Remembering Gerald M. Eller

This is from Steve Dragovich, 981st 70-71.

Remembering Gerald M. Eller
September 9, 1949 to December 3, 2005

I was at Lackland Dog School in San Antonio with Gerry Eller and we both came to Cam Ranh Bay together with the rest of our Lackland class. My recollection is that he was posted to a detachment soon after we came to CRB, and I didn’t see much of him after that. But my memories of him at Lackland are fresh in my mind.

We were there from November to mid-January 1969/70, which meant that we spent
Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day away from home, but it also meant that we all pooled and shared our food and goodie packages that were sent to us by our families. It was an unusual way for most of us to have spent the holidays, but it turned out to be happy just the same.

Gerry was a very friendly sort with a deepish smokey voice and what scientists and researchers today — in nascent investigative studies — call a distinctive “movement signature”: a
one-of-a-kind  pattern in a person’s muscular contractions that is as physically unique as a fingerprint or footprint. In Gerry’s case he had an almost undulating way of moving that was part dancer and part boxer. The way he moved and looked in motion defined him. 

We tended to speak about music a lot. He as most of us did loved the Beatles, and he was particularly interested in the way George Harrison was coming into his own as a songwriter and musical arranger. Harrison introduced his bandmates to Indian music and instruments, and this was of paramount interest to Gerry. For me, I liked George because his family’s newly acquired council house was more spacious than those of his bandmates, and his music-loving mother made their house available for rehearsals, particularly in the band’s early days as the
Quarrymen. And Gerry liked Mrs. Harrison’s musical nature and her generosity as much as I did.

Gerry’s favorite Beatle track was Norwegian Wood (aka This Bird Has Flown), a John Lennon composition from Rubber Soul wherein George introduced the sitar to his bandmates. In its use of Indian instrumentation and surreal lyrics the track was a precursor of what became known as psychedelic rock. The song, by the way, made me think that Gerry came from a Norwegian background and that Eller was a Norwegian name. Not so. Eller is a German name, but eller is also a word in Norwegian that means “or.”

After Gerry left CRB we met once in I believe Nha Trang. We had a good time catching up and it was in fact as if we’d never been separated. I wondered later how Gerry felt about the Beatles after their breakup, and too when John and George died.

Gerry died at 56 in 2005, too soon to leave the brightly lighted stage. Here is the last verse of your favorite Beatles song, Gerry:

“And when I awoke I was alone
This bird had flown
So I lit a fire
Isn’t it good Norwegian wood?”

Rest in peace, friend. I miss you.

Submitted by Steve Dragovich, Company Clerk, 981st, 70/71

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