Gregory (Greg) Glasson
October 5, 1947 to September 23, 1968
I’ve reached that bittersweet stage of my life where I think (often) of those who’ve passed before me. Many way before their time. Greg was one of those. I would say that he was my best friend but that wasn’t always the case. We met in Kindergarten at Montezuma Elementary School in San Diego, then proceeded to Horace Mann Junior High School and finally Will C. Crawford High School. Greg was killed just shy of his 21st birthday. That was almost 48-years ago.
I enlisted in the Marine Corps at the age of 17 in 1965 and returned from a 13-month deployment in Vietnam in early February 1968 after experiencing the Têt Offensive first hand. I’d asked Greg to be the Best Man at my wedding but he was already in the Army (having enlisted 3-1/2 years after me). We had stayed in touch off-and-on during my military service and I think he thought I had made the better choice. He was struggling with college at the time and not doing particularly well.
He was a good kid with a tough dad and an angel for a mom. He was the only boy in the family and had three younger sisters. I remember him writing to me and telling me that he had lipped-off to his dad during an argument about school and that his dad punched him out. Like I said Greg had a tough dad. He enlisted in the Army and dropped out of college, in part I think to get back at his father and in part to make his dad proud of him.
I got a call from my mom on September 23, 1968. She said I have some bad news for you. She told me my grandmother had passed away after a severe stroke but said there was more bad news to convey. She then told me that Greg had been killed in an alcohol-related traffic accident. I never found out any details about the accident and I’m not even sure that he was the driver (he was not yet 21). Only that he was killed. I was finishing up my tour of duty at MCAS El Toro in Santa Ana and immediately requested emergency leave to attend both funerals.
I was pretty numb about death back then. Our unit in Vietnam had sustained more than a few casualties during my time in-country and I guess I was just getting used to it. My neighbor Marty Gabriel, another school chum from the early days, had been killed in Vietnam the month I came home. He was a medic and a Sergeant with the Army’s 101st Airborne and had been killed by a sniper while rendering aid to one of his fallen comrades. Lots of young men were dying and I guess a few more didn’t really register, or maybe it was just PTSD.
The funerals were attended and my respects were paid to both my grandmother and to my best friend. No tears were shed, no emotions were shared and there was no softening of my calloused heart. Dead these many years, but I still remember the young 10-year old boy who went for help when I had been stricken by a potentially lethal rattlesnake bite in the summer of 1957. I remember Greg and I always will. I feel guilty that I’m still here and you’re not. And I’m mad as hell that you were taken so young. The only consolation is that you didn’t haven’t to experience the horrors of Vietnam. RIP my dear friend. I loved you like a brother.
Stephen F. Dennstedt
Photographer, Writer and World Traveler