|On February 6, 1968 Gregory Howard Lunde gave his life in the service of our Country. Gregory then a member of First Tank Battalion, First Marine Division. Was participating in hostile actions against communist insurgent forces near DaNang, in Quang Nam Province, Republic Of Vietnam. Unfortunately Gregory was one of the many casualties of the 1968 Communist Tet Offensive which was probably the major turning point of the Vietnam War. It was also the saddest of times for all of those who were there.|
|Remembrance of Gregory as related by his good friend and fellow USMC Tanker John Wear;
I first met Gregory Lunde near the end of August 1966 during Bootcamp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) San Diego. Yes, he and I were "Hollywood Marines." Well, that's what those ultra rough / tough guys who go through Bootcamp at MCRD Parris Island called us. We were together in Platoon 3306. As it turned out, through a lot of sweat and tears, we became the Bootcamp series Honor Platoon. Greg was a quite sort of a guy. He stayed in the yellow foot prints and did not offer much in the way of smart mouth comments during our six or eight weeks of pure hell. As most of you who have lived through the super human ordeal of Marine Corps Bootcamp know, given the chance, your wise-ass mouth was going 90 miles an hour. You were bragging about all of your girlfriends, your car, your buddies back home, you name it. Not Greg. He was a real gentleman. He and I ended up in the same platoon at Infantry Training Regiment (ITR) at Camp Pendleton. During our ITR was where I got to know more about Greg. He was from (I believe) Bismarck, North Dakota...or maybe across the river in Mandan. Now who the hell is from North Dakota? In my short life, I had only known one other person from there and that was my college freshman roommate, Lloyd Sanders, who was from Grand Forks, ND. We used to call them "No Daks."
Anyway, Greg was the son of a butcher. I don't mean the owner of the corner butcher shop. I mean, a died-in-the-wool big assed meat processing plant. He would tell all kinds of stories about killing cows and pigs with guns, hammers, crow bars, electricity, you name it. He reveled in talking about slitting throats, bleeding them, gutting them and cutting up the meat. I recall that he told me how his dad used to get fined all the time for letting gallons of cow's blood in to the city's sewer system. What an upbringing! Most of us only know meat that comes from the grocery store and is on those white trays encased in plastic wrap. Greg knew it on the hoof. He was looking forward to getting out of the Marine Corps and taking over the family business some day. He really did not seem to have any other dreams or ideas as to what else he wanted to do with his life. Most of us wanted to get out of the Marines and then travel around and see the world or get back to finish college and start a career. Greg just wanted to work in the family meat processing business (period).
I recall that Greg had lost his four front teeth. They had been knocked out while he was playing high school football. He always talked with a slight lisp from his false teeth. Back in the 1960's, they would make removable bridges for missing teeth. Greg could take out his front bridge and look like a very old (toothless) man. That remembrance just came back to me as I write this. It makes me sad as I recall that we used to make a lot of fun of him and his missing teeth. We'd laugh and jeer, calling him "Grandpa." I sure hope that this did not hurt his feelings back then. It probably didn't. Hell, we were all "grabass" Marines. We were full of piss and vinegar. We were also very full of ourselves.
The next event that I recall was that we went home on our after Bootcamp/ ITR 30-day leave. That would have been during Thanksgiving 1966. We returned to the Schools Battalion Processing Barracks at Camp Pendleton. There were no new Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) School classes starting between Thanksgiving and New Years, so we sat around "shooting the shit" (telling sea stories) and going out on work parties for over a month and a half. When Schools Battalion finally started again, Lunde (we always called each other by our last names or nicknames) and I went to Basic Tank Crewman School at Camp Del Mar on Camp Pendleton. We were joined by a whole group of guys who had been in Bootcamp and ITR with us. Those of us who hung around together were called "The Boys." Why that name? Well, there was another group of fellows who thought that their "shit didn't stink." They called themselves "The Men." They felt superior to the rest of us who liked to have shaving cream fights, short sheet racks, get in water balloon fights and other acting up shenanigans. "The Boys" had a lot of fun. There was Greg, Bob Peavey, Garry Hall, Art Shook, John Perry, John Skobel, Bob Martinez, Dave Shuttle, Tom Famularo and more that I cannot recall their names. We graduated from Tank School the first part of February 1967 and most of us were assigned to the Fifth Tank Battalion (5th Tanks) at Las Flores on Camp Pendleton. Greg and I were assigned to Charlie Company. He went to 2nd Platoon while I went to 1st Platoon. On occasion, we'd go on off base liberty as a group. Of course, drinking was a major past time for us and I recall Greg really liked his Schlitz beer. One Saturday, we rented a room in one of those sleazy Oceanside motels. That's the town just outside the main gate of Camp Pendleton. We bought a bunch of beer, booze and munchies and proceeded to have an all night card party. I recall that Greg and I went out for some reason or another (maybe to get more beer) and when we got back, the motel's owner was standing in the doorway of the room screaming at whoever was still in the room to get out and stay out. Why? I guess Bob Martinez had had too much to drink and for some reason or another he got pissed at John Skobel. Bob hauled off and punched John in the face, breaking his nose. There was blood all over the place. There was also broken furniture and broken windows. Jeez! Lunde and I missed all of the action and ended up having to clean up the aftermath.
For some reason, I do not recall when Greg left 5th Tanks and went to Vietnam. I am sure that he went on individual orders because when Bravo Company, 5th Tanks mounted out with the 27th Marine Regiment (as a unit) to Vietnam, it was after I went over in January 1968. I don't think Greg was with those men. In fact, I am sure that Bravo Company, 5th Tanks did not arrive Incountry until March 1968 and Greg had been KIA by then.
My first trip to "The Wall" (the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC) was in 1985 or 1986. I had not had the courage to visit this awesome monument before then. When I did finally muster up enough brass to make the trip, I had planned to find my buddy, Bob Minetto's name on The Wall. What I did not intend to do was to look in the names registry for anyone else's name. After finding Bob's name, making the agonizing trip to the spot where his name is located and feeling the catharsis; I went back to the directory and began recalling names of buddies from my tour of duty. I was relieved to not find a lot of names in "The Book of The Dead." That is, until I got to the "L" section. There was Greg's name. The discovery of his death really hit me pretty hard. Here was this happy go lucky guy who had the world by the short hairs. This was the guy who just wanted to do his time in the Marines and get his young ass home to process cows and pigs for America to eat. I really felt bad that I did not keep closer contact with Greg later. That is one of those regrets that we get later on in life. But when we are young and stupid, we never think that anything is going to happen to us or our friends. Combat sure changes that outlook in a big way. When I think of the many friends that I made over the years, there are no better friends than the men I served in the Untied States Marine Corps.
Remembrance of Gregory as related by his good friend and fellow USMC Tanker Bill Montney;
I too, after Tank Crewman School at Camp Del Mar, spent my first several months as an 1811 - Tank Crewman with First Platoon, Delta Co, 5th Tanks at Camp Los Flores on Camp Pendleton. Delta Company was the Heavy Tank Company and those M103's with their huge 120 mm cannons were something else! I made some real good friends and I learned a lot from returning Vietnam tankers who were assigned as our Tank Commanders. Many of them told us: (I am sure you’ll remember this quote.) ”Pay attention. This might save your life someday.” There was something about those Vietnam veteran tankers, the way they carried themselves, the way they acted. The message they gave us without really saying theses words – “Hey, we made it back and we want you to make it back, so pay attention to me”... and we did. This time frame was probably from January 1967 until about July 1967. I am sure that most of you probably remember those morning company formations we had. I remember at least once, maybe twice, a week, the Gunny would ask for volunteers to fill an 1811 quota for WEST PAC orders. Well another man named B.E. Bishop, from West Frankfort, Illinois and I did just that. Not knowing if 5th Tanks was ever going to mount out or even when and not wanting to look like a "Plain Jane" with just a "fire-watch" (National Defense) ribbon on my uniform, he and I volunteered. We left California for Vietnam at the end of August or the beginning of September 1967. I then got orders to 1st Marine Division while my pal ended up going to the 3rd Mar Div.
Upon finally arriving at 1st Tank Battalion Headquarters in Danang, I had the honor and privilege of meeting and
be-friending Greg Lunde. We, in fact, met each other when we both reported to the Company Commanding Officer’s office with our orders in hand, just as green as anything. Lunde and I spent the first couple of days at
Battalion HQ on work details, we shared the same hooch and probably before the end of the first week as I re-call
we were ordered to spend 30 days at the ASP (Ammo Security Platoon) in Danang. It was sort of an "indoctrination period" so said the First Sergeant. We were told that all outlying units had to send their F.N.G’s (...remember that one - for New Guy?...) for bunker watch. Our orders were to protect the ammo dump. Greg and I served the first days of our tours in Nam together. We ate, slept, paled around, exchanged pleasantries about each others family and invited each other to one another’s home after we did
our time In-Country and returned to The World. Greg wrote to his dad about me and I wrote about him to my folks. One thing that seemed to be a very important to Greg and to me and what we had in common with each other (and it tied the bond of our friendship) was that Greg and I were both the only sons in our family, both lived with our fathers and we were both Two Year (enlistment) men, We were also very proud to be young Marines doing "our thing" for our country. We were brothers in terms of who we were with each other.
Greg and I returned to battalion after standing the duty at the dump….I received orders for 4th Platoon, Bravo Company out in An Hoa while Greg was to stay with H&S Company back in DaNang. He was pleased with his assignment and said he could re-assure his father that there would be less cause to worry about danger because he would be in a little more guarded and secure area. I was happy for his role of the dice. Over the next few months, I was able to see Greg in "the rear" a couple of times. Once in November to pick up some parts for mined damaged tanks and once in early December for our tank's quarterly maintenance. I got to spend a little time with Greg between working on the tank. It was nice to shoot the bull and a have a couple of brews.
As I write this note, I have a picture in front of me that has been dated in my handwriting saying "March 68 - R&R Bangkok." After receiving my paperwork for R&R plus being allowed for a stop over at 1st Tank Battalion area to see Greg, I was on cloud nine. I would get a chance to see my pal again! Upon arriving at Battalion, I immediately went over to Greg’s hooch. When I walked in to the building and looked to where Greg had kept his gear, there was nothing but an empty cot. Thinking that it was not all that unusual for someone to move to another hooch. I also thought that since he was just promoted to corporal, there was a chance that he would now be in the NCO's hooch. I went over there but no luck in finding him. Next, I went to the E.M. Club. It was late afternoon, Greg might be in there. If not then someone should know where Greg was. I saw a familiar face and inquired, “ Hey, where’s Greg?" You could of heard a pin drop.
A fellow Marine said “You haven’t heard what happen?"
I said “No. What happened to Greg?" Now mind you this was in March.
"Do you remember when DaNang got hit during Christmas?"
I may have said, "Yes."
He said, "They called out for a reactionary force to repel the gooks and since Greg was a corporal, they made him a squad leader. So he was the first one out the gate and he got it right between the eyes. He never knew what hit 'em."
Needless to say I went fricking nuts. I tried to get even. You know? My first and only T.C. (Tank Commander) over there told me, "You're going to hate these people." The day that I received the bad news about Greg was Day One. This is the version of Greg's death as told to me (...and I do remember it clearly...) was that he was KIA around Christmas…and that he did get bushwhacked by a sniper. I truly hope and pray that the Lord takes care of all the Marines who gave up their lives for a cause. I would like to think, knowing what I knew of Greg, that maybe (just maybe) he had prepared himself, just in case he might meet with his maker….Amen.
The reason that it took me so long to find out about my pal was that our Gunny (in 4th Platoon) never – ever passed on any bad news. He felt that it was not good for his boys. No news is good news. Just get your tank squared away and ready for tomorrow and then The Club will be open.
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|My thanks to John Wear for his contributions. His generosity made this page possible.|
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