One-Eye Riley
by Kevin O'Brien

 
That is classic John. He used to hang out at a bar called The Fort which was just off post and was the SF hangout. It tried to reinvent itself as a Chinese restaurant later but remained a preferred SF watering hole even after 10th Group left and A/1/11 was holding on. If John liked you and wanted to have a little fun, he would drop his glass eye in your drink. He had several eyes and if you looked inside the pupil, one had a naked girl, one had an American flag and one had -- this is no shit -- an SF crest. He also had a "normal" eye. I think he had them made in Thailand. I got the eye treatment a couple times and as a young guy was highly honored!
 

He was The Mr. Jumpmaster of 10th Group and was always NCOIC of the JM course until forced to retire. I think I told the list the story of how he pissed Col. Dick Potter ( Richard W. Potter Jr., Group CO) off by ignoring him when Potter expected a salute... of course he had approached on John's blind side. "If you came up on the fuckin side where I had a fuckin eye, I'd GIVE you a fuckin salute!" (pause) "Sir!"
 

Potter was thunderstruck.
 

John was fond of drink and was one of the real old-model Sergeant Muldoon type NCOs. He became a victim of a ruthless housecleaning by Potter. Potter did not want anyone without a "picket fence" physical profile on a deployable SFOD, be it ODA, ODB, or SOTA. I'm sure the Colonel had his reasons for doing that, especially when UW was not our mission and SR/DA was the whole thing, but in a span of about 18 months we lost dozens and dozens of Vietnam veterans. It seems like the physical requirement was aimed straight at these guys, who had been shot to shit in Vietnam (so had Potter, but he was not on a deployable SFOD).
 

Riley used to tell different stories of how he lost his eye. He would size up the audience to get a measure of their susceptibility to a fish story, and then let one rip. Some of them were pretty creative. At one time or another I suppose that eye was eaten by every animal native to Asia or plucked out by every weapon from the Montagnard crossbow on up. I saw him tell a blonde that he lost it in a poker game as she beamed at him with rapt attention and a half dozen of us tried to keep straight faces: "Never play poker with these guys, honey."
 

A guy I never knew named Henry Hansard wrote a book of SF stories and legends and in it he claims to have the definitive tale of One-Eye Riley and his lost eye. According to Henry, some guys were playing a game of chicken, seeing how close  they could stand to a Helio Courier practicing landings and takeoffs on an A-Camp strip. Alcohol may have been involved. John won the game when the static discharger on the wingtip whipped around and trashed his eye.
 

Personally, I think Hansard was also fished by Riley. I don't remember where static dischargers are in a Helio (haven't been in one in a while) but I'm used to seeing them on the trailing edge of wings of other metal planes -- not the tip.
 

Sadly, both John and Henry have passed on. When John died nobody knew about it for some time and Peggy Qualls was bullshit at us all for the low turnout at something (funeral?) can't remember exactly what.
 

 Thank you for reminding me of One-Eye Riley. A true SF original, may he rest in peace.
 

cheers