A friend pointed out to me that in my recent blog post on Al Gray, I failed to mention a photograph hanging on my office wall.
The walls in my office that are not covered by bookshelves are devoted to family pictures and writing awards. The awards wall sections display 21 writing prizes and one photo. That photo is of retired Marine colonel Ed Hall presenting a copy of my novel, Last of the Annamese, set during the fall of Saigon, to the retired Marine General Gray, who rescued me after the North Vietnamese were already in the streets of the city. I don’t remember when that happened, but it had to have been 2017 (the year Annamese was published) or later.
That picture brings back so many memories. During our Vietnam years, I once asked Al why he never married. He assured me that if the Marine Corps had wanted him to have a wife, they would have issued him one. When he was a major general in 1980 and having a wife to assist him in ceremonial duties became a necessity, he did indeed marry. His wife, Jan, died in 2020.
There is no question in my mind that Al Gray is a great man. He is the finest leader I have ever encountered. His success derived in large part from his humility. Unlike almost every other general I worked with during my years in government, Al lacked arrogance. He was focused his mission and the welfare of his troops. And his achievements, on and off the battlefield, bear testimony to his effectiveness.
So my acquaintance with Al Gray continues to be an honor. That he continues to correspond with me after all these years is evidence of his kindness. His greatness humbles me.