Last Thursday I got a call to teach a class at the technical college where my friend Barb works. I was thrilled to accept the position, but I only had a week to prepare for a class I had never taught before. Brainstorming, scrambling, and praying for guidance and wisdom ensued. I also took several trips to the campus to fill out employment papers and send proof of having worked in something other than teaching, a requirement for the job. Verifying my occupational experience was a real adventure since most of that experience occurred more than twenty years ago.
As I searched the internet to find the employers I had worked for in the past, I found most of them were either no longer in business or had passed away in the twenty odd years since I had worked for them. One man in particular, Colonel Archibald Scott, was someone I truly enjoyed working for and with. In the course of trying to find him, I also discovered he was not just a wonderful boss but a true American hero.
Scotty, as he introduced himself to me, became my boss and was the manager of the Temporary Lodging facility on MCAS El Toro. The base has since been closed by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, but when I worked for Scotty, it was a thriving Marine base that welcomed Marines of all ranks and their families to southern California. It was our job at The Lodge to provide a place to stay for incoming Marine families who didn’t yet have a home. Sometimes if we had no room, we had to find hotels for them in the surrounding areas of Irvine and Tustin, but often families stayed for a month until they were settled in housing of their own in the area. Scotty was the perfect ambassador to those families, including my own.
When my husband and I arrived in California for the first time, I was completely disoriented. We had come cross-country from Pensacola, Florida, taking thirty days of leave to road trip up the eastern seaboard before traveling the northern tier of states to Wisconsin. It was an awesome trip! In Wisconsin we stayed at Bruce’s parents’ house for a few days until we saw the first of the winter storms gaining momentum across the plains. We packed our belongings and drove across Iowa where we were the last car to drive through on the interstate to Omaha. The state patrol shut it down after us because of a snowstorm. We were relieved to finally arrive in Omaha, Nebraska, at SAC Headquarters, Offutt Air Force Base. We made it to California a couple of days later with barely any money in our pockets.
The first person we encountered when we arrived at El Toro was Archibald Scott. He welcomed us at The Lodge with a big smile on his face and a friendly handshake. I was annoyed by the traffic and afraid I’d have to live like a pauper in that alien place, but I felt better after meeting Scotty. I think that’s how everyone felt after meeting him. He inspired confidence.
Scotty was a fine man, happy and jolly, a coffee drinker, a golfer, a joker, but beneath his happy-go-lucky exterior, he was an Army colonel and a heroic man. He told me once about running away to join the Army when he was only fifteen. He showed me the indentation on his chest where, at the Battle of the Bulge, a mortar had bounced off his sternum without exploding leaving a concave scar on his chest. I knew these things about him, but when I looked at his biography on the internet, I was struck by how modest he had actually been.
Colonel Archibald Scott served in the United States Army during World War II—in the same 328th Regiment that Sgt. Alvin York did—the Korean War, the Bay of Pigs, and the Viet Nam War. He was highly decorated. In World War II alone he was twice nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor for acts of gallantry in battle, but never received the honor because one of the officers who witnessed his bravery was killed in the war before testifying on his behalf. He did receive the Silver Star which was later upgraded to a Distinguished Service Cross. He also received the Bronze Star with Three Oak Clusters, and a Purple Heart with four oak clusters. Oak clusters denote how many times someone receives the award. In the Korean War he was awarded the Bronze Star, the Distinguished Service Cross, and the Silver Star. He was truly a hero.
I didn’t keep in touch with Scotty after I left The Lodge. I wish I had, but I became busy raising my family and being a Marine wife. I have never forgotten Scotty, however. I was saddened to read he died in 1996, when my oldest son was six years old. It’s odd the twists and turns life’s path takes. I never would have thought that my teaching job would turn up new information about an old boss, an admired friend, a man who welcomed me and my husband to our life together in the Marine Corps.
Even after I begin teaching at my new job, I will remember the hassle of filling out the employment verification paperwork because it brought me a new understanding of a man I thought I had known. And maybe that is what Scotty would have wanted me to know, a good and humble man who would never brag on his record, but who would be proud to know I had written about him all these years after his death. I miss you, Scotty. Thank you for your heroic service to our country and thanks also for the memories.