificate of Entrepreneurial and Business Management program at school. 1999 found Tom in several art classes and he has been in that department ever since accumulating an equivalent of over 450 college credits (all colleges combined) and doesn’t plan to stop.
He married Rose Marie Sabatini in 2004 and they live in Whippany. 2008 Tom was made “Artist in Resident” at FDU. There he works on creating art series dealing with eagles (10 pieces), butterflies (15), 9/11 (70) and Flags of Our Conflicts (60) in painting and ceramics.
In 2005 he was recruited into the L/Cpl Robert J Slattery Detachment and became an active member. He became the Detachment Commandant in November of 2018 - call him “PFC Commandant” (Proud F Commandant).