Vietnam vet opens up |

Vietnam vet opens up

Vivian Herron

Now that Gypsy John is back in town to stay, the Washington Welcoming Committee is meeting on a regular basis every morning, rain or shine, on the front porch of the Washington General Store. Bring a lawn chair, and the store’s coffee is excellent.

While interviewing Big Bill Langhorne for a Mother’s Day column, the conversation turned to his tour of duty in the Vietnam war. He was 22 when he went in the Army, and he served his country in Special Ops in Cambodia, Laos and China. He was awarded the Silver Star and Medal of Valor.

Bill doesn’t like to discuss his personal experiences very much, but he was kind enough to tell me a few stories, all of which involved death, fear, desperation, pain, blood, screaming, crying and unbelievable friendship. I cannot imagine what it was like to live those stories as he did … and still does.

At one point, while speaking intensely of a close friend who was mortally wounded, his face flushed and his voice shook, and he began to weep. I don’t think he wants me to tell you that, but that’s what happened.

I said I thought he is a very nice man and when he recovered himself a bit he laughed, his eyes still wet, and joked, “Yeah, well, only when I’m sleeping!” But that’s not so. He has a heart as big as his body, is what I think.

When you can make it down here to Washington, dear friends, you’ll find Big Bill most mornings attending a WWC meeting. He won’t mind if you step up and shake his hand, tell him thanks, and wish him well.

The students at Washington School are getting ready for their end-of-the-year field trip to Monterey, and are they ever excited! This is no light-weight, 24-hour trip, either; they’re going whale watching at sea, visiting the Chocolate Factory and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, taking a trolley tour, going horseback riding at Pebble Beach, and that’s only a few of the planned activities.

Sometimes members of our little community work hard for neighbors and friends but are too modest to say anything about it. I am only too happy to brag on them, and this time around it’s Gary Zielinski, a local resident of many years.

Gary has a very dark green thumb. Whenever I visit his place in the summer, he has a big garden underway, where the veggies are ashamed of themselves if they aren’t humungous. For the last three years he has cultivated a big pumpkin patch and supplies pumpkins to the school kids in October for the annual carving contest. The year before last, he grew giant sunflowers and took the heads up to the school so the kids could harvest and munch on their own sunflower seeds. He also grew multicolored Indian corn for the kids to hang up for Halloween and use as Thanksgiving decorations at the school.

Last week I told you how the WVFD and Town Council fattened the purse for the field trip; one generous soul I didn’t even know about was Gary, who donated $200. There was enough cash for essentials but the kids were having trouble getting some mad money on their own to spend on various souvenirs and goodies. Gary stepped up to the plate and gave teacher Pete another $250. I just found out about all this.

“Anything I can do to improve the quality of life for the kids, I’m right there for them. I’m not out for the recognition, I’m doin’ it for the kids. I prefer to do stuff behind the scenes.” Well, not this time around, Gary.


Vivian Herron is a longtime resident of the town of Washington whose column appears on Saturdays. You can write her in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.

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