Gary Trobeck told Ev Sprous his story of Tom Lubbers (Shadow 78 AC, KIA April 28, 1970)
I am going to start about how I met Tom. We met in basic training in September 1967. He was from Florissant, Missouri, not far from St. Louis; I was from Litchfield, Illinois, a total of roughly 60 miles from one another. We became close friends in basic and he was my squad leader.
After we graduated basic in November ’67, I am assuming Tom went to OCS and then flight school or maybe direct to flight school… not sure as we lost contact. I went direct duty to Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, as a Security Policeman. I was at Ellsworth 11 months and volunteered for Vietnam.
I arrived at Tan Son Nhut AFB on November 17, 1968, and left on June 17, 1970. I was in the 377th SPS Charlie Flt, Bravo Sector. We guarded the perimeter from 7:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m. and also guarded some of the flight line area.
On that fateful morning of 4/28/70, I happened to be guarding Tom’s aircraft. I was talking to a couple of maintenance guys, when they said, “Here comes Lieutenant Lubbers; we have to go.” I said, “Is that Thomas Lubbers, red head and about 6’ 3”?” They said, “Tall and red head, yes. Not sure first name.” As he was approaching, I hollered out a nickname our TI had for him in basic, which I can’t put on here. I heard him laugh and say, “That must be Gary Trobeck.” I saluted, we shook hands, and he let me follow him around on his flight check. We talked for a few minutes. He said, “When do you get off?” and I told him. He said, “We are going out and shoot some bad guys and then will be back.” He said, “When you get off, do what ever you do, get chow or whatever and then come over to the officers billets and I will leave your name at the gate and we can catch up.” I was so looking forward to it! I was so happy I got to chat with him for a few minutes; it was nice. I watched them taxi and take off and the next thing I knew, the worst thing happened.
I had the utmost respect for Tom and he was such a humble person. He had a great sense of humor and a great smile. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about that day and the crew. My biggest regret is I never contacted his parents after I got home to talk to them about my last few minutes with Tom. I will cherish that time forever.