He served in war, politics
You’ve probably seen this man before.
If you’ve had a hand in politics in Nevada County, or live in the Red Dog area of Nevada City, or participated in Veterans Day ceremonies at Memorial Park a few weeks back, you’ve seen “GB” Tucker.
A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Tucker’s days as a grunt in postwar China are long behind him, his days as a commanding officer in Vietnam now a memory.
But that doesn’t mean he forgets.
“Every military leader, every noncommissioned officer I’ve ever met has trained very hard so that we have the strongest military deterrent in the world,” said Tucker, who was one of a handful of veterans to receive the Korean government’s Korean War Service Medal Nov. 11, along with a few other area veterans.
Though he served after World War II in China and in Korea and finally in Vietnam during a three-decade career, Tucker believes there’s something everyone should know about those who protect their country – “Every one of us hates war.”
That includes Tucker, 73, a former Nevada County supervisor and county planning commissioner who rose from questionable beginnings in Texas to a life spent serving the United States on local, national and international fronts.
The man who lives in a home made from 65 trees on a dirt road hidden from most grew up in an unconventional way. His mother died when he was an infant, and at 16 he gave a notary public a fifth of whisky so she would change his name to the initials “GB,” a moniker he carries today.
“It was common to just have initials for a name in those days,” said Tucker, who refuses to reveal his given name even now. A search by the Nevada County Assessor’s office, the county Elections Office and an inquiry with the Texas Department of Health proved fruitless, as well.
As a teen, Tucker said he bounced from institution to institution, once even taking a job driving a laundry truck.
What he became was quite the opposite.
Tucker traveled up and down the Korean peninsula during the Korean War as transport quartermaster for the Fifth Marine regiment, with few regrets.
“It would have been nice if we would have left Korea a democracy,” he said.
“I was a buck sergeant, just doing what I was told. We didn’t get caught up in the politics,” said Tucker, a recipient of the Bronze Star and a member of the local chapter of the Marine Corps League.
Politics undoubtedly played a role during Tucker’s two stints associated with the Vietnam War – a portion of the time he spent in Sacramento training reserves and serving as a “casualty call” official during and after the Tet Offensive in 1968, when American battle deaths began to escalate.
His responsibility included personally delivering the bad news in an area that stretched from Vallejo east to Reno, and Yreka south to Lodi.
It’s not an experience he easily recounts.
“It was terrible,” said Tucker. When the mothers, wives, sons and daughters of local Marines saw the official car arrive, the feeling of sorrow often went both ways.
“Invariably, they had sympathy for the bearer of bad news,” he said. “Of course, it was difficult. What I wanted to do, as much as possible, was soften the blow. Everybody had something good to say about (their loved ones) and that’s what you highlighted.”
Tucker said he imagined the horror his family – stationed in Hawaii during part of his Vietnam tour of duty – felt when they saw a staff car roll through the military housing complex in Kaneohe, Hawaii.
The job, he said, “was crazy. It’s not good at all.”
Tucker, who left active duty in the Marine in 1970, reminisces about those days only for those who prod him. Now, he’s just content to relax on his 35 acre property and live life as an elder statesman. Of his military career, Tucker says he was, like many, simply following orders.
“There was probably misunderstanding as to why we were there, but we were duty-bound.”
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