Minarik Earns Two Purple Hearts, BU degree, Union Pacific Career
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
When you have two Purple Hearts on your chest that final in business administration doesn’t seem all that intimidating. Terry Minarik, a 1977 Bellevue University graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration, earned his Purple Hearts, and maybe should have had a third, while serving in the Vietnam War.
“Back then they had the draft. I had completed a couple of years of college. I knew I had to, sooner or later, put my time in,” Minarik said. “I went to serve my country. I was over there a year. It seemed like about 20 years. A lot can happen in a year and it seemed like quite a bit did.”
Minarik‘s platoon was frequently on patrols for between 35 and 40 days before returning to a forward fire support base for about five or six days, and then turning around and heading back out into the jungle..
“We were always the first ones to go in. We had helicopters, but we did most of our fighting on the ground,” Minarik said. “Combat assaults -- that was our job to constantly be making contact, as they called it -- against the enemy.”
Minarik was wounded three times while in Vietnam, but turned down his first opportunity at a Purple Heart. Other soldiers, he said, were more seriously wounded and he did not feel as if he deserved it at the time. Unfortunately, other opportunities to earn the medal would soon come his way.
“Some combat lasts a lot longer than others. Some of its short and some of it can go on and on,” he explained. “You can be pinned down for quite a while or you can be moving.”
Minarik recalls several close calls in which bullets just missed him, but shrapnel did not. He was wounded in his right shoulder, left arm and hip, and suffered a nasty gash on the right side of his head from shrapnel when he removed his helmet during a combat mission.
“We lost some guys and it was pretty ugly combat. You’re just exhausted,” he said. “We're trying to get wounded, the (wounded in action) WIAs and (killed in action) KIAs out, but still couldn't get helicopters in because there's still some fighting going on. So I took that steel pot off and there came a piece of shrapnel that got me there,” he said pointing to the site of the injury. “It was bleeding pretty good. Guys thought I was hit a lot worse than I was.”
After coming back stateside, Minarik finished up his time at Fort Hood, Texas, before heading to Omaha. There he joined a group of friends and ended up landing a job at the Missouri Pacific Railroad, which eventually merged with Union Pacific Railroad.
“I was able to take advantage of both the tuition aid offered by Union Pacific and my GI Bill,” Minarik said. “There were about nine or 10 of us from Union Pacific working on our degrees at the same time.”
While Minarik earned his degree four decades ago he faced many of the same challenges that students today struggle with. “It was long days. I’d work downtown and come to school at night, but it was a good experience,” he said.
Minarik’s degree set him up to excel at Union Pacific – climbing the ladder over a 33-year career.
“I thought I'd be there six months at most and then find something I liked to do, but I end up putting in 33 years,” Minarik said. “I started out as an office boy and eventually got into the real estate department. I ended up handling private road crossings in 23 states.”
Minarik has been able to follow the University’s growth over the years from his Omaha home. The opening of the Military Veterans Service Center five years ago helped him further reconnect with his alma mater.
“I’ve toured the campus and it is hard to believe that all of this is Bellevue University. It’s grown quite a bit since the handful of buildings when I took classes here,” he said. “It's phenomenal. It's wonderful to see. The work these guys do at the MVSC is invaluable and greatly appreciated.”