It has always been a tradition at the FlyoverPress (another blog that I run) to republish “Hey Grimes” each Memorial Day in memory of a pure and honorable man who represents tens of thousands like himself.
I left Vietnam in September of 1970, 43 years ago. There has not been one single day since then that the thing has not entered my mind in one way or another. There have been very few of those days that I have not cried.
When this essay was first published in 2002, those were tears of sadness and from a sense of loss with a healthy dose of self-pity. Today, after a long and arduous soul searching process, they are tears of anger. Actually, anger is not a strong enough word—it more like an intense fury of diamond like purity.
This fury stems from an understanding of why Gary Lyn Grimes died. He did not die for “freedom” in America. He did not die to “protect the constitution.” He did not die for any of that flag waving patriotic bullshit. He died for the aggrandizement of the state and the enrichment of the politicos and their cronies in the military-industrial-congressional-educational complex.
And the beat goes on.
Hey Grimes, what’s up dude?
Dr. Jimmy T. (Gunny) LaBaume
19 Nov 02
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he today that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother. Shakespeare, Henry IV, Act IV, Scene 3
Hey Grimes, what’s up? How are things going for you up there in Valhalla? With Memorial Day coming, I thought I’d drop you a line. I don’t talk about it much, but there has not been a single day in over 32 (now 43) years that I haven’t thought about you.
I remember the first time we met. It was in Staging Battalion at Camp Pendleton. At the ripe old age of 24, I was a good deal older than average. You’ve heard of the generation gap? Well, I was the gap. I had little in common with the guys of my rank, with whom I was allowed to socialize. But, although you were still very young, you were different–an enthusiastic, bubbling, peached faced kid from Amarillo, TX. Remember our big plans for me to teach you to ride bulls and bareback horses when we got back to the world?
Boy, what a couple of dreamers!
When we got in country, you went to 5th Marines and I went to 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines. Since my Battalion and your Regimental Headquarters were both at An Hoa, we had several chances to see each other and renew our friendship. Any time that you were there, you always made a point of finding me, as I did you when I would pass through.
I’ll never forget the last time I saw you. It was about a month before we were due to rotate. You had been out with a CAP unit and showed up at my hooch wearing a flight suit and sporting a 45 in a shoulder holster. I didn’t ask where you got the flight suit and shoulder holster–just figured that you had traded some air-winger an AK (or something) for them. I’ll never forget the last conversation we had.
“Hey Grimes, what’s up dude?”
“Man, I’m being MedEvaced to Japan!”
I checked you out. You seemed to have all your appendages and didn’t seem to have any extra holes. “MedEvaced? What for?”
“Man, I’m eat up with parasites.”
“Parasites! Man that’s great!!! By the time they get you to Japan and get you cleaned up, it’ll be time to rotate.”
We knew that you had it made so we celebrated. As I recall, we snuck out into Duc Duc and captured a couple of liters of Gook banana rum. What a night! The next morning I sent you off. “See ya back in the world dude!”
When rotation day came and I got on the freedom bird, I was fully expecting to see you in a few days. The first morning back on Okinawa, I ran into Piasaki. Remember him? He was a mutual friend that had gone through Staging Battalion with us. That’s another conversation I’ll never forget.
“Hey man, did you know that Grimes is dead?”
“Naw, bullshit, Grimes ain’t dead.”
“Yea, he is too.”
“No he ain’t. I saw him less than a month ago and he was being MedEvaced to Japan.”
“I’m telling you he’s dead. I kicked his body the next morning. I was part of the relief force that got too them right after daylight. The VC overran his CAP unit and killed them all. It looked like Grimes had been one of the last left fighting. He had about 30 AK rounds point blank in his chest.”
I refused to believe it. I just came home and tried to burry it. I never made any attempt to contact you or your family–guess I didn’t want to believe it. Then finally, in 1983, I went to the wall and there you were—Panel 09W, Line 52, Gary Lynn Grimes. Born 01 June 1949 in Amarillo, Texas. Died 13 June 1970 in Quang Nam, South Vietnam. I cried.
It has only been just recently that I located your family. They are still in Amarillo and, from what little I know, seem to be doing well. Although I have your parents’ and brother’s addresses and phone numbers, I have still made no attempt to contact any of them. That is a wrong that terribly needs to be righted and, I promise, I will…someday…
As far as what’s going on in the world, you wouldn’t believe what they’ve done to our country. Remember all those greasy headed hippies that we used to hate so much? Well, they’re all grown up now and are in control of all our major institutions and all levels of government—everything from Congress to law enforcement to the public schools. Hell, one of them even became President. They are stealing our property, murdering our citizens, and generally making a mockery out of the Constitution—all under the color of law. What a mess! Oh well, hopefully, there’ll be plenty of time to fill you in on the details of all that later.
So, how’s it going for you? I suspect that promotions come pretty slow up there–after all, you are amongst the cream of the cream. But, knowing you, I’d bet that you are at least a Battalion Sergeant Major by now. When the Supreme Commandant decides to cut me a new set of orders, I’m hoping He’ll consider me worthy of joining you. Maybe you’ll have room for a good Company First Sergeant in your outfit.
Hope to see you up there dude!
LaBaume, Jimmy T