At age 83, Bob Touhey has no plans to slow down. He’s recently published a book on his exploits as a Navy captain serving in Vietnam in the late ’60s. He’s got another book coming out this fall which takes a different look at his life – one that involves his love of family and animals.
Talking about his life and passions recently outside Deja Brew in Warrenton, Touhey, known by close friends and family as Captain Bob, has a long list of stories that he wants to share that span decades. A native of New York, Touhey has called Virginia home for many seasons.
“I don’t ride anymore,” said Touhey of his years astride horses frequenting shows and the fox hunt scene. Touhey laughs reminiscing about one event where he was headed toward one jump and the horse decided to take another. “He left me behind,” said Touhey whose arm was stepped on by another horse before he could get up. “Nothing broken,” he added.
A motorcycle roared by on Main Street, engine rumbling.
Touhey smiled. “I love motorcycles … but my wife won’t let me ride them.”
“Seawolf, Where You From? A Warrior’s Tales,” is Touhey’s account of how he got to Vietnam and what he did there. He writes of the officers that he served with and the men of Helicopter Attack Squadron Three (HA[L]-3), a combat unit that he was attached to from December 1968 to December 1969.
Touhey pays tribute to many of his fellow servicemen as they protected Navy SEALs, Mobile Strike Forces (Green Beret B-Teams), US Navy PBRs (Patrol Boat River), the Chinese Nung airboat pilots and other allies. Each chapter in his book gives the reader not only insight into Touhey’s emotions during that conflict but a historical look back to a time of turmoil and triumph for the United States of America. Touhey lost friends. He and others suffered consequences from the use of Agent Orange, a powerful herbicide that the United States used to destroy crops and foliage, hiding places for the enemy.
“I don’t think the military knew at that time how dangerous Agent Orange was to people’s health … we weren’t trying to purposely destroy a country; we just wanted to win a war,” wrote Touhey in one of his chapters.
Touhey’s military service includes more than 550 combat missions in Vietnam, flying both helicopter and fixed wing.
“It helps to be nuts,” laughed Touhey when detailing many of the near-death misses that he and others encountered during that time.
“HA[L]-3 was one of the most decorated Navy Squadrons in the Vietnam War. I was – and am to this day – proud to claim membership among them,” wrote Touhey in the foreword of his book.
A lover of poetry, particularly Walt Whitman, Touhey says that his second book of free verse poetry might be even closer to his heart than his memories of wartime.
“A warrior who has taken life in the pursuit of an honorable goal often develops an acute appreciation for life in even the smallest creation. A military leader who has experienced the destruction and devastation that war leaves behind often comes to recognize beauty in ways and often places that others do not notice,” writes Touhey’s friend Steve “Doc” Troxel as an introduction to “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”
Touhey’s love of the land, nature and the creatures that live there are expressed soulfully in this collection, in addition to beloved pets that no longer grace his home near Bald Mountain.
After 15 years, the Touhey’s lost Jakie, a shih tzu, in May of this year. Lily of the Valley, another shih tzu, has now joined their household in addition to a German shepherd, a yellow lab and a Jack Russell. Not to mention their miniature horse, Newt Gingrich.
“I’m still in the fight,” said Touhey who is managing partner of Virginia Strategic Security Group. As such, he remains involved with counter terrorism training and education.
“I’ll be good, and you be good,” chuckled Touhey recounting his one-on-one encounter and conversation with a large black bear on a summer’s eve many years ago. The two met on a path, both standing erect and both walked away peaceably.
Touhey mused about the layers of memories that he carries, from his time at the Naval Academy, to taking jumps over high fences and inevitably back to his writing. “I’m a storyteller,” said Touhey, “I have many stories to share.”
Touhey plans to donate a portion of his book sales to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and Shriners Hospital.
“Seawolf, Where You From?” by Bob Touhey is available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. His second book is planned to publish this fall. Reach Bob Touhey at 703-338-5991.
Reach Anita Sherman at firstname.lastname@example.org