I’m stuck with a grandiloquent moniker, Thomas L. Glenn III. I started using that form of my name when I was a college undergraduate because my father, Thomas L. Glenn Jr., between terms in prison, forged checks against my bank account. By adding “III” to my signature without his knowledge, I stopped him.

During my years in combat in Vietnam as an undercover civilian pretending to be military, soldiers and Marines both found my payroll signature hilarious. They gave me the radio callsign of TG3.

Then, during the late 1960s when I was operating near Marble Mountain south of Đà Nẵng in central Vietnam, the troops paid a local sculptor to make me a desk plate of black and white marble. Instead of my name, centered in large black letters against a white background is “TG-3.” When they gave it to me, they couldn’t stop laughing.  That desk plate now rests in a place of honor on my desk in my office where I write.

Lest the reader fail to grasp the significance of that gift, let me explain that the desk plate was a symbol of respect from the soldiers who gave it to me. They had watched me, a civilian under cover as an enlisted man in their unit, a linguist and signals intelligence specialist who outranked their commanding officer, as I lived with them, ate C-rations sitting in the dirt next to them, slept on the ground next to them, and went into combat with them. They had witnessed how the information I provided them from intercepted North Vietnamese radio communications had led to victory after victory. So while their gift made fun of my name, it also demonstrated their admiration and gratitude.

I’ve long since abandoned the long form of my name, Thomas L. Glenn III, in favor of the form I use as my nom de plume, Tom Glenn. Simplicity is always best, especially in writing.

The desk plate is displayed at the end of my u-shaped desk where all visitors will see it. That desk plate, my Civilian Meritorious Medal (for saving lives during the fall of Saigon), and the plaque my guys gave me to thank me for saving their lives are my three most precious possessions.

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