Andrew Ladak was born in 1947 in postwar occupied Germany. His father was a Polish infantry officer and Auschwitz survivor, his mother had fought in the Warsaw Uprising. The family came to America in 1951 and settled in Detroit. Ladak spoke only Polish until first grade (and remains fluent in Polish).

 The military played a formative role in Ladak’s life. From childhood, he was fascinated with soldiers and all things military. Later, attending Wayne State University, he enrolled in the U.S. Army’s Reserve Officer Training Corps. In 1969 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the infantry and entered active duty at Fort Benning, Georgia. After Airborne and Ranger training, he was an instructor with the Ranger Department. He completed Jungle Warfare School in Panama en route to Vietnam, where he served with the 23rd (Americal) Infantry Division, first as a rifle platoon leader, then as the battalion’s training officer and commander of its ready reaction platoon.

Leaving active duty in 1971, he began graduate school. Assigned to the U.S. Army Reserve, he joined a company of the 12th Special Forces Group, located at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. During 12 years with the unit, he commanded an operational detachment A (“A Team”) and served as the company’s S1, S2 and S3 officer.

Ladak left the Reserves in 1983. Earlier, he had embarked on a civilian career involving management positions in marketing, public relations, and corporate communications. He worked for several companies, among them two major multinationals. In 2006 he retired from BASF, where he was communications manager for the company’s North American coatings business, to pursue his dream of teaching in a college.

He taught technical writing at Macomb County Community College and report writing to the Army’s Logistics Assistance Representatives. Throughout his life, he was active in community and cultural organizations, mostly, though not only, in the Polish American community, including the Polish Youth Organization (Polish Scouting). He also managed the Eagle Scout program in his son’s Boy Scout of America troop.

Looking back, Ladak says he is satisfied with his life—mainly because much of it involved helping others. Among the things he is most proud of, he lists being a father, a husband, a teacher and a leader—above all, a leader of young soldiers.