Remembering Grubbs

In 1968, I bought my first car, a 1956 Chevy, for 75 dollars, from my friend Gary Grubbs, who had been drafted. Gary went up to Fort Ord for Basic, came home and married his girlfriend, Kathy (he had also dated my sister Peggy for a spell in high school), then went up to Fort Lewis for AIT. Then he shipped out for Vietnam.

He was wounded and sent to Japan for some R&R. We exchanged a couple of letters. He told me about the rains and how hard it was to keep his rifle clean. I told him I had a chance to join the Guard, and asked if he thought that was better than waiting to get drafted. He said the Army sucks either way. I didn’t hear from him for a time, then came the news he had stepped on a land mine, and was coming home in a body bag. He was 20 years old.

His picture was in the influential article “One Week’s Dead,” in Life Magazine. The week was May 28 – June 3, 1969. Here’s a link to the article. You can page down and see Gary’s picture. His name is spelled Garey, and his hometown is listed as Denver, but I knew him as Gary and his hometown as Lawndale. He had a great sense of humor, and his smile in the Life photo shows it.

Today is another Memorial Day, 40 plus years since Gary’s last one, and I just finished reading a paper written by one of my students, an Iraq veteran. The description and narration in the paper are clear and concise, the details shiny and telling; the dust and smells and heat and noise seep out of the writing. But there is no sensationalism, no politics or pity, no moral to the story, which tells of a single, isolated event. Every detail shows, every spark of dialog tells. Nothing is wasted; no word is wasted.


  1. It is a day for rememberence. I spent some time with the vets at Barstow Veteran’s home on Sunday and it was a series of stories one after the other. The vets have a story to tell and I am glad I was there to listen.
    For some of them, all they have are their memories and they do bring tears to your eyes. They talk mostly of family, family that is no longer with them.


    1. Thanks for reading and comment, Joe, and for the email, which I’ve just read, with the actual details of Garey’s first injuries and his final battle, in which he was killed by artillery fire. I’ll respond to your email, check out the RedWarriors site, and think about posting something new for next May.


      1. Garey and my brother Frank graduated from North High in 1966. We were neighbors. I found out what happened to Garey last year when I contacted the Redwarriors association. Thanks for remembering Garey…The battle report is very informative…..JKY


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.