The top two photos — Corporal Josh Taylor of the United States 1st Marine Division reading China’s Wings during his recently completed tour in Afghanistan — spark a pair of connections for me. The first is to Corporal Taylor himself, whose father, Gary Taylor of Grand Prairie, Texas, served in my rifle platoon when I was the platoon leader of 1/A Co./5-21 Infantry. I hung out with Gary and his wife Tracy after a China’s Wings event in Houston a few months ago — the first time I’d seen them since 1992. Also joining us that night was Roderick McKenzie, another member of 1st Platoon. In 1989, we all invaded Panama together. It was a memorable evening, and for me, pretty inspiring to see how well Gary and Rod have done for themselves after their stint in the Army. A few years ago, I remember Gary running down the details of his family’s tradition of military service, and it left me stunned — the Taylor family has chewed a measurable percentage of the 20th Century’s worst dirt. And now with Josh on active service, some of the 21st Century’s. The bottom two pics show the three of us in Houston this past July, and 1st Platoon in Panama.
I especially enjoyed the time spent with Gary’s wife, Tracy… she was fun, and funny, and so NICE, and I’ve got to admit, that wasn’t the impression I’d formed of her back at Fort Ord. I learned the reason why in Houston — apparently, in 1988, with the Texas oil industry in a severe slump, Gary had gone off and joined the Army without talking to her about it.
“Yeah, I was pretty much pissed off all three of those years,” Tracy quipped that night.
The second China’s Wings connection to these photos is through Tracy Devine, my editor. Her father was a 1st Division Marine in World War Two and participated in the division’s bloody fight for the island of Peliliu — which he described as “that hellhole” in a brief email correspondence.
Perhaps unjustly, I’m taking quite a bit of pride in both connections.