The Battle of Kontum Banner Image

Bill Laurie  

Pink Panther John Timothy "Tim" Conry

I knew Tim for years from our college days when we were in ROTC together. 'Timmer,' as we called him and our mutual buddy Dick Dodd were in the flight program together and both were English majors. Sometimes you really hit it off with people who are kindred spirits. That's the way it was with Tim, Dick, and me. Our 'adventures' together could make a very funny movie. Tim was one of those very rare people whom everyone liked, and with good reason. He had no airs about him, never tried to 'act cool,' always got the job done, and what you saw was what he was. What you saw was all good. Most important though was that Tim was solid character on two feet. There was a lot more depth to Tim than suggested by his jovial exterior. He was kind and polite to people, and always friendly and cordial, funny as can be, but if you were in a jam he'd cover your back. He'd be there for you, because you were a friend. Because it was the right thing to do. He was that kind of man.

He came from a solid, middle class Irish family with 4 brothers and one sister, all good people. Thought not massive in size, Tim was an all-state football player in high school, reflecting his drive and dedication and bull-dog tenacity as much as his physical attributes.

All three of us went in the Army about the same time, late '70. Tim went to IOBC at Ft. Benning, a few weeks before I arrived for a later IOBC class. We got together whenever we could, hit a few Columbus, Georgia watering holes. Later, I was at VN language school at Ft. Bliss, and Dick and I went up to see Tim when he was at Ft Wolters, learning to drive helicopters. Had another fun time, and it was great to see Timmer again. He took time from his busy flight training to drag us all over the place, even taking us back to Dallas-Ft. Worth airport late Sunday night, a long, tiring drive for someone who had to get up early the next day. I took a picture of the three of us, which I have on the wall right now, enlarged to 8 x 10. We're standing outside of Tim's rental trailer, grinning like three Cheshire cats. Behind us is Timmer's old beater car, minus hubcaps. It was called 'the taxi,' for reasons never understood.

I went to Viet Nam first, in Oct '71. Tim was still in various phases of flight training and didn't arrive in-country until late March or early April, '72. As luck would have it I was in Saigon at the time and scrambled over to transient barracks to see him. Couldn't find him or anyone who knew where he was. Then it hit me: he'll be at the club laughing and having a few beers. Got there, pushed open the door and the sun light immediately illuminated his smiling, laughing face. I remember that as clear as if it were this morning.

We talked a lot about what was going on, I sneaked him out of Tan Son Nhut, went and had a nice dinner at the floating restaurant on the Saigon River, talking more old days and times....and the war. He asked intelligent questions and wanted to know what was going on, why, with what effect, etc. Sneaked him into a back gate at Tan Son Nhut, shook hands and told each other to be damn careful. Turned and waved one more time and Timmer hollered out something like 'Take it easy William. Watch your ass.' He, for some reason, always called me by my full name. That was the last time I saw him.

We exchanged a few letters after he went to Pleiku. He said he was really impressed with the people he was with: 'There's some real good people here,' or words to that effect. A few weeks later I sent another letter. This one came back in several days, unopened, with accompanying letter that Tim had been KIA. My feeble brain refused to believe it. Couldn't, wouldn't believe it. No reaction beyond 'this isn't true, it's bullsh-t.' Nothing registered. Might as well have been informed my driver's license needed renewal. Then, perhaps a week later, it hit me instantly, like a ton...make that 8 tons.. of bricks. I broke down and cried like a baby. All damn night long.

After I got my head together again -sort of- I wrote his CO, whose name I can't remember, saying I was Tim's friend, also in Viet Nam, asking he please be so kind as to provide the straight poop on what happened. He did, and I still have the letter somewhere. Am grateful he took the time to write. I would like to thank him again.

I wasn't mad at the NVA. They were doing their job, even it wasn't a nice job to be doing. Even though I would probably have nuked Hanoi had I had the chance. I did want to go back to the States with a baseball bat, smash televisions, and tell people to wake the bloody hell up. Fat chance. They still haven't.

Tim Conry, and anyone like him, represents the best -the BEST- this country, or any country, has or will have. There is no higher honor than to be a good sold, reliable human being, a good buddy, and that's what Tim was. A straight shooter, of admirable character, and a valued friend. This sick infantile world we live on badly needs more Tim Conrys. A lot of them, but there aren't many. There's a drawback of sorts of having known Tim: the knowledge that you've got to be good enough to deserve to be and have been his friend. Ain't easy sometimes, but you don't want to let ol' Timmer down. I have never really come to terms with his passing. Time does NOT heal all wounds. It de-brides them maybe, and cuts the pain a little bit, allows some of the tissue to re-grow, but the wound remains, and always will be there. As it should be.

When Dick and I get together we tell 'Timmer stories,' laugh sometimes, stare off into space or into the campfire, then hoist a glass to our buddy, Timmer. We figure he's up there keeping some cold ones for us, and will flash that great Tim Conry smile when we arrive on the scene after doing the big ETS into the sky.

It's probably beyond anyone's limited powers to pay proper homage to Tim Conry. That's in part another measure of his character, of his value as a human being: beyond description.

Bill Laurie <Bill Laurie >
Mesa, Arizona USA - Friday, June 19, 2009 at 20:40:25 (PDT)

[ Back to Memories Book Index ]