What I am about to read is a collaborative effort of Chuck’s six brothers who are present, Mike, Jim, Denny, Rich, Bernie and Brian. Chuck’s brother, Bob and sister, Mary were unable to attend and his brother, John, passed away in 2011.
Chuck was the second of 10 children (one girl and 9 boys) born to Charlie and Agnes Rose (Whalen) Gradoville in Des Moines, Iowa on August 13, 1947. Charlie was born and raised in Plattsmouth ,NE. At age 8, Chuck and his six siblings moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In Cedar Rapids, his three youngest siblings were born in the following ten years.
Chuck attended All Saints School and Regis High School, graduating in 1965. As a young boy, he loved his one sister, baseball, football, basketball, his brothers, parents friends and his catholic faith. He was known as a tough and fearless under-sized catcher in Little League, school teams and the Knights of Columbus League. His love for being a catcher was possibly inspired by his Uncle Bob who was a catcher and a marine who served in the Korean War.
Chuck was also fearless in his love of football and basketball. Yeah, there might have been some sibling rivalry but, despite that, Chuck did his best. He was a dogged competitor. Often, he was confronted by his dad for hanging out with friends who were into fast and classic cars. Dad sometimes referred to Chuck’s friends as the “First Avenue Bums”. Dad expected all his children to graduate from a four-year college. And although Chuck knew that, he was uncertain about what he wanted to do with his life.
He chose to focus on sports, girlfriends, cars and attended Mason City Community college for one year. He bought his first car, a 1940 Ford Coupe and along with his fun-loving confidence had no problem getting dates.
Near the end of his freshman year, he saw the draft for the Vietnam war looming and redirecting some of his friends into military service. He convinced his parents and family that it would be better to enlist in the Marines with a two-year enlistment, than to take his chances with the draft. He was confident that when he turned 21, he would have more clarity about his “Life Focus and Direction. Mom and dad reluctantly signed off for Chuck to enlist.
Chuck was given about 7 months of basic training before being shipped to near the DMZ in Vietnam. He impressed his commanding officer with his bravery and dedication and was promoted to Lance Corporal. His commanding officer made him “his radio man” which allowed the commander to communicate with strategic command, nearby platoons, and other branches of the military. He continued to live his catholic values and faith. His letters to mom and dad didn’t include the hardships of war to the same degree that he shared with his brothers, Bob and Mike.
About one month later, on June 16, 1967, Chuck was killed by “Friendly Fire”. The mortar that took his life also exploded in our family with emotional shrapnel, changing each family member in unique ways. It also deeply impacted friends in the Cedar Rapids community and relatives in Omaha and beyond. Our local newspaper writer, Dale Kueter, wrote a book, “Vietnam Sons” which documented how Chuck’s dad befriended and adopted a fellow marine from Chuck’s platoon.
Chuck continues to be missed by many in his family some 46 years after his death.
Honor and Remember Nebraska Chapter is pleased to present this flag, sponsored by Nebraska Spine Hospital to the six brothers Mike, Jim, Denny, Rich, Bernie, and Brian of CPL Charles E. Gradoville.
Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa Old Timers Baseball Association