|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)
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
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
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.