The Norman Transcript

Columns

November 1, 2012

From Vietnam to Washington, D.C.

NORMAN — Russ McReynolds has the dubious distinction of being thrown off the Marine Corps base by the Commandant of Marines.

Russ was born in Norman, a fourth-generation Normanite. After graduating from Norman High School in 1966 and attending one semester at OU, he decided to join the Marines.

After boot camp, Russ was a communications specialist. While posted at Parris Island Marine Corps base in South Carolina, he was picked to appear on stage for a Tim Conway show called “Operation Entertainment.” They surprised him when they brought out his girlfriend from Fort Worth during the show.

He was assigned to South Vietnam in 1968. He worked in the communications center in the Force Logistics Command at Da Nang for nine months. Each Marine in Vietnam was expected to spend some time in the field. So for three months interspersed throughout the year, he walked in the rice paddies fighting the Viet Cong.

After his tour in Vietnam, he was selected for assignment to the Marine showcase base, which was a small enclave at 8th and I streets in downtown Washington, D.C. There, he pulled Honor Guard duty.

He says that the biggest mistake he made while in the Marines was rejecting an opportunity to serve at Camp David. But he met his wife, Laurie, in Washington. They were married in November 1970.

One day after guard duty at the gate to the 8th and I post, he received word that the commandant of Marines wanted to see him. The commandant showed him two pieces of paper on his desk and said he didn’t understand them. One paper was a recommendation that Russ be promoted for exceptional duty performance. The other paper was his request to be transferred so that he could separate from the Marines. The commandant asked him to explain. Russ told him that, when he was growing up on the farm in Norman, his father had always told him to do the best at whatever job he was assigned, even if he didn’t like the job. He told the commandant that the first paper was evidence that he was doing his best at his job. The other paper was an indication that he didn’t enjoy the job. When he began to explain to the commandant that he was frustrated that Marines weren’t encouraged to think for themselves, the commandant called an aide in and ordered him to get Russ off the post in 24 hours. He actually was out the gate in less than 24 hours. He was discharged on Aug. 7, 1970.

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