Marine Vignettes by Gunny G
Captain J. A. House II USMC
By Dick Gaines
January 15, 1998
In July 1965 I had just completed a tour with 1st Marine Air Wing (Iwakuni, Atsugi, and DaNang, RVN). I rejoined my wife and family in Triangle, Virginia and proceeded to move to North Carolina as I had orders for 2nd Marine Division.
We moved our mobile home into a mobile home park close to Camp Lejeune. Our next-door neighbors were a young Marine and his wife. I took him to be about 19 or 20 years old and a LCpl, maybe. It turned out he was a few years older, and a first lieutenant, a pilot at the nearby MCAF, New River.
Jack always had a big smile on his face. He was the kind of guy everybody liked. If somebody's car would not start he would be there, or if you came home with more groceries than you could carry, he would help.
He owned a red Jeep pickup with a white camper shell on it. He and my oldest son, Mike who was about 11 at the time, became friends and would go fishing together.
One Sunday afternoon, I heard the sound of a small plane circling around. The noise soon became louder and I went outside to see what was going on. It seemed like the plane was diving right at us! But, it got worse. The engine was stalling, and the plane would spiral down right at us with the pilot screaming in terror from the open cockpit. Then, the engine would restart and he would fly away, only to return for more of the same. Somebody phoned the sheriff, but they would only respond if the park owner requested it; and they cared even less about the air space over the park.
Then I noticed Jack looking upward with his hands cupped over his eyes to shield them from the sun. He was laughing and obviously enjoying the show!
Then it dawned on me. This was one of Jack's buddies! Out on a lark to harass Jack by buzzing his place. Just some "Great Santini" stuff. I went back to my TV.
About June 1967, Jack, now a captain, got his orders for Nam. If it seemed he'd only been gone a few days, it was because it had only been a few days when his wife (still living next-door) was notified that Jack had been killed. He was 28.
I have often thought about Jack these last thirty years. My older kids still remember him too. A few weeks ago, a long time friend of mine, Mike Adelt added a MIA/KIA page to his website, "Gunny Mike's Salute" (see my links listing). He had an article there regarding a young recon Marine who had been killed in a helicopter crash in VietNam in 1967. As I read on I got a strange feeling and I knew this was about Jack's CH46A which he was flying when he was killed. It was.
Gunny Mike has since done some research and sent me additional information from Project Homecoming II with details of Jack's death , i.e. names, dates, other data involving the crash. The CH46A had been hit by small arms fire, exploded, and crashed. Although there were some survivors, Jack's body and others were never recovered, and they were declared KIA.
Jack's death had hit those of us who knew him pretty close to home. To me, he is not just a name on a casualty list or a name on a bracelet. He was a good Marine, and a helluva guy. And this vignette is dedicated to him, from what little I know of John Alexander House II..
I still wonder though, how many of our people are still out there somewhere. Do they still, after all these years, lie awake in the pre-dawn hours listening for the distant roar of engines bringing us in to finally take them home?
Here's to you, Jack--for that drink we never had together.
(Gunny G's Marines WebSites)
RESTORE THE REPUBLIC!
R.W. "D1ck" Gaines
GnySgt USMC (Ret.)
1952- (Plt #437PISC)-'72
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