By Karl J. Paloucek
Many of you are aware that InfraGard member Henry Gralak finally stepped down after serving many years as a member of the Board of Directors. At the November quarterly meeting, those assembled honored Henry and his contributions to the security community with a plaque recognizing his dedication and years of service to the InfraGard Chicago Members Alliance.
Henry, who has been coping with a myriad of illnesses, has had an extraordinarily colorful career full of moments both euphoric and harrowing. We were honored to spend some time with him to discuss his experiences in the security industry and are pleased to be able to share them with the rest of the InfraGard membership.
IMA: Let’s start at the beginning — where did your interest in public safety begin, and how?
Henry Gralak: When I got out of high school, I went to work for Illinois Bell very briefly. Many young guys there — Russell Howard, rest his soul — Russell had just gotten out of the service. We worked together at Illinois Bell for a couple of years. The draft got me in 1968. When I went into the service, Russ joined the Chicago Police Department. I came back from Vietnam — one of the first guys I meet up with is Russell Howard. We’re having a nice steak dinner at Sabatino’s on Irving Park Road, and talking about the old days. Russ asks, “What are you gonna do?” “Russ,” I says, “I don’t know. I’m glad to be alive.” He goes, “Have you ever considered the police department?” And I raved and ranted, and said, “I want no part of uniforms; I want no part of guns anymore — screw all of that!”
At that time, we were not very popular. We — the vets. We’re coming back to a country that was torn apart by the War. I really had a difficult time getting a job. Drove a cab, did a lot of odd things just to make money. I took the police test because Russ asked me to. I wound up No. 2 on the list. Long story short, I raised my right hand, and 28 years later, I left.