Monday, May 27, 2013

Remembering Major Glenn G. Jacks, USMC


I grew up in Southern California during the Vietnam War, just a few miles from Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. On our quiet street in Tustin, the majority of our neighbors were Marine officers, and the majority of those were Marine Aviators. Our family always liked our Marine neighbors; the kids had interesting stories of faraway, exotic places like Japan or South Carolina, their moms generally spoke with cool Southern accents and used expressions we native Californians had never heard before, like, "Y'all are some cute lil' boogers!" And of course the fathers exuded the (usually) quiet bravura common to most Marines, and especially the aviators. (Early on, I learned NEVER to call them "Marine pilots"...They were Marine AVIATORS!) To this junior high school guy, these warriors were the essence of awesome. My dad, a World War Two Army Air Force veteran and former National Guard infantry officer, seemed to gravitate to the Marines, and treated them with great respect.

Of all of those Marine officers who were neighbors, the one who made the greatest impression on my entire family was Glenn Jacks. Captain Jacks was one of those people who everyone in the neighborhood instantly liked. The same was true of his wife and two children. This was a family that just seemed to brighten up Chirping Sparrow Way by their presence. They'd always show up to the barbecues, curbside fireworks displays, and block parties, and Captain Jacks would draw folks in with his infectious grin and slow drawl.

When Captain Jacks got orders for Vietnam, it didn't seem that momentous to the non-Marine families; we'd never had anyone go over there and not come back. The war was on TV most nights, presented by Walter Cronkite, but it wasn't REAL. Until October, 1967, anyway. Not too long before, the neighborhood celebrated the news of Captain Jacks' promotion. (I'll never forget his young daughter announcing proudly, "My daddy's a MAJOR!" to everyone she encountered for almost an entire week.) One afternoon, I came home from school to find my mother sitting on the couch, sobbing. She looked up and said quietly, "Glenn Jacks' airplane crashed in Vietnam, and he's dead." I was stunned. How could a man who was so full of energy and confidence, who had only just left about a month ago be dead? 

Soon, we all got to see what a Marine Corps Family is made of. Mrs. Jacks didn't hide; she met with her neighbors and friends one by one, and told us how her husband and his crewman had taken off to fly a mission. When the jet engines failed, Major Jacks stayed with the aircraft to fly it away from the village where it would have crashed had he ejected. He and his crewman crashed into a mountain, killing them both. They didn't make a big deal about his heroism, as if this sort of act was to be expected of a Marine Aviator.

October, 1967 is when my concept of war changed from words and photos in history books, and grainy black and white television pictures, to an actual human face. Every Memorial Day since then, I have taken a moment to remember the bravery, sacrifice, and personality of Major Glenn Jacks, USMC, and that of his family. I shall not forget them, and their service to our nation.

9 comments:

  1. My name is Hayley Jacks Gurney. Glenn is my heavenly grandfather. My dad had this article article to me this morning. He was the youngest son of Glenn and Joan Jacks. Thank you for such a beautiful writing! I can't wait for my Aunt Wendy to read this. Joan was pregnant with Wendy when he crashed! The little girl you wrote of is my Aunt Vicki, who I know will read this and be blessed with that sweet memory! My uncle Gregory "Glenn" was the oldest child and I know will too read with sweet memories but I bet most importantly, pride! Thank you again! God bless you!

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    1. Hayley, thank you so much for your kind words! I hoped someone from the Jacks family would see this tribute, and know how much your grandfather was admired and respected. Please express my deepest regards to all, and my very best to you!

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  2. My name is Hayley Jacks Gurney. Glenn is my heavenly grandfather. My dad had this article article to me this morning. He was the youngest son of Glenn and Joan Jacks. Thank you for such a beautiful writing! I can't wait for my Aunt Wendy to read this. Joan was pregnant with Wendy when he crashed! The little girl you wrote of is my Aunt Vicki, who I know will read this and be blessed with that sweet memory! My uncle Gregory "Glenn" was the oldest child and I know will too read with sweet memories but I bet most importantly, pride! Thank you again! God bless you!

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  3. My name is Hayley Jacks Gurney. Glenn is my heavenly grandfather. My dad had this article article to me this morning. He was the youngest son of Glenn and Joan Jacks. Thank you for such a beautiful writing! I can't wait for my Aunt Wendy to read this. Joan was pregnant with Wendy when he crashed! The little girl you wrote of is my Aunt Vicki, who I know will read this and be blessed with that sweet memory! My uncle Gregory "Glenn" was the oldest child and I know will too read with sweet memories but I bet most importantly, pride! Thank you again! God bless you!

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  4. I received my very first blog yesterday. I sat down this morning, opened it, and read it from start to finish, without saying a word, perhaps a tear or two dripped down my face, otherwise I was motionless. My wife, Susie looked on. She said “isn’t it amazing”. I said it is unbelievable! How could a young boy in junior high or high school remember something like this. How could it have had such an impact that he still remembers it today. I am certain once I know who you are, I will remember you. Your words instantly transported me back to that happy time. Those sun filled days on Chirping Sparrow were certainly fond memories. Your comments are a great reminder that we are all surrounded by unassuming heroes. Whether they are soldiers, police officers, firemen, or a whole host of other professionals who risk their lives for the benefit of others. We know we need them, they know they are willing to do what it takes, regardless of the price, and they step up, time after time to do what they know is required of them. Perhaps this is the reason for their subtle swagger. It is a good reminder to cherish the good people in our lives. Your comments on my parents is beyond gracious. It is very kind that you remember them, and that you appreciate their sacrifice. During that time, many people reached out to help all of us. Our neighbor Lee Smith took me to my first Angels baseball game, Mr. Nelson hit fly balls to Bart and me until dark, every night! So many were trying their best to help with the hole in our lives. I will never forget it. Several Marine Corps officers watched over mom her for the entirety of her life, and many of the neighbors remained mom’s friends even though we moved to the other side of the country. I saw first hand other heroes that stepped up to help. It was and continues to be a great lesson in how to live my life. Thank you for taking the time to put your memory and thoughts down in words. I will always be grateful for it. Glenn G. Jacks “Greg”

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    1. Dear Glenn,
      Breaking anonymity here, I'm Dave Hall. We lived across the street from your family, and you and I used to play catch in the street. Although my family moved to Mission Viejo shortly after you lost your father, I never forgot you all. As a cavalry second lieutenant serving in Germany in the mid-70s, I soldiered with a lot of Vietnam War combat veterans who told stories of the heroism they'd witnessed on the battlefields. I occasionally would mention your father's sacrifice, and share the impact it had on my own decision to serve.
      Warriors who give their all are never forgotten. Neither are their families, who shared the pain and pride of losing a husband and father. Thank you so much for reaching out, and should you ever find yourself in Western Washington, I would be honored to meet up with you again.
      Respectfully Yours,
      Dave Hall ( dhall058@aol.com)

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  5. Dave,

    I remember you and your sister well. If we are in western Washington I will get a hold of you. Thanks again for your kind words.

    Glenn

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  6. Glenn and Dave,

    My name is Jim Burns. I maintain a memorial page on marines.togetherweserved.com in honor of Major Jacks.
    It would be an honor to include any memories you would care to share on his page.

    Jim Burns
    jburns3239@aol.com

    ps - I am in the Vancouver, WA area.

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