Desk Name Plate

Sitting on the desk in my office are two desk name plates. One is a remnant of my time working for the government. It is standard and conventional—brown wood with a brass plate showing my name in black letters—Thomas L. Glenn III, my payroll signature. The other is intricately carved black marble with white background behind the name and decorated both front and back with fanciful oriental dragons floating among the clouds. The story behind this name plate is worth repeating.

During one of my tours in Vietnam in the late 1960s (I was there on and off from 1962 until the fall of Saigon in 1975), I was working with the troops on the battlefield—that was my job—in the central part of Vietnam. As happened so often during those years, the troops found my presence hilarious. Here I was a civilian masquerading as an enlisted man in their unit. I outranked their commanding officer but I was living with them, sleeping in the dirt beside them, eating C-rations with them on the battlefield, using their latrines, and going into combat with them. I had to do that to keep the enemy from knowing there was a spy (me) in their midst and thereby be effective in warning the Americans and their commanders what the enemy was up to from intercepting his radio communications. The troops found my payroll signature, Thomas L. Glenn III, especially funny.

To memorialize my presence with them, they paid a local artisan to carve for me a nameplate in the stone from Marble Mountain near Đà Nẵng. Rather than use my name, they had the carver put “TG-3” where the name would go. That was what they called me, and that was the radio callsign they assigned to me.

Today, that nameplate sits prominently on the desk where I write, proudly displayed to recall my years of working with the troops on the battlefield. It is a reminder of a personal history of which I am justifiably proud.

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