The Vietnam veteran and legendary Garden Grove PD sergeant got choked up.
On a recent weeknight, he was expecting to go out to dinner with his wife.
Instead, Randy Tucker was greeted with a roomful of current and former colleagues and some dear relatives from the Midwest.
And one special quilt.
“I’ll use this every night in my recliner,” Tucker said, causing the room to fill with laughter.
The surprise gathering was the idea of Tucker’s daughter, Erica James, a former OCSD deputy who got into law enforcement because of her dad.
And it was made possible with a huge assist from Tucker’s sister-in-law, Su Tucker, of Anoka, Minn.
A few years ago, Su Tucker — she’s the wife of Randy Tucker’s brother, Clint, also a Vietnam veteran — got involved with the Quilts of Valor Foundation (qovf.org), a non-profit that since 2003 has been making quilts for military service members and veterans touched by war.
Back in May 1967, Randy Tucker joined the Marines on the 120-day delay program.
He went to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego in September 1967 and graduated from boot camp that November.
After infantry training at Camp Pendleton, Tucker was deployed to Vietnam in January 1968 as a member of Company G, Second Battalion, Third Marine Regiment, Third Marine Division.
During his time in combat, Tucker participated in several major operations, earning the Navy Achievement Medal, the Purple Heart (he was wounded twice), a Combat Action Ribbon, a Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, a Good Conduct Medal and a National Defense Service Medal.
Tucker’s military background would serve him well as an officer at the GGPD, which he joined in April 1971 after attending the first police academy class at Golden West College — and where he served as a full-time officer for 31-plus years.
Since his retirement as a sergeant in November 2002, Tucker has remained at the GGPD as a part-time reserve master officer, working as a range master.
During his decades-long career at the GGPD, he cultivated a reputation as a no-B.S. supervisor.
“He was pretty much everyone’s favorite sergeant,” Master Reserve Officer Phil Danielson said before Tucker showed up at the May 11 surprise presentation.
“He was incredibly hard working and led by example,” Danielson said. “He was always out there working hard. The thing about him is, if you did something wrong, he would chew your tail but then it was done. He didn’t hold grudges. You always knew where you stood with him. He’d give everybody a fair shot; he treated everyone the same.”
While at the GGPD, Tucker also was the driving force — along with Reserve Officer Gary Cunningham, an architect — behind getting the memorial built in front of agency headquarters that honors the GGPD’s five fallen officers, the most of any municipal police agency in O.C.
The anticipation was palpable when James, who served as an OCSD deputy from January 1998 to June 2008, told the assembled on May 11 that her father was five minutes away.
Her brother, Clint — named after Randy Tucker’s brother in Minnesota — was among the attendees.
“They’re here!” James suddenly shouted.
Nancy Tucker escorted her husband into the room and told him to open his eyes.
“For what?!” a shocked Randy Tucker said when he opened them.
He spotted his sister-in-law, Su, in the crowd.
“Oh my God!” Tucker said. “Hi, honey. You left the old man at home to visit me? How the heck? What the heck?”
One wag in the crowd shouted out: “There’s only two people here who like you. The rest came for the food.”
Randy Tucker hugged and kissed his son. Then he spotted other female relatives from Minnesota who came to California with Su Tucker.
“Oh, the whole friggin’ family is here!” Randy Tucker exclaimed. “How did you pull this off? I’m speechless.”
Su Tucker then presented him with the patriotic-themed quilt she made after explaining to the crowd the mission of the Quilts of Valor Foundation.
“We’re really honored to be here today,” Su Tucker said.
She teared up.
“I’m going to cry, too, so go ahead,” Randy Tucker said.
“This quilt is an expression of gratitude,” Su Tucker said of the quilt.
Deborah Keller, with the Los Cerritos chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Long Beach, read a proclamation to Tucker from President Obama.
“Do you have one from Trump?” Tucker, 68, asked.
The room erupted with laughter.
GGPD Cpl. Chris Wasinger told Behind the Badge that Randy Tucker was nicknamed the “Ice Man” during his career because he “wasn’t afraid of anything or anyone.”
But on this day, the grizzled ex-cop and Vietnam veteran melted.
“All I can do is say thanks a lot,” Tucker told the assembled, his voice cracking. “Whoever got this ball rolling, I appreciate it a lot.”
Asked what she felt after the quilt presentation, James said one word: