Wilkerson, Tom (TLW), 5th Platoon

Wilkerson, Tom (TLW), 5th Platoon

For the previous two years Tom led the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, supporting the living Recipients of the Medal of Honor. Prior to that, Tom was a Team Leader in The White House Office of Science & Technology Policy program ”Entrepreneurs in Residence.” That program focused on the FDA processes to approve cutting-edge medical procedures and devices with direct impact on Wounded Warriors.

For eight years previous General Wilkerson served as the chief executive officer of the U. S. Naval Institute (www.usni.org), one of the oldest professional associations in the United States. Prior to accepting the CEO post in 2003, Wilkerson was executive vice president of a subsidiary to a major publishing conglomerate focused on training first responders. Before that, he was CEO/president of a subsidiary to a Fortune 250 financial-services corporation.

Tom Wilkerson’s military career spanned 31 years from graduation with the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 1967 to service as a Marine Corps Fighter/Attack Aviator, and finally to senior leadership as a Major General of Marines. Along the way he was a U. S. Naval Fighter Weapons School (Top Gun) graduate; exchange pilot with the Royal Air Force; commanding officer of Marine Corps Fighter Attack Squadron 251; and combat veteran of Operation Desert Storm. In his last active duty assignment – as Commander, Marine Forces Reserve – Wilkerson led the largest command in the Marine Corps, with more than 100,000 Marines at 200 sites around the United States.

Tom is a member of The Society of the Cincinnati and the Council on Foreign Relations.

He and his wife, the former Lynn Reid of San Diego, Calif., have two daughters, Jennifer Lynn and Catherine Aileen.

Williams, Jim (JGW), 5th Platoon

Williams, Jim (JGW), 5th Platoon

In 1962 I was an immature techy nerd HS senior and the son of an Air Force pilot with four kids to educate. So, I applied for and received a full ride to a Cornell EE degree on the Holloway NROTC program. The Marine major who ran the show there called me a ‘total dufus’ (great start, huh?).

I had the thrill of being an ROTC guy with a buzz cut on a liberal campus full of anti-war protesters. Worse yet, the guy/girl ratio was 16:1. Put the two together, and the dating action was pretty slim. But, I did get $50/month spending money!

My 1st summer cruise was on an aircraft carrier in the Caribbean, and I thought, “This is the life for me!” until I compared the brown shoe officers below deck to the squared away Marine security detail. Boy Howdy, I was hooked! USMC, here I come.

Basic School was a blur but I remember being considered “very weird” because I really liked running the obstacle course! My folks were at Andrews AFB nearby, so I managed to drag my roommate Bob Winn there a couple of times for home cooked meals and water skiing. The most humorous lecture at TBS? Why, the “Cowboy Bob” Georgetown liberty caution, of course!

The most important thing I learned in Basic School? While leading a platoon on a night attack on a fortified position, we were ambushed, and I froze for an instant. The ‘observer’ said, “Do something now, Lt. You’re people are dying.” What a life lesson!

While in Quantico, I went to church near Mary Washington’s campus and met my first wife, Ellen. We were wed 4 months into flight training.

After giving Capt. J.D. Jones my slip with ‘75’ on it, and in lock step with Andy Solum, I was off to all phases of flight training. My Col. USAF Dad pinned my wings on, and I transitioned to the EA6-B Prowler (electronic reconnaissance version of the A-6 Intruder) at MCAS Cherry Point. RVN, here I come! Gonna kick some Viet Cong butt! Andy was on the same flight to Danang.

Having trained like crazy to “do it right”, I arrived 4 April ’70 to find that, after 5 years continuous service, VMCJ-1 had been ordered to stand down to Iwakuni by June. I opted to stay in country (is that totally nuts, or what?), and the MC only got 2 months EA6-B combat flying out of me after all that training expense! What followed was a 9 month patchwork quilt as a battalion FAC for 3 months out of Marble Mt. (ask me about the flying scarf incident”), training in Okinawa to load the air group aboard ship and becoming a C-47 driver for H&MS-11, MAG-11.

In the latter role, I was right seat on an unfragged boondoggle to a small strip with Aussies waiting to swap a pallet of Foster’s lager (yum!) for some captured AK-47s. Mission accomplished, but after takeoff for the return flight somebody put a rifle round through the bird’s hydraulics which made for an interesting landing with the left gear up and the right down. The airplane fixers flew in, patched up ‘Barbarian III’, and we flew it back to Danang. The XO was obligated to chew us out even though he was aware of the flight beforehand. Nothing went in our records (as the incident officially never happened)!

Came back to TX as an advanced jet instructor for 1½ years and then decided to look for a civvie job in technical marketing/sales in ‘72. Nothing out there! . . . until I stumbled into the lobby of a Hewlett Packard plant in Colorado Springs while on vacation. I ‘dialed for dollars’ from the lobby until the Sales Manager rang me there and said, “You’re bugging the s**t out of my people. You’ve got 30 seconds to tell me what you want.” I got three sentences in before he said, “I was in the same squadron!”, and the rest is history. They had an opening that was pretty much a match for my resume.

Our daughter, Amy, was born in Colorado Springs. A year later HP transferred me to a sales position in the SF Bay area where I spent 5 years being tutored in the HP way.

I was then recruited to a small manufacturer’s rep company selling instrumentation in Silicon Valley. After 3 years in San Jose learning that business, I followed the Peter Principle to the letter, got in way over my head by opening an office in LA for them, buying a house that was too expensive and ending up divorced and broke.

So – back to the Bay Area to start my own rep company which I merged with another fledgling rep company. Best of all, I met my current wife, Geri, in ’87, married her, and got another daughter, Becki, to boot! Best thing I ever did.

We built the company up and sold it in ‘02. That first ‘retirement’ lasted a month before I was recruited to be the national sales manager for a semiconductor test equipment company for 2 years, then their international guy for two years, and I pulled the plug again. Along the way Geri and I had numerous trips to Europe and terrific experiences.

Well – a month later I turned into that company’s ‘Japan specialist’ and made 14 trips there in 2½ years to build the market. Didn’t make a cent, but all expenses were covered. Geri and I had wonderful weekends there! That was the 3rd and final retirement.

Fast forward to today and you find Geri and me healthy and happy. We found a ‘coastal cottage’ south of Santa Cruz, CA, in ’14, and we now make our home there. Our favorite get-away is the Marines Memorial Club in SF for an overnight after theater, shopping, etc.

Williams, Mike (MJW), 5th Platoon

Williams, Mike (MJW), 5th Platoon
Born July 12, 1943 (age 73)
Baltimore, Maryland
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1960-1967 (USN)
1967-2002 (USMC)
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Commands held HMT-301
2nd FSSG
Joint Task Force 160
Marine Corps Systems Command
Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps
Awards Defense Superior Service Medal (2)
Legion of Merit (2)
Bronze Star

I was born and raised in Baltimore, MD. I Joined the Navy Reserve in 1960, and transferred to the regular Navy in 1961. I served on a destroyer before gaining admission to the Naval Academy Prep School. I won appointment to the Naval Academy and graduated as a Marine Officer in 1967.

After Basic School and Flight School I served in Vietnam with First Marine Aircraft Wing. That was followed by tours on both coasts, numerous schools and eventually, squadron command. After a staff assignment at Headquarters, Marine Corps I took command of Marine Aircraft Group 26 in time to deploy to Desert Storm.

As a General Officer, I commanded 2d Force Service Support Group, Joint Task Force 160 (A humanitarian JTF caring for Haitian and Cuban refugees in Guantanamo Cuba) and Marine Corps Systems Command. My last two assignments in the Corps were as Deputy Commandant for Programs and Resources and Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps. I retired in 2002.

I married Barbara Silva in June, 1967. We have a son, Matt. We are also blessed with two grandsons and a wonderful daughter-in-law.

I am currently a defense consultant and corporate board member. I also serve as a volunteer on the Boards of the Navy- Marine Corps Relief Society and the Navy Mutual Aid Association.

I’m a mediocre bass fisherman, an avid reader and an unpaid laborer on my son’s farm in Charles County, Maryland.

Michael J. Williams was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on July 12, 1943. He enlisted in the United States Navy in 1960 and was commissioned a second lieutenant upon graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree in June 1967. He also holds Masters Degrees from the University of Southern California (1974) and the College of Naval Warfare. He was promoted to first lieutenant on September 7, 1968, and upon completion of Naval Flight Training at Pensacola, Florida, he was designated a Naval Aviator in February 1969.

Promoted to captain on February 1, 1971, Williams served operational tours in both the continental United States and the Republic of Vietnam before being ordered to the Marine Corps Amphibious Warfare School, Quantico, Virginia, in 1973. Upon graduation in June 1974, he served on Okinawa, Japan with the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. Returning to the United States in the summer of 1975, Capt Williams joined Marine Helicopter Squadron 1 at Quantico. There, he was designated a Presidential Helicopter Pilot while serving in various positions with the Squadron. He was promoted to major on August 1, 1977, and in July 1978, he was selected to attend the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, Quantico.

Following graduation in June 1979, Maj Williams was ordered to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, where he served as a Company Officer and Executive Assistant to the Commandant of Midshipmen. He transferred to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, El Toro, California in July 1982, for duty as Executive Officer of Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron 16, and later as Commanding Officer of Marine Helicopter Training Squadron 301. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel on October 1, 1982.

From June 1984 until June 1985, LtCol Williams attended the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island. Following graduation, he was ordered to the 3rd Marine Division on Okinawa, where he served as the Assistant Division G-3. Returning to the states in the summer of 1986, he reported to Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C., for duty as the Marine Corps Program Development Officer, and later the Head, Program Development Branch, Requirements and Program Division. He was promoted to colonel on October 1, 1988.

In July 1989, Col Williams transferred to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at Cherry Point, North Carolina, as the Wing Inspector before assuming duty as Marine Aircraft Group 26, Executive Officer in April 1990. Col Williams then assumed command of Marine Aircraft Group 26 (MAG-26) on July 16, 1990. He deployed the MAG to Saudi Arabia to participate in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, returning to the United States in May 1991.

He was assigned duty as the Vice Director for Operational Plans and Interoperability, J-7, and Vice Director, Joint Staff for Military Education, The Joint Staff, in November 1991. While serving in this capacity, he was selected for promotion to brigadier general in December 1991, and advanced to that grade on April 1, 1992. BGen Williams served in that capacity until July 16, 1993, when he assumed command of 2nd Force Service Support Group (2nd FSSG). On June 8, 1994, BGen Williams was appointed Commanding General, Joint Task Force 160, a humanitarian relief effort for Haitian and Cuban migrants at Guantanamo Naval Base, Cuba. He resumed command of the 2d FSSG on October 31, 1994. He was advanced to the grade of major general in March 1995 and in July was appointed Director of the Marine Corps Staff, Washington, D.C., He assumed assignment on July 23, 1996, as the Commander, Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico. He was promoted to lieutenant general on August 5, 1998. LtGen Williams served as the Deputy Chief of Staff, Programs and Resources, Headquarters, Marine Corps, Washington, D.C., as his last assignment prior to becoming the Assistant Commandant.

Lieutenant General Williams became the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps on September 8, 2000, and was advanced to the rank of general on November 1, 2000. He served as Assistant Commandant until September 9, 2002, and retired from active duty in November 2002.

Williamson, JT (JTW), 5th Platoon

Williamson, JT (JTW), 5th Platoon

From an email:

I was wounded near Hill 950, north of Khe Sanh, in August 1968. Medevac’d to Japan, and then to Bethesda. Osteomyelitis developed in the bone of my foot and could not be eradicated, so the Medical Board retired me and I entered civilian life without a clue of what to do. Graduated from Duke Law School in 1973 and practiced law in Raleigh, NC until 2007, when I chose to retire early to enjoy life, and I am.

I had an unusual path to Hill 950.

From TBS I was sent to Recon Replacement School, in California, and from there to Okinawa. When I reported in at Okinawa, I told them I wanted to go to Vietnam. As I recall, the captain to whom I made that statement responded “All right, dumbass, don’t unpack your bag,” and I was on a plane the next day headed for Khe Sanh, where the siege had just begun. To my surprise/disgust, I was dumped into the regimental S-3, where I stood 12 hour shifts. At least I got to learn a lot watching the regimental CO, Col. Lownds and his XO, Lt.Col. Rann. When you and the army came to clear out the remaining NVA during Pegasus, I was sent out to be temporary liaison to the First Air Cav. When the siege was lifted, Lt.Col Rann was given command of 2/4 and had pity on me and took me with him, so I finally got my platoon. 2/4 was then down on the coast east of Dong Ha, along the Cua Viet River, trying to block NVA infiltration from the north.

Hill 950 is more or less due north of Khe Sanh and east of Hills 881N, 881S, and 861. During the siege and afterwards it was the location of a radio relay station, with a platoon providing security. It is so high and steep-sided that it was thought the NVA could not successfully attack it, but from time to time they would make it into the wire. In bad weather it is often socked in or above the clouds, but on a clear day you can see forever from it.

When, after Tet, Gen. Davis decided to aggressively pursue the NVA, 2/4 packed up in early June and moved west, and damned if I didn’t end up at Khe Sanh again. We were the security force while the engineers blew up the fortifications and the base was abandoned, and we then did ops near the Laotian border and north and east of the former base, and for a while my platoon provided security for the relay station on Hill 950.

If you can still hump up 861, you have done well. I decided early on that activity was the best medicine, and still run every day.

As a side note, my son, Jim did a tour at 8th & I, and while he was there I got to visit with Mike Williams when he was Assistant Commandant. Pete Pace’s son was a platoon commander in my son’s company, and Pete selected Jim to be his aide while Pete was Vice Chairman, not knowing initially of the family relationship.

Winn, Bob (RDW Jr), 5th Platoon

Winn, Bob (RDW Jr), 5th Platoon

My father was a career Marine enlisting in 1941 after Pearl Harbor, commissioned in 1944 as an Infantry 2nd Lieutenant, and retiring as a Lt. Col. in 1966 – just 6 months before I was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. from the NROTC unit at the University of Idaho. I inherited his sword, most of his uniforms, and most of his accouterments. Upon arriving at TBS in June 1967, some of the officers (Capt. J. D. Jones) loved that I had “old Corps” stuff, and some, particularly our Company Commander Major Angus gave me grief at every inspection, but couldn’t deny they were regulation.

Upon graduation from TBS as an 0302 (my requested MOS) I had orders to Vietnam, departing Travis Air Force base at 1800, Dec. 31st 1967. Jan 4th, I landed in Da Nang and was assigned to Golf. Co. 2nd platoon, 2nd Bn, 26th Marines stationed in Phu Bai. On Jan 20th we were loaded on C 130’s and told we were going to Con Thien – but after takeoff, I was told we were headed to Khe Sanh. I didn’t know where either of them was at that point so it didn’t make any difference until we landed at Khe Sanh and the whole picture changed. I remember thinking “this isn’t good.” I was wounded on April 8 as Golf Co. was the first Company to leave the wire from hill 558 after being kept inside the perimeter for 2 ½ months. The objective was hill 700, from which we had been receiving fire for the entire time we were on the hill, to search for and destroy the enemy. We found them.

When I rejoined the unit, the 2nd Bn was at Camp Carroll, then Con Thien, and in June became the 3rd Marine Divisions Battalion Landing team – always working along the DMZ (not good duty.) I was later transferred to Hotel Co, as the XO, and as the Company Commander. I left Vietnam in late Jan. 1969 with orders to Camp Pendleton (my home for about 6 years growing up as a dependent.) Since I’d initially requested Recon at Basic School, I finally got my wish and spent the bulk of my time at Pendleton in the 5th Force Recon Co, until they were disbanded in 1970 and finished my commitment with an Infantry regiment. I left the Marine Corps in late 1970. I always thought I would make a career of the Corps since that was all I’d known for the first 25 yrs. of my life but that changed.

I married my high school sweetheart 10 days after returning from Vietnam and 10 months later she was pregnant with our first child. I was due to return to Vietnam in 1970 and decided, based on my first experience, “it was a war we weren’t going to win, and I wasn’t prepared to leave my wife a widow and baby without a father” so put in my papers to exit the Corps.

I spent the next 40 years on the Company side of the Property Casualty Insurance industry retiring in Monterey, Ca. in 2010. My wife (Sue) and I have been married since Feb. 1969, have 2 grown daughters and 5 grandchildren. We’ve lived in Carmel Valley, Ca. since 1994.

Woods, Al (APW), 5th Platoon

Woods, Al (APW), 5th Platoon

I joined the Marines during my junior year at St. John’s University in Queens, New York City. I was a member of the Platoon Leaders Class and went to OCS the summer preceding my senior year. I was commissioned during the graduation ceremony and shortly thereafter reported to TBS, my roommates were Hank Wright and Mike Williams. To say I was uncomfortable, being a street kid from Brooklyn, in the company of these two squared away outstanding Naval Academy graduates would be an understatement. Both of these men reached out with kindness and patients helping me acclimate to a new and unfamiliar environment.

After graduation I received orders to Motor Transport School. My roommate was Jack Sammons. Joe Laslie was one of our classmates. I was then ordered to Camp Pendleton and assumed command of a company in the Staging Battalion.

A memory that is scorched in my memory occurred one evening in early February. As I entered the Officers Club at Camp Pendleton I checked the bulletin board which posted the names of officers recently killed. It was then I learned of the death of my roommate and friend Hank Wright on February 6th. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t think of Hank.

I landed in DaNang on March 13th 1968.and was assigned to 11th Motor Transport Battalion, 1st Marine Division. As a platoon commander and company commander, I spent the next 13 months as a convoy commander running conveys up and down I Corps. In June of 1970 I left active duty and began a business career.

I was blessed with an undeserved successful career. The success I experienced was built on the leadership foundation forged during my association with the men I served with in the Marine Corps. I was able to retire in August of 2005. At the time I served as Vice chairman, Chief Information Officer for Mellon Financial Corporation, headquartered in Pittsburgh. In that capacity I was responsible for some 8,000 professionals around the world. I retired to begin a career in EMS.

So at the tender age of 59 I went back to school. I received my basic certification in February, 2006 and continue to respond to 911 calls as an Advanced EMT with Dorchester County EMS in South Carolina. My EMS career has taken me down many paths over the past 10 years. I went to Haiti as part of a rescue and relief team after the earthquake. I was humbled by the faith, joy and gratitude of the Haitian people who had lost everything. I have also used my EMS certifications to start the Charleston Street Wellness Patrol. We are a confederation of EMS personal and nurses who minister to the homeless and poor of Charleston. We conduct wellness clinics and conduct patrols in the homeless camps, under the bridges and in the woods. We bring healing, resources, love and respect to the least of our brothers and sisters. Our tag line is “Helping not Judging”.

I am proof that our Lord has a sense of humor. He has taken the mess that this dark and broken man has made of his life and used it to do His will. He who has been forgiven much loves much.

Peace My Brothers

Wright, Henry Arthur (Hank), 5th Platoon

Wright, Henry Arthur (Hank), 5th Platoon

9 June 1946 – 06 February 1968
Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland, CA 94611

Henry Arthur Wright (Hank) was born 9 Jun 1946 in Keokuk, IA to Roy E. Wright and Marjorie J. Wright now residing in Oakland CA. Henry attended the US Naval Academy, and upon graduation was commissioned 7 June 1967 a second Lieutenant in the US Marine Corps.

Hank’s USNA yearbook biography reads: After graduating from Oakland High School in “sunny California”, Henry found his way to the Naval Academy. His scholastic background enabled him to take full advantage of the electives program and to complete majors in German and Economics while at Navy. Never content with less than his best effort, Henry’s hard work paid off, and he found himself consistently on the superintendent’s List. Henry’s advice was much sought after by peer and subordinate alike. Henry will carry with him qualities that destine him to be a valuable asset to the Naval service, an inspiration and example to those with whom he comes in contact, and an unbounded personal success as well.

Arriving at his first post Academy assignment, Hank reported to the USMC Officers Basic School (TBS) Class 1-68 Alpha Company, 5th Platoon in Quantico, VA. Upon graduation, Hank was assigned as a Basic Infantry Officer and given orders to Vietnam. Arriving in Vietnam on 5 January 1968 2dLt Wright was assigned to Company D, 1st Battalion 7th Marines 1st MARDIV (Rein) FMF (D/1/7) as a Platoon Commander.

On February 6 at approximately 08:45 CAP B-4 located in the hamlet of La Chau became engaged with an enemy force and requested assistance. Company D, nearby on Hill 47 deployed a two squad reaction force supported by an M48A1 Tank to the scene of the fire fight. Approaching La Chau the tank struck a mine becoming disabled as the Marines began to receive heavy automatic weapons fire, B-40 rockets were fired at the tank setting it ablaze. Additional reinforcements and air support were requested by the Marines.

The action resulted in the deaths of eight Marines and one US Navy Corpsmen, including 2dLt Wright who died as a result of a gunshot wound. Twenty men were also wounded during the fire fights with the enemy forces. Second Lieutenant Wright earned the following decorations: Bronze Star, Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Vietnam Campaign Medal, and Vietnam Service Medal.

Second Lieutenant Wright is honored on the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, VVM Wall, Panel 37e, Line 76.

USMC Resume:
USNA Class of 1967, 1963 – 1967.
The Basic School Class 1-68 Alpha Company, 5th Platoon, Jun-Nov 1967
Vietnam: Company D, 1st Bn 7th Marines 1st MARDIV (Rein) FMF, 5 Jan – 6 Feb 1968
Bronze Star, Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal.

Personal Reflections about Hank Wright:

Wzorek, Wazzo (JFW Jr), 5th Platoon

Wzorek, Wazzo (JFW Jr), 5th Platoon

Since I ended up in the Wing I didn’t get to Nam until most of you were back here in the States. I was a 46 driver with HMM 263 out of Marble Mountain 69/70 and was send back to Pensacola as a flight instructor/maintenance inspection pilot/line div officer. I left active duty in May of 73 to join the family construction business in Massachusetts. I retired in 2009 and moved to Sun City West AZ. I am presently a Lt in the Maricopa County sheriff’s posse here in Sun City West. It a takes up about 800 hours of my time each year. It’s a volunteer position with no pay, but we basically provide policing/ health and welfare here in Sun City West supporting the counties sheriff department. The rest of my retirement is spent on my hobbies Ham radio and fishing. In retirement I have built an station that I can bounce signals off the moon, its portable and is presently in Nebraska. I’m headed back to Massachusetts later this summer to spend some time with my brother who has been diagnosed with ALS. We plan to do some fishing before the disease limits his mobility.

Zimmerman, Jeff / Z (JMZ), 5th Platoon

Zimmerman, Jeff / Z (JMZ), 5th Platoon

As many of you know I stayed in the Corps for twenty. I did two tours in Vietnam, first on the DMZ with 1/12 and later shipboard with 33rd MAU and 1/9. Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho initialed the peace treaty during my second tour. When the skipper came over the 1-MC with the announcement, for a few seconds there was only silence. Then the entire fleet erupted in a huge cheer. January 23rd, 1973, was a great day — one I’ll never forget.

After Vietnam I served a tour as Ground Defense Force CommO for the Naval Base at Gitmo. GDF was funded by the Navy but administered by the Marine Barracks. Thus I served two masters: good men who more-or-less couldn’t abide each other, RAdm. Ralph Ghormley USN and Col. Edward “Bill” Lamontagne USMC. Ghormley was an inclusive technocrat who understood both intelligence and communications, and held the purse strings. He assigned me all sorts of additional Naval Base duties, notably co-chairing Jamaican Independence Day with his charming wife Sally. I acquired many Navy friends including the JAG and the Supply Officer, who was my sailing mate. Through my association with Ralph Ghormley and his staff I secured much material needed to upgrade GDF communications. But Lamontagne was the finest Marine officer I ever served under. His only weakness was a visceral intolerance for anyone in a blue suit, so it made for an interesting two years. Nonetheless, I stayed in touch with both of them for a long time.

Later I cross-decked to the 2600 (Signals Intelligence) community as a Captain and pretty much stayed there for my career. I started with 2d Radio Bn. at Lejeune. On my second tour with “Rag Bag” I was S-3, still the best job I ever had. At NSA I worked closely with the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) where I made an enduring friendship with then-Congressman Norm Mineta from San Jose (later “Mr. Secretary”).

Later I was named an NSA Director’s Fellow, basically a license to steal inside “no such agency” for an academic year. In those days one couldn’t work in the “spook” field without both the acquaintance and approval of General (later Commandant) Al Gray. I was blessed and honored to have both.

General Gray still serves on NSA’s Scientific Advisory Board; I caught up with him a few years ago in that capacity. Most modern Marines will never know how much both the nation and the Corps owes to Al Gray in the application of signals intelligence to ground warfare, but it’s enough for me that I know.

As a result of my work as a Fellow with NSA Director, LtGen. Lincoln Faurer USAF, I was honored to lead a sensitive national-tactical intel coordination initiative for a valued Scandinavian ally involving both the Marines and NSA. Had the Cold War turned hot, I believe our work would have improved tactical intelligence in the far north and maybe saved a few lives. For his part Linc Faurer wrote me a fitrep that only the Air Force would believe, and I credit him for my silver leaf. He’s a fine gentleman, and still murder on the ski slopes.

Some of you may remember my first wife Pamm. She was my ticket out of the TBS BOQ. She and I split in 2003. We probably stayed married too long, but we had two great kids, Paul and Kerry. Both went to Dartmouth. Paul’s a “serial entrepreneur” in England, nurtured by Jeff Bezos and company at Amazon. He led Amazon’s European music and video just-in-time supply team, met both Sir Elton and Sir Paul, and married Becky – a lovely British lady. They have our only grandchildren. Ella was born in 2001, appropriately enough on D-Day; Lily, almost two years later. Lily’s the Yank of the two if you get my drift. My daughter Kerry was born in the old Camp Lejeune hospital (I believe 6th MEB HQ now). She’s now a writer and educator in Maryland.

Paul and Kerry are very close to Bob Hansen’s boys. All of them went to Bowie High School in Maryland together. Bob’s younger son Alan is named for Al DeCraene. Over the years Bob became my best friend from our TBS class. He was always trying to drag me to the bar in Henoko on those rare occasions when 1/9 came ashore and set up shop at Camp Schwab, but I almost always had something to study. I should have gone with him more often. He died too young, and I miss him.

I married Amy Miller in 2006 at the Lutheran Seminary in Gettysburg, so far as I know the only church in the North flanked by Confederate cannon. She’s the best thing that ever happened to me. We honeymooned in winter storm season at the Wickaninnish Inn on the Pacific Coast in Tofino, British Columbia. We took green water over our second floor deck during at least one storm. Go there if you haven’t been; it’s fabulous. Amy and I moved to Gettysburg in 2012.

My stepson, Michael “Mickey” Basta, is an unexpected gift from Amy. One couldn’t ask for a better son, especially when your own son is 4000 miles away. Mickey’s in a post-high school drift right now, but leaning toward learning a trade (HVAC likely). His cousin and my nephew, Sgt. Mark Lewis USMC, just re-upped and cross-decked from infantry to aviation. Mark’s stationed at Cherry Point. Mark keeps working on Mickey to join the Corps, but no luck (yet).

I retired from the Marine Corps determined not to become a “beltway bandit”. I went to Wharton on the Executive MBA (aka “weekend warrior”) program and became a Booz Allen strategy consultant in information security and energy. (While stationed at HQMC I had picked up a Georgetown MA in Russian Studies focused on the Soviet natural gas industry.) I worked mostly in Eastern Europe, including a full year in Kiev.

John endorsed me for the nascent Georgetown Doctor of Liberal Studies program in 2009. I was accepted, and am presently in the closing stages of my doctoral thesis. The program requires four core courses in western thought; the rest is up to the student. I studied 16th century European and 18th century North American history. My thesis is, “All the Nations to the Sun Setting:” George Croghan, Expanding the Limits of Empire in British North America. With luck I’ll have the cowl this December.

An unexpected pleasure of this program was getting to know fellow cohort-mate LtGen. Bob “Rooster” Schmidle USMC. Rooster, a Hornet driver, is an expert on philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Hands down, he’s the smartest man I’ve ever met in the Corps and a fine officer. He’s become a good friend. If Rooster Schmidle is any example, our Corps is in good hands.

As for me, I’m blessed with nonagenarian genes and a November birthday which keep both the big seven-zero and the grim reaper on the horizon. Several years ago another of my out-of-the-box Marine friends unintentionally summed up my life as we waited for a cab in a downpour in New York. Owen Stryker, former Marine Corporal and sniper — now an insurance products designer — remarked, “The thing I like best about you is you’ll go anywhere and do anything.” He meant it as a compliment, but in retrospect I’m not sure if it’s been a curse or a blessing. Time will tell; there’s a lot of runway left.