Vernon J. Gregory Jr. | Author

Over the course of six decades, Vernon J. Gregory Jr. has amassed a remarkable career spanning several fields and passions; he played semi-pro baseball, served for six years in the U.S. Army in the midst of the Vietnam War, worked as a truck driver, and owned Illinois Adhesive Bonding, Inc. for 34 years as well as a construction repair business. He later reflected on his experiences in the war and poured his emotions on the page, ultimately releasing the book “My Vietnam: Chicago to Southeast Asia,” a compelling account of his upbringing, experience being drafted, abrupt and harrowing transition into combat on foreign soil, a specific mission that traumatized him, and eventual return to civilian life. Through writing the book, Mr. Gregory sought to explore and publicize the “trials and tribulations of the emotional and moral consequences” of his time in Vietnam, and help other veterans or those who know people in their lives who have been through war. “We were normal kids put into an abnormal situation and expected to return normal,” he wrote.

Growing up in his grandfather’s house and working on his farm in Riverdale, Illinois, Mr. Gregory learned the importance of a strong work ethic from him and his mother at a young age. Looking back now, he views this upbringing as the best time of his life. His proclivity for hard work would help him later, upon returning home from Vietnam and using an abundance of work to forget his experiences as a soldier. He had obtained a master’s degree in electrical engineering, was working for an excavator, earning good money, playing baseball, and setting his sights on marriage when he received his draft notice on July 7, 1970. Finding himself smack-dab in the middle of a war he did not agree to or with, he was quickly subject to its horrors. “The misconception of the military is it’s just like a normal job; it isn’t,” he said. “They’re in the business of war.” After six years, he left the Army a forever-changed man, and subsequently became a workaholic in order to cope with all that he had brought back with him. In 1988, he was officially diagnosed with PTSD and has been in counseling for it since 2001.

In his professional life, he served as an excavator and worked afterward doing various odd jobs, including repairing truck tires, painting heavy equipment, and re-deck trailers with new wood. At some point, he and his co-worker, a fellow military veteran, decided to go into business for themselves, which they ultimately did in 1984: Illinois Adhesive Bonding, Inc. is a company that specializes in the repair and installation of commercial and residential structures, and through which he served as the sole provider for many major contractors and institutions. Over the course of his career, a highlight has been saving numerous buildings through the company’s work; there were buildings ready to topple but are now still standing because of his structural repairs. In 2005, he turned the business over to his two children. Since then, he has shared his expertise in the field as a consultant to various engineers and architects—especially when it comes to repairing cracks in concrete, in which he has been the foremost authority for 20 years.

In the midst of working, Mr. Gregory began writing about his experiences in the war in 1993; he often had to stop and walk away from the process as it became too emotional. He eventually completed the project in 2018 and published it in 2021 to rewarding acclaim. Since its release, he has received several messages and letters from readers who were extremely affected by his story and vulnerability in telling it. He heard from children of veterans who have committed suicide, thanking him for writing the book as it gave them much more insight into what their loved ones went through, as well as a woman who told him that it helped her cope with her experience with abuse. This has been very rewarding for him as he wrote the book with the goal of sharing his story and helping as many people as he could by doing so. Looking toward the future, Mr. Gregory strives to write and release more works, as well as visit the people he served with in the war.

Outside of his primary endeavors, he is a life member of the Disables American Veterans, Vietnam Veterans of America, and Veterans of Foreign Wars. With his late wife of 42 years, he has a son and a daughter, and three granddaughters. In his free time, he enjoys gardening and fishing.

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