Category Archives: Obituaries

Andy goes home

He had a fantastic community around this blog and I want you all to know how much he appreciated your friendship over the years. This blog kept him honest and reading back over his entries the past several days, I can hear his voice and I’m immensely thankful to have it. I like to picture Dad in heaven with Danny Taylor and Fat Guy Scott, having a big dog romp with Tuco.” —by his BFF Cait

Save a spot for me at the everlasting picnic, y’all.

Russ’s tombstone in the works

Woodward Monument Company, in Woodward, Oklahoma (about 50 miles east of Higgins, Texas) is snail mailing me a contract, which I will return with half the payment and the other half due on setup in the Higgins Cemetery. For a slant stone. So the ball is rolling.

UPDATE: It’s got some serious rolling to do, probably won’t be set up until November or December. Backlogs on granite delivery all over the place. Including at Woodward. Snail mail, indeed. Six days later the contract has yet to be mailed. Taking their time, out there in small-town America.

Funeral services pending

“The Clintons announce funeral services are pending for Bill’s girlfriend, Ghislane.”

Via Juanita Broaddrick on Twitter

Rule 5: Ashley Mattingly

2011 Playboy Playmate Ashley Mattingly of Austin killed herself, according to the Travis County medical examiner. Sister said she couldn’t shake opiod habit and alcoholism.

The walking wounded

Steve Hamblin, a classmate in Infantry OCS, writes to the group after I posted the Second of the third:

“Still thinking about Wheat losing most of his platoon. My God that must have haunted him. There are no words. Vietnam is long over but there remain walking wounded among us and sometimes we learn too late who they are.”

Via OC-504-68 FtBenning at yahoo!.com

Second of the third

My friend Russell Wheat crossing a rice paddy on patrol west of Saigon sometime in 1968-69. A brave man doing his duty.

The leader of 3rd platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade was wounded in both legs and sent to Japan where he recovered and was sent back to the field to complete his tour. He was the lucky one.

How this 2nd Lieutenant of Military Intelligence got to be leading an infantry platoon is a story worthy of our famous funnyman. He told it to me and a few others at breakfast at our Infantry OCS class reunion in San Antonio in 2005. I took notes.

It seems that in late 1968, after graduating from OCS and completing MI Basic, he got a cushy job in G2, division intelligence, 1st Logistical Command, Long Binh, north of Saigon. Sometimes he was a briefer to generals and other visiting dignitaries. He was, of course, known for his humor.

Sometimes it edged towards the smart-ass. The culminating instance was a briefing for a major general and his orbiting entourage of colonels, majors and captains. 2Lt Wheat closed out the strategic and tactical briefing by enumerating some weapons recently captured. One was an AK-54, the machine gun version of the AK-47. But the general didn’t know what it was and he interrupted Wheat to ask about it.

Wheat was in a mood. Obviously. “Sir,” Wheat recalled saying, “the AK-54 is an AK-47 with seven years of service.”

Silence. The humorless general visibly ground his teeth. His face got redder when someone in the back laughed.

And thus our Wheat reported for duty to Bravo Company, 2nd of the 3rd of the 199th, which operated west of Saigon to the Cambodian border. He was assigned to 3rd platoon. I asked him once how many of his men were killed. He stiffened. “Not an inordinate number,” he replied.

Two years after the reunion, I ran across a Google link to a pdf of the Methodist Children’s Home, a Waco orphanage. There I found that Wheat was a frequent donor and in 2007 had donated several thousand dollars “in memory of thirty-seven men of 3rd Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry, killed in action in Viet Nam 1968-1969.”

In 2011, when I visited Israel for the first time, Wheat, a church-going Methodist whose father was a Methodist minister, asked me to place a prayer paper “memorializing” the 3rd Platoon in a crevice of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, a Jewish tradition for two thousand years. I had an Israeli friend take a picture of me doing it and sent the picture to Wheat.

Maybe the thirty-seven are the reason Wheat, a native Texan and graduate of the University of Texas, made a post-war career at the Veteran’s Administration hospital in Marlin, south of Waco. He had failed at medical school before he was drafted. He retired directing a lab at the hospital.

He was found deceased shortly before Christmas by a Methodist pastor making a wellness visit to his home in Canyon Lake. He was 81.

Adios, Amigo

My old friend, Russell Huntley Wheat, was 81 and living with diabetes when he passed away shortly before Xmas. Can’t be more precise as his Methodist pastor found his body on a wellness visit the week of the 15th. Apparently there was a memorial service on the 20th but there’s no evidence of it on the Web.

Russ, who lived in Canyon Lake just down the road from the mini-rancho, was the funnyman in Infantry OCS, always telling a joke before class with the permission of the tactical officers who enjoyed them as much as the rest of us. We who strained to hear him in a class of a hundred candidates. Never dirty, just funny.

He was perversely proud of his Purple Heart, for which he had a license plate on his truck, from leg wounds suffered in his days with the 199th Light Infantry Brigade in Viet Nam. He always sent a Hanukkah card and until recently a funky gift (army teeshirt, etc.) for Mr. Boy whom he had met when Mr. B was still eating in a high chair.

No more separating the Wheat from the chaff was my joke which I promised to tell at the end of our lives. And so it is.