Gustav Hasford will
be coming home to Halleyville Saturday, February 20.
It's been a long time since Gus was here--moved to Russellville when he was 7, edited the high school newspaper and a magazine there and graduated in 1966. He joined the Marine Corps in 1966 and was a Marine Corps correspondent in Vietnam within months.
The Hasfords moved to Tacoma, Washington, where his mother now lives, just as Gus came home from Vietnam in 1968.
Thomas Wolfe said you can't go home again, and I guess that's true for Gus--only his ashes are coming home. They'll be buried beside his father here. But, at least in that sense, Gus is coming home.
Gus died in Aegina, Greece, Friday, February 5, from complications relating to diabetes. I know what the complications were.
Gus was one of my First Marine Division (1stMarDiv) reporters in Vietnam in 1968 & 1969. The group called themselves The 1st Mar Div ISO Snuffies, ISO being the acronym for Informational Services Office. Gus and his buddies were the combat correspondents, radio broadcasters, and artists who reported the war.
Snuffy is a name junior enlisted men in the Marine Corps call themselves. Gus and his buddies made me an honorary Snuffy. As their officer in charge I couldn't qualify as a regular Snuffy, though I was one during World War II and Korea.
We meet every two years as a group--in Santa Monica, Reno, any convenient place. We all tried to convince Gus that beer wasn't a properly balanced diet for a man with diabetes.
"Maybe after I finish the book I'm working on," Gus would say, "I'll get to work on that." That plan never worked. Gus was always working on one or more other books before he ever finished the one he was "working on now." Watching his diet and remembering his medication schedule just didn't fit in with his writing.
The Short-Timers, his first book, was picked to be made into a movie and Gus co-wrote the screenplay with Mike Herr. The movie, Full Metal Jacket, won several awards including an Academy Award nomination for Gus for best screenplay of the year. He published The Phantom Blooper and A Gypsy Good Time and was in Greece writing others when he died.
Gus seemed to live in his self-made corner of the literary world. We Snuffies often felt Gus thought he was the Phantom Blooper, the main character of his book by that name.
"Gus didn't steal thousands of library books," I tried to explain to a judge in San Louis Obispo, California, "I know some of them are 12 years overdue, but he was only using them as his research library and would have returned them when he finished his research."
The judge couldn't seem to appreciate writers and their research needs. He convicted Gus and sent him to what Gus called "a paid vacation" of six months. Gus served three months for the overdue library books.
San Louis Obispo is up north. Gus always preferred southern California, especially San Clemente. On a warm sunny day at the beach, he would joke that when he died he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes scattered on the sands of San Clemente beach so the young girls could come and visit.
Gus finally decided that Greece was the place to write books and there with his true love, writing, he wrote out the rest of his young life.
Gustav Hasford is the first of our band of 22 brothers, the 1st Mar Div ISO Snuffies, to write his final -30-.
Semper fidelis, Gus.