Monday, May 23, 2016

Glenn Ogburn: The first in line in Vietnam

     (Third of a three-part series) 
     It is important, I believe, to know that Glenn Ogburn wanted to serve with the U.S. Marines in Vietnam in 1966-67.     
     Just as, inspired by an uncle who was a Marine, he knew from the time he was a boy that he too wanted to be a Marine.
     And, as his older sister Farrelyn Ogburn Hemperley told me last week, "Glenn really believed in what he was doing in Vietnam, and we [the family] supported him."
     He believed in it so much that after serving a year in Vietnam, he "re-upped" for another six-month tour in the war. That began after a leave and a trip home to Shreveport.
     Three months later, the next trip home was his final journey.
     Perhaps it explains why his family, many of his friends, and those of us who affiliated with Woodlawn High School in Shreveport in the 1960s and long afterward still think of  Glenn Roy Ogburn.
     He was the first ex-Woodlawn student to die in action while in the military, the first of "our" four 1960s Vietnam War deaths. 
     Thus, his name is at the top of the memorial monument in the center of the Woodlawn High quadrangle -- Glenn Ogburn/USMC (Class of) 1964.
      He also was the oldest of the four, in two ways: (1) born first and (2) length of life. His death by an enemy mortar attack on July 7, 1967, came two days after his 21st birthday.
      Henry Lee "Trey" Prather III (Class of 1965) was 13 days short of his 21st birthday. Harold O'Neal Jr. and Eddie Cox Jr., both Class of '67, were 20.
      The pertinent facts on Glenn Ogburn: 
      He was a corporal (3rd Marine Division, 1st Battalion, 9th Regiment, H&S Company), listed as a motor vehicle operator. His service ID number was 1947161, and he is  No. 38549 on
      He was listed as a "ground casualty," hit by enemy fire. The specific location: Nva 152mm Shell at Con Thien, Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam. (Con Thien was a cluster of three hills about 158 meters high.)
      His name on the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C., is on Panel 23E, Line 30, and he is buried in Centuries Memorial Park in Shreveport.
      Posted by his sister Farrelyn -- who lives in Stonewall, near Shreveport -- on the "Wall of Faces" web site (compiled by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund):
    "I still love and miss you. I often wonder how different our lives would be if you had come home from Vietnam. It just wasn't meant to be."
     There was so much to like about Glenn Ogburn.
     He came from a large family; Wilma Ogburn delivered  seven Ogburn kids. Glenn was the second, three years younger than Farrelyn (who was in Woodlawn's first graduating class, in 1961), a year older than June (Class of 1965). There were four younger brothers.

     Farrell Ogburn was an oilfield worker and later owned a fence company. The family lived in the Queensborough neighborhood of Shreveport before moving to Sunset Acres (on Hollywood Avenue) for a couple of years, then to Summer Grove (on Mansfield Road) during Glenn's high school years.
Woodlawn sophomore year
    One Woodlawn student of the early 1960s remembers him as "tall and quiet." Another called him "range" (long-limbed, tall, slender). Both remember him as "a nice guy."
     He was, it seems, inconspicuous. His picture is in the Woodlawn yearbooks only four times in three years, only once among individual class photos (as a sophomore, at left). (Having an individual class photo was optional.)
     Two of the photos were of him in National Defense Cadet Corps (NDCC) platoons -- foreshadowing his military future. Another was in a math class.
     A couple of the photos show that he was taller than most of his classmates (he was 6-foot-2 or 6-3, 180 pounds, and above 200 during his time in the Marines, his sister said.)
From a Woodlawn yearbook, an NDCC cadet
(middle back)

     "He was the kind of typical Woodlawn student then," said Warren Gould, also from the Class of '64. "He was 'everyman.' I can't remember him sticking out, but he knew who you were and you knew who he was. He wasn't a standout, but he wasn't a nothing, either. If you were in the room with him, you knew he was there."
      "He was a compassionate person," Farrelyn said. "He loved people ... family was first with him. I don't know anyone that didn't like him."
      Plus, he loved animals and to hunt and fish. 
      "After a flood [or hard rain], he would be knee-deep in the Cross Lake overflow," Farrelyn recalled, "usually with a string of catfish.    
      "... Just a good ol' redneck boy."
      And he was, well, good-looking. I was going to write that; then I saw some comments on Facebook from women who knew him after June Ogburn Morgan -- who lives in Keithville, just south of Shreveport -- posted pictures of Glenn (and also made them available for this blog).
      From Judy Gail Chandler: "He was my first kiss as a kid. Only had one date with him as a teen. Not sure why not another. Either way me and my family always loved him, and still do."
      From Johnnie Hall Covington: "Glenn was tall -- I think at least 6-3. He was nice-looking and very, very shy. Glenn helped his family by working as a carhop at a drive-in root beer place. ... "
      From Mary Hemperley Gray: "Man, he was handsome."
      From June: "Everyone said he looked like Elvis."
      Mary: "I think so, too."
      Yep, Elvis. Sounds good to me. (Especially in the photo  below.)
      June added this: "Susan King was always the love of his life. They broke up before he went to Vietnam because he didn't want her waiting in case he didn't make it back."
MP duty while stationed in Alaska
     Even in his senior year at Woodlawn, he was headed to the Marines; he had joined the reserves, although his parents had to sign and give permission.
      Then in the summer of 1964, he was a Marines regular -- basic training at Camp Pendleton (in southern California), then off to Adak, Alaska for a year.
      "He said the wind blows in four directions there," Farrelyn recalled, laughing. "Don't go pee outside; the wind will blow it back in your face."
      Then he went to Camp Lejeune (Jacksonville, N.C.) to train for duty in Vietnam and, after a short leave and a trip to Shreveport, he went for his first tour in that awful "conflict."
      Three months into his second tour, fate intervened.
      "He drove for the colonel [in his platoon]," Farrelyn said. "They'd been out all night, and Glenn was worn out. When they got back to the barracks, he was asleep in the colonel's bed. A mortar hit the bunk."
      For three days, the platoon was under fire and unable to move. So the Ogburns, in Shreveport, did not receive word until the second week of July.
      Two officers from the Marines came to the house, but only one of Glenn's brothers was home. The officers handed him a card for the parents, asking them to call.
      Farrell Ogburn was a World War II veteran, so when he saw the card, he knew what it meant.
Final trip home: fishing with one
of his younger brothers, Ambrose
      "It destroyed our family," Farrelyn said. "We thought we were going to lose Mother then. ... For 2-3 years, it was all we could do to keep her grounded."  
     The damage to Glenn's body was so extensive that it was left to a priest and an uncle to make the identification "and they advised us not to open the casket," Farrelyn said.
      Warren Gould, who served in Vietnam with the U.S. Army, remembered learning of his classmate's death and said, "When I heard, it was a shock. This was a guy we knew."
      Posted by Judy Matheson Trammell eight years ago on a web site: "I dated Glenn a few times during Christmas vacation, and he was such a sweet honest and patriotic man. He loved his family and he was proud to serve his country."
      From Sue Lafitte Corley: "So sad. Still hurts; he was just the sweetest."
     One memory June has is that Glenn "was a very protective big brother to me. He screened most of my male friends. Needless to say I had few dates. I really miss him."
      Wilma Ogburn lived to age 92, and died last month (April 4), her final years with Alzheimer's. There was more tragedy for her and the family, the loss of three of Glenn's brothers from 2001 to 2006; only Steve survives (in Texarkana, Ark.)
    One of the Ogburn uncles had worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), so that was a goal for Glenn. "His dream was to work for the FBI or the CIA," said Farrelyn.
    It's likely that he would have been just as dedicated to that task as he was the Marines. But Vietnam ruined many dreams.
    "It's amazing how when we talk about it [Glenn's death] in detail, it's almost like it happened yesterday," sister June wrote on Facebook. "I miss my big bro so much still. ...  It's good to keep him alive in our memories, though."
    "It still hurts," Farrelyn said of the loss. "It's something you never get over."


  1. Glenn and his family lived 2 houses down from us on Burson Dr. in Summer Grove. Of course we all rode the same bus to school. He was always a sweet and kind person. I was so upset when I heard of his death. He will always be a special friend to me. He had a very sweet but large family. So glad that Woodlawn has made this special memorial but now after 50 plus years the students that may still have the service for these find people, have no idea about what a great persons Glenn and Trey were to the early years of Woodlawn High School! I think of them both often. Ruth Morrow Tubbs

  2. Charles (Stinson) had two friends whose deaths affected his life so much, Jack Teller and Glenn Ogburn. We talked about Glenn (his class) and Trey (my class) often. He always talked highly of Glenn and thought the world of him.

  3. From Farrelyn Ogburn Hemperley: Thank you for the beautiful tribute. He was everything you said and more. I had a cousin say just last week "he was my favorite cousin and I still miss him." Keep up the good work and for keeping their memories alive.

  4. From Donna Hemperley: Although I was not born until three years after Uncle Glenn died, I still have so many memories from the many things that my Mamaw kept in a hope chest she bought. The many letters, his dress blues, medals he was awarded during his service time, and other memories that were near and dear to her heart. Many thanks to you for publishing and sharing his story.

  5. From Ron Hill: Excellent article. Thank you for posting it. I remember Glenn from my sophomore year, maybe in the NDCC program, but did not know him personally.

  6. From Colin Kimball: Like always, outstanding work. I thought I would add a little detail about the unit and area that Glenn served in.
    Con Thien translates to the "Hill of Angels." It was given that name due to the tremendous carnage and loss of life that occurred there, mostly from the very battalion with which Glenn served. Con Thien was the northern-most combat outpost in South Vietnam right on the DMZ in an area known as "Leatherneck Square." The 1st battalion of the 9th Marine Regiment (1/9) has the unique distinction of having served the longest tour of duty of any Marine regiment in Vietnam and suffered the highest amount of casualties -- 93 percent -- of any regiment in the history of the United States Marine Corps. They spent a considerable amount of their time operating in Con Thien.
    The 1/9 is known throughout the Marine Corps as "The Walking Dead" and they received that nickname from none other than Ho Chi Minh himself, because as soon as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) thought it eliminated the regiment, it would reconstitute and reappear as if the dead were reanimated. It confounded the NVA.
    The 1/9 is the most celebrated Marines regiment of the Vietnam war and phony veterans like to align themselves with the Walking Dead. I have a friend who lives in Sachse, Texas, who served with the 1/9 and was there during the time Glenn was there. Like Glenn, he extended his tour in Vietnam and served a total of 18 months of heavy combat.
    Khe Sanh is well known for the siege that the NVA unleashed during the Tet offensive of 1968, but Con Thien was under constant NVA mortar and rocket attack the entire time that the Marines operated there in 1967-68. The 1/9 Marines who survived both Con Thien and Khe Sanh will tell you that Con Thien was much worse in terms of intensity and duration.
    Thanks for your wonderful tributes to our fallen heroes! May God bless our troops.

    1. Thank you for the detailed information. This personalizes the environment in which my Uncle served and ultimately died in. I know he kept from the family how much danger he faced during his tours.

  7. From Pamela Summerlin: Once again you've made me feel I knew [Glenn] much better than I really did. Of course I remember him, but as Warren [Gould] said -- he was a very quiet and private person, but he was known -- and the girls are right, he was a cutie! Very fitting you posted this as we go into the Memorial Day weekend. Semper Fi, Glenn, you served your country well, and I know you would have continued to do so.

  8. From Gary Hanson: As usual, a great article. Not a Knight, but had several friends from Woodlawn at [Louisiana] Tech during this time. Glenn and his family are fortunate to have you write about him and pay tribute to his life and service, especially so close to Memorial Day. You brought him to life for us, thank you.

  9. From William Powell: This article really hit home with me. I was in NDCC with Glenn and in Vietnam same time as him and Trey. I had a lot of fond memories of Glenn and Trey.

  10. From Kathleen Mullen: He was such a nice guy. I saw him right before he went back over there for the last time. He was all about protecting his country. Heart-breaking that he didn't make it back home again.

  11. From Lewis Allgood: Great friend! Awesome man and true American! Our freedom is because of men like him.

  12. From Karen Carr Hogan: He was a treasured friend, one of the kindest and straight forward guys I've ever known. I was heartbroken when he died.

  13. From Roger Anderson: I am so glad you have written these blogs on our honored Woodlawn vets that didn't make it home from war. I didn't personally know any of these guys I consider heroes, though I had heard Trey's name constantly from my brother Robert. I knew who Harold [O'Neal] was because I was a schoolmate of [his brother] Mike. Wanted to thank you for these stories as I now feel more in touch and have always wished that I knew more about them.

  14. From Jane Lytle Gill: Thanks once again. Although I didn't know Glenn well, I knew June [Ogburn] and have thought of him and his family many times through the years.

  15. From Constance Piccolo Patterson Wolfe: He came to my house for parties my daddy chaperoned and always had a good time.

  16. From Al Miller: [The memorial service at Woodlawn] remains one of the more moving things I've had a chance to witness. [It was] just after the [Vietnam] war was when I was there [as a coach] and I wasn't a whole lot older than a lot of those that died.