During the Vietnam War the best friend the men who wore green berets had was Martha Raye. The star of stage, screen and television was considered the „Mother of U.S. Army Special Forces,“ and she richly deserved the title.

Beginning in 1965 Maggie, as she was known to us, visited Vietnam for four months a year. Three of those months she would spend with isolated Special Forces detachments all over the country. She was a qualified combat nurse and she often put her training to use. During her time in combat zones she was twice wounded and received two Purple Hearts. She also earned the Combat Medical Badge. In 1966 President Johnson made her an honorary Lt. Col. in Special Forces.

I first met Maggie in the late summer of 1968 at my camp outside Da Nang. The camp was called Command and Control North, and from there we ran top-secret reconnaissance missions into North Vietnam and Laos. I had been playing poker in a friend’s hootch, dubbed the Bamboo Lounge, when Maggie and our camp commander, the late Col. Jack Warren, came rolling in with Bloody Marys in their hands.

„Don’t you ever die you sweet $#&^%$,“ Maggie roared, before she gave me an extremely wet kiss on my ear. Over the course of a couple world-class drunks we got to know each other. Before she left camp she gave me a medal of the Virgin Mary. She also asked if I wanted her to say hello to anyone back in the States. I said I’d like her to say hello to Elvis Presley for me.

Maggie said she would, but also insisted I give her my folk’s telephone number so she could call and tell them I was doing fine.

To my mother’s amazement, she got a call when Maggie returned to the States. Somewhere during the conversation, Maggie mentioned she had tried to get through to Presley but he wasn’t available. She said she would try again.

A few weeks later, Maggie called my mother back to tell her she had gotten in touch with Presley and had said hello to him for me. She said that Presley said he would remember me in his prayers and „God bless.“

After that, I always refreshed Maggie’s memory of who I was by saying „Remember me? I’m the guy you said hello to Elvis Presley for?“

She always replied, „I know who you are.“

During the Vietnam War, Maggie personally telephoned many parents and hand delivered letters from loved ones to hundreds more. Today she rests with „her guys“ in the post cemetery at Fort Bragg, N.C. She wore one of her most prized possessions to her grave – the coveted green beret.

Submitted by David A. Maurer, recon team leader, Command and Control North and author of The Dying Place.

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