TOWER — More than 40 years have passed since Tom Marwick left behind the jungles and rice paddies of the Vietnam War. But he still thinks about a fellow Marine who died there, and he wonders if his remains were ever found. And for Marwick he remembers “the flashbacks — they never go away” as another Memorial Day comes.
Marwick, who lives at Lake Vermilion near Tower, was with a helicopter crew, and a man named Harry Truman Wilson was the crew chief. About the time Marwick’s tour of duty in Vietnam was over, he learned that Wilson had been killed but that his body wasn’t recovered. The year was l970.
Years later Marwick is still haunted by what happened to Wilson. He has checked with Veterans Affairs officials and visited the Traveling Wall, a replica of the Vietnam Wall, when it came to the Range a few years ago. He then obtained a copy about Wilson’s service on a print-out called “Etched in Stone” and he wants to share it, with the hope someone might know more information. Harry Truman Wilson, born in 1949, was a sergeant E-5 in the Marine Corps. He was killed June 4, 1970, at age 21. His hometown was Grand Prairie, Texas. Wilson was Caucasian, Protestant and single. The casualty type was listed as “hostile, died; air loss, crash-land; helicopter crew” in the country of Laos. The words that bother Marwick most of all — “body not recovered.” A sad ending for a “nice, quiet guy,” said Marwick.
Marwick’s own military service began in 1967. Before that he was working on the construction of the Minntac taconite plant at Mountain Iron. He would serve four years in the Marines. He remembers that the “rains came down, 24 inches in 24 hours,” and his squadron “flew close to 1,000 hours.”
He talked about the Iron Range young men who died in Vietnam, among them his neighbor Herb Anderson, Rickie Gunderson whose “mother worked at the sweet shop,” John Zager, Danny O’Laughlin.
And he talked about the PTSD — post traumatic stress disorder — that he had been diagnosed with. He believes his exposure to Agent Orange, a defoliant used to kill the jungle cover, affected him years later. “It takes a long time to show up,” he said, with tears in his eyes. He talked of other Vietnam veterans he worked with, particularly a man whose shaking would only stop when he used the welding torch to ply his craft.
Marwick was called “Lucky” by his crewmates in Vietnam. He began to cry when he told the story of when the helicopter he was in was shot down three times in December 1969. “But I made it,” he said. He still gets nightmares, “but not all the time.”
He read aloud these words from “The Chatterbox,” a book about his squadron: “Each Marine will pause to remember those Marines were his brothers in the best of times, the worst of times.” And Marwick remembered Jan. 31, 1968, when 245 were killed in Vietnam in one day.
“I’m proud to be a veteran,” Marwick said. His portrait is on the veterans mural in Virginia, a gift from his brother.