Remembering John Bezic, Cary Clark, Dave Hardin, Robert Legaspi, and Arnie Price
The following are capsule recollections of five now deceased members of the 981st. Each in his own way was able to make an impression on others — by his friendship, humor, energy, character, or the mere fact of his distinctive presence on the scene.
John A. Bezic, Jr.
October 16, 1949 to October 30, 2007
John was a very personable guy I became friendly with at Cam Ranh Bay. He eventually got shipped out to a detachment that I believe was Nha Trang. I remember that one day while visiting there on company business with 1SG Ralph Hamblin I started looking for John to say hello, not having seen him for a few months. I found him in the barracks seated on his bed, legs placed diagonally against bedside with both feet on floor, sci-fi paperback held up in one hand and cigarette in another, reading intently and dragging away on his smoke. It was a very familiar pose. I said nothing until he saw me out of the corner of his eye, and then I laughed. He then threw his book up in the air as if to say “OMG it’s you!” We had a lot of fun together earlier at CRB, and on this day as well. I was sorry to find out that John died in Chicago in 2007, sadly the same year as his WW II Army vet father — the old man early in June and John at the end of October. I still remember how his face would light up at a funny remark or a cheerful greeting, and I miss him.
Cary M. Clark
October 28, 1949 to May 19, 2009
Cary’s was a quiet presence in Vietnam. I knew him by sight but not well. He had the reputation of being a good guy. He seemed closest to John Duncan and they both shipped out to Ban Me Thout, where Rush Mortimer spent time with them both. In the photo of Cary you can see that his hair was dark. His ethnicity could have been Italian, Spanish, Greek, or possibly Japanese. His middle name is Michi which translated into English may mean “child of beautiful knowledge,” or “the moral path” (Japanese); a diminutive for a panther kitten (Peruvian); or a diminutive for Michael (German). It might also have been his mother’s maiden name. Or Michi might mean something entirely different or might mean nothing at all, made up purely for how it sounded to the ear. And I recall thinking his mother probably named him after the actor Cary Grant. He is remembered by those who served with him as an intelligent and caring dog handler who performed his duties well and with close attention to detail.
David Keith Hardin
October 29, 1949 to August 20, 1978
Dave, the third handler in this group to have been born in October of 1949, was a fun loving guy who among other things enjoyed palling around with Jerry Griffis. Big Jerry and shortish Dave were a common sight together in Cam Ranh Bay, before both were shipped out to various detachments. They had together a great sense of humor and played off each other deliberately for laughs. Fun to watch and listen to — Jerry from Texas and Dave from rural Ohio. Dave’s photo shows an intelligent visage with high forehead. But what everyone probably remembers most is his nickname — the ironically most suitable “Short Dick.” The same way a six-foot-six basketball player might be called Tiny or a short-haired dachshund Curly, so Dave had to wrap his head around Short Dick. And he carried it well, laughing with the rest of us. We lost Dave early, at the age of 28. We salute you here, brother.
Robert Francis Legaspi
March 8, 1946 to March 1, 2009
SSG Legaspi was a lugubrious sort who spoke little and never seemed to crack a smile. He was memorable in that he wanted to marry an Asian woman (a Vietnamese national, I thought at first). There was much paperwork and other procedures involved in this process. We only did a minimum of the paperwork to be filled out before the entire file got forwarded to the personnel warrant officer at battalion for more detailed action. Along the way Robert would most likely have been subtly discouraged by the Army from pursuing this, but my recollection is that he knew his own mind and was insistent. About the woman I can only recall that she was tall for a Vietnamese. Turns out that she was Naeko, a probable Ryukyuan from Okinawa and not Vietnamese. Her 2015 obituary indicates that they married in December of 1971. That didn’t sound right to me because paperwork began in the first quarter of 1970, and late 1971 seemed a long time to wait before marriage was possible. But marry they did, had one child and two grandchildren, and evidently a happy marriage as well. He was in fact the love of Naeko’s life.
Arnie Lew Price
November 13, 1948 to September 11, 2012
SGT Arnie “Buck” Price became “a great guy” to fellow sergeant Rush Mortimer. They were in MP school together, and later in Vietnam extended at the same time. Mort remembers Arnie as having another dimension, a depth of character and energy that set him apart from others. He was not by nature much of a yes man, but was able to lead and knew the direction he wanted to pursue as part of his mission as a dog handler and NCO. Mort also recalls that Arnie was a funny guy, always pulling things on the troops especially after he made sergeant. His regret was that they didn’t have more time together. Mort explained that it’s a fact of life to lose people, but one always wishes the best for them in their lives. He will always think highly of Arnie and the time they had in the Army. And in Arnie’s 2012 obituary a childhood friend characterized him as “a strong willed person who always knew his mind.” I didn’t know him well but that was how I remembered him too. He filled a room with his voice and with his presence.
Five brothers remembered for who they were and what they did as part of a larger team and its mission. May you all now rest in peace.
Submitted by Steve Dragovich, Company Clerk, 981st, 70/71