When a squad leader in Vietnam assigned Grady Myers to design a logo for the men's helmet covers, he became one of many people who sought the favor of Grady's artistic talents over the years. One of the first to do so was his pal Bob Benzon, an Air Force veteran who also served in 'Nam.
Bob and Grady knew each other as young teenagers back in 1963-65. They were classmates at Otis Air Force Base in Massachusetts, where their dads were stationed. They lost track of each other after that. It wasn't until Bob learned about Grady's memoir "Boocoo Dinky Dow: My short, crazy Vietnam War" that he knew what became of his chum.
In a recent letter, Bob described Grady as a natural artist.
"He doodled in his school notebooks all the time, and did little sketches for me, but only with a bit of prodding. He could knock these things out very quickly in a style I could characterize as 'hurried realism.' The art people probably have a better name for the genre. No erasing, no modifications, just straight from pencil to paper, and that was so cool to me. His drawings (mostly of WWII subjects) put a person right there ... if you get my drift."
Bob said most of the "Air Force brats" had at least a passing interest in the military.
"Many followed in their father's footsteps into various branches, often over the objections of their parents. My theory on that is that most of our dads were WWII vets (boys back then wanted similar experiences), but the dads knew what combat could do to a person inside. So, when we went in, the dads were proud, but scared.
"I served as a 2nd then 1st lieutenant pilot in the 362nd Tactical Warfare Squadron flying airplanes much older than I was, Douglas EC-47s. My war was quite benign ... take off, stooge around for a few hours fixing targets with radio triangulation, call the shooters in, land the airplane, over and over again. I was stationed at Da Nang, we only got hit once in the air. We got rocketed out of our beds once a week or so on base, but I cannot imagine what the Army guys out in the jungle went through."
Guys like Grady, who came back with a Purple Heart and lots of stories.
Bob, who lives in Virginia, returned from Vietnam without a scratch. A sharp salute to him for tracking me down to share his memories -- and, of course, for his six years of military service.
Julie Titone is co-author of the Grady Myers memoir "Boocoo Dinky Dow: My short, crazy Vietnam War." Grady was an M-60 machine gunner in The U.S. Army's Company C’s 2nd Platoon, 1st Battalion, 8th Regiment, 4th Infantry Division in late 1968 and early 1969. His Charlie Company comrades knew him as Hoss. Thoughts, comments? Send Julie an email.