On my writing desk in my office, I have a name plaque made of black stone, presumably marble. It’s a triangular wedge, a foot long and three inches high, an inch and a quarter wide at the bottom and pointed at the top. On the back of it is a fanciful black dragon among white clouds. On the front is a long white rectangle with “TG-3” in black in the center, surrounded by dragon fins.
The plaque has a crack in it. Years ago, I dropped it and broke it, then carefully cemented it back together. I had to repair it. It’s one of my prized possessions from the Vietnam war.
Army troops I was working with in the Da Nang area of Vietnam in the late 1960s gave it to me. They told me they had paid a craftsman to carve it from marble quarried from Marble Mountain, close to the seashore not far from Da Nang.
They were especially pleased with the plaque because it memorialized my radio callsign, TG-3. The troops came up with that letter-digit combination. They took it from my payroll signature, Thomas L. Glenn III, which they found hilarious.
I didn’t explain to them that I used that silly moniker because my father, Thomas L. Glenn, Jr., had forged checks against my personal account, under the name I used, Thomas L. Glenn. I added the “III” to my payroll signature to foil him. It worked, but I have been stuck all my life with a ridiculously pretentious name. I reduced it to “Tom Glenn” for my author’s name.
My presence among the troops was already the source of mirth. Here I was, a civilian who outranked some of their officers, pretending to be an enlisted man. I lived with the troops and dressed in their uniform and went into combat with them. The disguise was to prevent the enemy from discovering that they had a spy in their midst. When I finally got the guys to call me “Tom” and not “Mr. Glenn” and “sir,” I knew I was a member of the team. When they gave me the TG-3 plaque, I knew I was one of them.
Some of the men who gave me the plaque were killed close by me on the battlefield.
I’ll never forget them. I’ll never cease to grieve over those who were lost. And I will always treasure the plaque they gave me.