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Back Home and Back in Action—but what a fantastic trip I had!

Updated: Nov 20, 2023

Here I sit, taking in the glorious views on the deck of my lovely home at Camelot, overlooking the Lamington National Park on Queensland’s Gold Coast Hinterland, and as I do so I reminisce about my recent trip to the U.S. and Italy. Whilst it was a whirlwind of activity that has thoroughly worn me out, It was just such a pleasure to spend time with so many amazing people.

I know I have reported on the early part of my trip, so let’s move on. After spending two days in Savannah, Georgia with my 88-year-old Uncle Carroll Clifton—my mother’s youngest sibling of 12—I drove to Sun City SC to make a courtesy call on Col Gerry Turley, USMC (Ret). In his book, 1972 Easter Offensive, he provides the unvarnished narrative of how he found himself in control of the defensive plan to counter the 1972 massive North Vietnamese Easter Offensive. I have no reservations about calling him the architect for victory during that historic battle. Although he is now elderly, he continues to be as alert as he ever was. It was my pleasure spending some quality time with this legend of our Corps and after reading Doorsteps of Hell I was honored at his appraisal:

From an aerial observer’s firsthand perspective, Tom Williams’s book, Fury of War, is truly a superb chronicle of the biggest, ugliest battles of the Vietnam war, during the 1972 Easter Offensive. It should be required reading for all those who want to understand and learn from a warrior’s true aerial combat perspective. He has created a classic lessons learned document! The book represents essential reading, not only for newly commissioned officers, but equally as a valuable training resource—Lessons Learned—for junior and senior staff NCO’s.

Later that afternoon, I made a special stop at Marine Air Station Beaufort to see Col Dustan Byrum, who is the eldest son of my good friend, BGen Bruce Byrum. Dustan was a High School student in Stuttgart, Germany when his dad and I worked together establishing the first Marine Corps Component HQ, Marine Forces Europe, to support the European Command. By chance, Dustan and I were also assigned to Camp Stone near Herat, Afghanistan when he was a major, Air Officer for Special operations and resident at Camp Stone; I was employed as a civilian contract mentor/trainer to the 207th Afghan Corps HQ.

Wow! What a small world.

The following day, I made a courtesy call on another legend of our Corps, Gen Walt Boomer. Our paths first crossed during the 1972 Easter Offensive; however, while we were both on that battlefield, I was supporting from the air as an aerial observer embedded with the Vietnamese Airforce while he was one of Gerry Turley’s advisors on the ground with the Vietnamese Marines northwest of Quang Tri.

Later in our careers, I served in Gen Boomer’s Operations Section of I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) during the First Gulf War to liberate Kuwait from the Iraqi Dictator, Saddam Hussein in 1990-91. It was a genuine pleasure working for the general and it was a treat seeing him in good health.

Later in my trip, I visited Maj Gen James Livingston, USMC (Ret), in Charlston, SC. Gen Livingston is a Medal of Honor Recipient from the 2 May 1968 Battle of Dai Do. Although, we have communicated together via email as North Georgia alumnus, I had never had the pleasure of meeting him face-to-face. My short visit with the general was simply wonderful! Not only was he the consummate Southern Gentleman from Georgia, but he was also deeply interested in my Heart of a Marine book series project, so much so, that he provided the following quote:

Tom Williams’ book series, The Heart of a Marine, is more than an anthology of life in military service, it is a quintessential resource of lessons learned for young people who are seriously interested in making the armed forces their life’s profession. The unpredictability of combat, and the firsthand realism that the first book, Doorsteps of Hell, brings out, along with lessons learned—this is the intent of Tom’s book series as evidenced by his writing. Furthermore, his future books will endeavor to captivate the reader with exotic travel, historic archeological sites, and the challenges of working with our allies, whether during amphibious operations, or during arduous arctic and/or desert training exercises. For these reasons, Tom’s books are essential reading.

- Maj Gen James E. Livingston, USMC (Ret) Medal of Honor

Following the courtesy call with Gen Livingston, I visited for two days with my 1969 combat Company Commander, Col Ken Furr, USMC (Ret) at his Stony Mountain Vineyards near Albemarle, NC. We both agree that our time together as company grade officers in combat was a marriage made in heaven. There was never a moment during those six months when we were not in total agreement regarding the way we engaged, killed, or captured the communist forces we were opposing on the battlefield.

Of course, while in the U.S. I caught up with some more amazing people. Maj Gen Jim Battaglini and Lt Gen Bill Keys in the Shenandoah Valley. Bill was my boss in 1993 and is the one who directed me to move our Marine Corps HQ out of London to Stuttgart. He is also a recipient of the Navy Cross.

Before continuing on my journey to Italy, I stopped by in Jacksonville, NC near Camp Lejeune visiting with several old and dear MC buddies, Ron Ochs, John Poole, Norm Chandler, and Keith Kelly. All are retired Marine Corps officers who I served with in locations as far away as Okinawa, during amphibious deployments, as staff members of Marine aviation units and one is both a retired Marine and a fellow alumnus from North Georgia; therefore, our friendships span more than five decades.

Overall, it has been a very successful trip and such a pleasure to visit so many honourable friends. However, although I am a patriotic American, my heart belongs Down Under and I am delighted to be back!

Stay tuned friends and colleagues as the first book in my book series, Heart of a Marine, namely Doorsteps of Hell, is about to be released, along with some other exciting news that might just solve your Christmas gift giving problems.

Semper Fidelis.

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