Proudly displayed on the desk at which I am writing is a black and white marble name plate displaying the letters “TG-3.” It is one of my most prized possessions. Its history is colorful.
In the late 1960s during one of my many trips to work with soldiers and Marines on the battlefield in Vietnam, I was providing signals intelligence support to an army unit (I can’t remember now which one) near Da Nang. The troops, as always, found the presence of a high-ranking civilian in their midst hilarious. My cover was that I was an enlisted man assigned to the unit. I dressed in their uniform and slept by their side. My job was to help the unit with information derived from intercepted North Vietnamese communications. I used enciphered VHF voice communications to transmit the intelligence I derived or received from intercept sites to the troops in battle so that they would know what the enemy was doing and where he was.
My payroll signature at the time was Thomas L. Glenn III. I’d adopted that moniker to prevent my father from writing checks against my bank account, something he’d done along with many other criminal acts that landed him in prison. The GIs I was working with thought my name was even funnier than my presence as a civilian on the battlefield. So they assigned me the radio callsign TG3.
Not far from our area of operation was Marble Mountains, an outcropping of jagged hills offering plentiful marble for quarrying. The troops paid a local craftsman to fashion a marble name plate from the mountains for me. It is a beautiful piece of work and must have cost them. It’s a black wedge, triangular in shape. The back is decorated with an intricately carved black dragon against a white background. On the front is a white rectangle surrounded by black dragons with the letters “TG-3” in black centered in the middle.
The troops presented it to me in a quick ceremony between skirmishes. They couldn’t stop laughing.
Today that name plate sits by my computer where I write. It is always within sight. It reminds me every day of the men who fought and died by my side. My bond with them was the strongest I’ve ever known.
And I still chuckle to myself as I remember the fun they had with my presence and my name.