Down the basement hallway are other exhibits — testaments to how Plucker has personally fared since the Pueblo incident. One room is crammed floor to ceiling with artifacts he's collected over his decades of walking the plains of the northern Front Range. There are century-old bullet shells, rusted bowie knives, dinosaur teeth and prehistoric tools worth thousands of dollars, and a full-length femur from a woolly mammoth. "Part of the reason I developed all these hobbies is because it keeps me out of trouble," he says.

In another room are hundreds of beautifully crafted spears and arrowheads that Plucker made by hand; he uses them on targets he sets up in his back yard. "I wanted to learn to make my own weapons, and I wanted to learn how to make my own fire," he explains. "I never wanted to be in a position where I couldn't do that ever again."

When the sailors returned to this country from North Korea, Plucker was one of the few who didn't have anyone waiting for him in San Diego. Instead, there was a letter from his fiancée, telling him the wedding was off. "I got to a place where I was pretty cruel after that," he remembers. Released from the Navy a few months later, he returned home to Nebraska, where he met a woman named Jeanie. They got married and moved to Longmont, where Plucker got a job as a manager at a chicken farm. He made a comfortable living, enough to support his growing family — but the years weren't easy.

Alvin Plucker in the museum he’s built in his basement devoted to the Pueblo incident.
Anthony Camera
Alvin Plucker in the museum he’s built in his basement devoted to the Pueblo incident.
A North Korean propaganda photo of several of the captured crewmembers — one of whom is flashing the “Hawaiian good luck sign.”
A North Korean propaganda photo of several of the captured crewmembers — one of whom is flashing the “Hawaiian good luck sign.”

He once suffered a traumatic nosebleed that lasted for days. He had a nervous breakdown. He didn't socialize with others, struggled with depression, considered committing suicide. And he never found anything funny. "There was no more laugh in you," he says. "No more enjoyment. You were a changed person."

His oldest child was born with a cognitive disability; his youngest developed bipolar disorder as a teenager. Plucker wonders if these developments were due to his exposure to Agent Orange, a toxic herbicide used in deforestation efforts, either during his time in Vietnam or when he passed through the DMZ when he was released into South Korea.

At one of the Pueblo reunions, his crewmates told him to apply for disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Today Plucker has a 220 percent disability rating from the VA, much of it due to post-traumatic stress disorder. The therapy he's received and the medications he's on have helped. And "it could have been worse," he says, "if not for my crewmembers, the humor we used, and my long-suffering wife."

But Plucker's far from healed. He's plagued by terrible nightmares, including one in which he's on top of a tall building, then flaps his arms and flies away. He sleeps with his door open and never sits with his back facing open space. He wanders the plains, away from all the walls and all the people, and is always adding to and rearranging his collections, amassing all the stuff he wasn't allowed to have as a prisoner. "I think I missed a lot of things when I was younger," he says. "I moved from a young man to being one who's much older. I liked the guy I was before. I didn't like who I became."

To deal with that change, he's built this memorial in his basement, a testament to trauma, perseverance and even humor. It's the same reason the once-reticent quartermaster now gives public talks every chance he gets: to collect and present evidence, both to himself and others, that what he and his fellow captives did during their ordeal was right. "For a while, we beat ourselves up," he says. Did they not resist as firmly as they should have? Did they collaborate with their captors? But now, he says, "I am not ashamed of what I did anymore. I know what I did was a form of survival."

Sometimes, that survival meant providing the enemy with information they demanded. Other times, it meant giving them far more than they asked for — with a middle finger.

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3 comments
sturussell007
sturussell007

I was on board for a year before Plucker and Chicca. They both pumped you full of BS. Never heard their crap before. Very impressed with themselves. Bucher made me the ship's historian. More of Alvin's delusions. Never heard of Chicca's floppy bone or Plucker's hand grinding. Look it was bad, but don't over state it. We never had squid. Chicca is out to capitalize on it and Alvin's life is so lack luster he has to cling to the only significant event in his life. He was a quartermaster not the quartermaster. That was Charlie Law, a real hero.

I had just graduated from USC with a degree in psychology when I joined the Navy . Bucher named me the ship's Bob Newhart. So if you want some good humor stuff, contact me.

Tanya D. Snively
Tanya D. Snively

Just read this in hardcopy~planning on sending a copy to Dan, but this is probably best :Very informative~ besides giving us a glimpse into how our country tread these sailors, it shows how humor helps. There was a bit in here about how humor was used to help change fear & helped that way to defeat a dictator.

 
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