My Walk With John Glenn

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic

It is hard to imagine a 20-year old kid from the Rio Grande Valley walking with and talking to an out-of-this world American hero. A hero who had been given ticker-tape parades in New York City and Washington, DC. In 1969, while serving in the Mekong Delta of South Vietnam, I took a walk with John Glenn and visited with him briefly.

MY WALK WITH JOHN GLENN

By Al Garcia

It is hard to imagine a 20-year old kid from the Rio Grande Valley walking with and talking to an out-of-this world American hero.  A hero who had been given ticker-tape parades in New York City and Washington, DC.  In 1969, while serving in the Mekong Delta of South Vietnam, I took a walk with John Glenn and visited with him briefly.

In 1969 I served as a military journalist in the Mekong Delta’s Public Information Office.  Part of our duties included meeting and at times assisting visiting civilian dignitaries.  This included entertainers, famous or would-be famous journalists, politicians and even astronauts.  At times our office would even provide accommodations to visiting journalists in our three-story office building which had sleeping quarters on the third floor. 

One day, with little fanfare or advance warning, our office is notified that John Glenn was visiting the IV Corps area to meet and greet servicemen at several selected outposts in the Mekong Delta.  I was in the office that day and just happened upon this assignment, along with “Bid Red,” our photographer.  A simple reason for his name “Big Red,” the kid was tall, broad-shouldered, weighed about 190 or so, and of course, had red hair.  He was also about my age at the time and also fairly new to our office. 

I had met various visiting entertainers prior to this, mainly unknown bands and singers travelling from base to base entertaining the troops.  I had met visiting journalists from around the world who checked into our office before visiting remote outposts or units throughout our region.  I had also met plenty of high-ranking military officials who came and went, one, two and even three-star Generals, etc.  However, I had never met a true American hero.  This was going to be my 15-minutes of being close to fame – to actually walk and talk with John Glenn, the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth.  For a 20-year old kid from The Rio Grande Valley, this was beyond awesome.  In fact, it was out of this world!

This was one of my first assignments in Vietnam.  I was awe struck obviously.  And what could a 20-year old kid from the Valley ask or talk about with The John Glenn?  Very little in fact.  Normal questions of why he was in-country, where he had already visited, simply things like that.  My time was mostly just spent standing next to him while he shook hands and patted soldiers on the back, and thanked them for all they were doing.

It was a quick “meet and greet” and photo op and not much more.  Within the hour he was back on his way to another stop and another quick meet and greet.  After this first experience with “fame,” it became “ordinary” and normal to meet military and civilian dignitaries and the many entertainers visiting our area. 

Life took on the normalcy of “just another day at the office” after that, except that instead of a briefcase, I carried an M-16.


Submitted: June 06, 2021

© Copyright 2021 A.Garcia. All rights reserved.

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