Vet places flags to honor fallen friends

Dodie and Milton Malueg stand beside one of the flags displayed outside their Rio Rancho home. Milton Malueg is a Vietnam veteran and places 27 flags to remember 27 fellow service members he knew who were killed in action.

Milton Malueg is undoubtedly a red, white and blue kind of guy.

Want proof? There’s not only a large American flag that flies each day outside his and his wife Dodie’s Corrales Heights home, but there are also 27 smaller American flags along a fence on the east side of their street, with the mountains looming in the distance.

Malueg (pronounced “muh-luge”) does a private, self-fulfilling flag-burning every Memorial Day in his backyard to remember “the 27 KIAs (killed in action) that I served with, that walked the same ground I did.”

He finds it hard to believe a half-century has passed since his 13-month tour in Vietnam, and laments that he has had a full 50 years more to enjoy life — 50 years his buddies missed out on.

“They all had ranks, names and had families,” he lamented.

One of them, Lance Cpl. William Prom, was often out on patrol with Malueg.

“He was killed three weeks after I returned stateside,” Malueg said.

“When you forget who these guys are, that’s when they’re forgotten,” is how he sees it. “As long as I’m alive, they won’t be forgotten.”

Malueg grew up in Wisconsin, working hard on a dairy farm, milking cows and driving a truck around that farm as young as 12 years of age.

But it wasn’t a farmer he wanted to be: “I knew from eighth grade I was going in the Marines. … from the time (the war in) Vietnam started, I wanted to make a difference.”

So after graduation, he enlisted and, after rigorous training, was headed to the demilitarized zone as a member of the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines.

“We were nicknamed America’s Battalion,” he said, wishing to remain modest yet proud.

Malueg can’t even count how many times, “three clicks from the ocean in Alpha 3,” he thought his next breath would be his last. Wounded three times, he received three Purple Hearts, and still has a piece of shrapnel lodged only a quarter-inch from his spine.

“Fifty years there,” he says, grinning.

He has an interesting tale about going through the airport’s metal detector.

“We were ambushed regularly,” he said. “There was always something (on a daily basis). We knew who the enemy was.”

Aghast when the Marines took up M-16s after being satisfied and proficient with M-14s, Malueg said he was happy to be a machine-gunner.

After his tour, he recalled how he and another 200 Marines were treated upon their return to El Toro.

“There were guys hugging the ground, so happy to be back in country, then when loaded on four buses, pounded with tomatoes and eggs and called baby killers,” he said. “… We were told not to go home in uniform.”

Although he was being recruited to become a career Marine and enter officer candidate school, Malueg said, he got out after two years: “I didn’t like what was going on politically.”

He headed home to Wisconsin, worked another year on the farm and then attended the University of Wisconsin for two years — while there he played football as backup center to future NFL Hall-of-Famer Mike Webster, although he didn’t get into any games.

He ultimately began Malueg Trucking Co., which has since grown to have seven trucks and seven drivers hauling millions of pounds of freight between Wisconsin and the East Coast.

Malueg, who still drives despite turning 70 this month, has been a trucker for 47 years and has an estimated 6.5 million accident-free miles under him. Dodie, whom he married in August 1972, has more than 4 million accident-free miles, and there were times the couple was a team in the ’70s.

They met at a dance at Balboa Park in San Diego and wound up in Rio Rancho, after falling in love with the area after passing through the Land of Enchantment countless times. They’ve been here years, although they still maintain a home in Wisconsin.

They have four sons, three of whom went into the Marines — the other had hearing loss and couldn’t get in — and two are truckers.

“I’m one proud wife and mother,” Dodie said.

Like his fallen comrades, the Marines are always close to Malueg’s heart. He says if the president wants to put a stop to illegal immigration, instead of building a wall along the border with Mexico, just position Marines along the border. Oorah!