Author's Name: Dave Moller
Title: "My cousin Clipper"
My sister Debbie was back home visiting in late April 1968 when I walked through the front door of our Kirkwood home.
Debbie had a strained look on her face and said, "Sit down, Dave." When I did, she said, "Clipper's been killed in Vietnam."
Clipper was our cousin and Kirkwood High graduate from Glendale who had quit college to join the Army the year before. His full name was Glenn Loren Moller, Jr. Some readers might remember his parents. His father was Glenn Sr., a well-known labor lawyer. His mother, Anne Moller, was a devotee to education
Upon hearing Debbie's words, I remember crying with her for the next few minutes and then being enveloped in a kind of emotional fog. For years that fog allowed me to somehow deal with the fact that my male cousin closest to me was gone forever; and for what reason? There was none and there still isn't. By 1968, the domino theory for Southeast Asia had evaporated into a military fantasy.
Initially we heard he had been shot by a sniper. Years later with the Internet, I discovered that his unit had been run over in the middle of the night by NVA regulars at the Battle of Good Friday. I shudder to think what was going through his mind during the relentless attack that left him and 13 other GIs dead.
By that point I was already against the war. I grew my hair, became a hippie, and marched against the lunacy. My uncles, including Uncle Glenn, came to my dad and told him that if he didn't have the money to send me to college, then they did, because no one else was going to be sacrifices.
Clipper's brother, Pete, was drafted not long after and my uncle pulled political connections to keep him out of Vietnam.
Pete and I confided in each other in recent years after he went to Vietnam and visited the area near where Clipper had been killed. We both talked about how his death shaped the future of our lives and how we carried the guilt all these years that it could have been us and not him.
My former next door neighbor, Gig Thurmond, also went to Vietnam. He never talked about it, but his ex-wife once told me that Gig was running down a path with a wounded buddy in his arms when another guy stepped on a mine and blew a leg off the guy he was carrying.
Gig was intelligent, amusing and talented but prone to depression. Knowing his family, that could have been hereditary. I can't help thinking Vietnam memories also triggered it.
A very wise friend of mine put Vietnam into perspective the last time I saw him.
"We'll never get over Vietnam or learn from it until we admit it was a massive mistake," Don said.
I think he was right.