At Phu Bai, Thomas, an enlisted man serving as a hospital corpsman, was put to work greeting incoming casualties at Phu Bai. Corpsman Thomas offered preliminary diagnoses and otherwise prepared injured soldiers transported by helicopter to the hospital.
Some weeks after he was sent to Phu Bai, the hospital received the bodies of 30 men killed in action, including four who were unidentified. Thomas, who handled their arrival, was horrified to discover that those men were from his old unit in Da Nang. At the time, he did not know whether Admire was among the dead. After completing his tour of duty later that year, and still unaware of the fate of his platoon commander and several of his friends, Thomas was sent back to the States. That was 1967.
When he got out of the service, the Gratis High School graduate took a job as an electrical repairman at Armco Steel. Thomas moved his wife, Barbara, and their three children to a house at 203 Brelsford Ave.
Skip to February, 1991. News of the Persian Gulf war saturated every news program and newspaper. One morning, over breakfast, Thomas, now 48, read a war story in the paper about a Marine Col. John Admire. "That name just jumped off the page. I thought, "that couldn’t be the same guy,’" Thomas said. "It had been 20-some years. I didn’t know if the man lived or died or what."
Ironically, as Thomas watched the news on CNN that same night, a reporter interviewed a colonel in charge of thousands of Marines. "I glanced up at the TV, and here was my old lieutenant looking just the same," Thomas said. Not only was his friend alive and still in the service, he was a colonel. Just one step from being a general. Thomas said he was overwhelmed with happiness at the sight of his buddy. Tears filled his eyes. "It was great," he said.
While the war in the Persian Gulf pulled apart many friends and families when troops were sent to Saudi Arabia, the conflict rekindled this relationship. Though he did not have Admire’s wartime address, Thomas wrote him a letter and sent it blindly through a field post office number.
"We respected each other. He was one of the finest young guys," Thomas said. "I didn’t know if he’d remember me. I wanted him to know I knew he was alive and well. And that we were proud of him and praying for him." Thomas got Admire’s reply two weeks ago. He did not have to worry about being remembered.
"Your recent letter was awaiting me in Hawaii upon my return home from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait," Admire wrote. "Your letter was a pleasant surprise and recalled many fine memories...I’ve thought of you often over the years. "In fact, I’m enclosing a copy of my remarks at my change of command ceremony last summer. In every change of command or promotion, I’ve always paid my respects to (that first command in Vietnam). You’re always in my thoughts... "Your letter meant a lot to me and I’ll keep in touch. Thanks for remembering an old lieutenant."
Gulf War helps local man learn fate of Viet buddy
by Monica Lee Schlifsky
Journal Staff Writer
TRENTON - Almost 25 years ago, Lynn "Doc" Thomas broke his wrist while on patrol in South Vietnam, so the Navy transferred him from his field unit in Da Nang to a medical company in Phu Bai, away from the action. And away from his buddies, including his platoon commander, Marine Lt. John Admire, with whom he had served during the previous six months. Thomas was part of a group of Navy personnel attached to Admire’s Marine unit.