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Iwo Jima and Beyond

I have not written a story to be posted here before, but after reading the latest post about Iwo Jima, I feel compelled to I also have a couple of Marine related questions I can’t find answers to. I am gladly attaching my e-mail, so if anyone can help me-Please Do. I served in The United States Marine Corps from 1966-1970. There is no such thing as a former Marine-I am temporarily unassigned. I was in Vietnam from September of 1967 to October of 1968. I was stationed on Hill 55, a radio man with the 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marie Division. Our regimental Colonel was Col. Reverdy Hall, our regimental Sgt. Major was “Iron” Mike Mervosh.. Right before I retired, I was a bartender at The Marine’s Memorial Club and Hotel, San Francisco, California.

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DI abuse at San Diego

I went through boot camp in 1962, just after the PURGE at PI, and experienced and witnessed abuse almost daily. The first time was when a recruit, the DIs called a porker, was striped to the pull-up bar with web belts and left hanging there, it seemed like a half an hour. The second was more personal. I was under 18 when I went to boot and my birthday came up at the rife range. The senior drill instructor called me to the duty tent. When I reported there he said he had a birthday present for me. His and the two other DIs give me three slugs in the goodie locker.

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The combat boots pictured on your “Salty old Marine” tee shirt reminds me of my experience with an Army Surgeon, a full bird colonel.
In 1958 the Corps was issuing recruits 2 pairs of boots for field wear – the venerable “boondocker” low cut boot (just above the ankle), and the full combat boot. Both were made of rough, unfinished leather because (it was said) they “breathed better” on the feet. Regardless of design purpose, this was not acceptable –unofficially I’m sure – to the Corps. Our DIs immediately informed us that these boots would be worked on until they could carry a spit-shine like a patent leather shoe! And we did. And after weeks of labor – using shoe polish which we melted into the leather with matches or lighters, smooth, rounded bottles to press the polish and leather firmly down and smooth, and elbow grease by the hour – we lovingly produced a shine you could shave by. Those boots were worn at every inspection held in utilities for the next four years.
Advance the story a little over 2 years. Wearing my prized combat boots, I had boarded the APA USS Navarro in a harbor on Okinawa at the very beginning of the largest exercise by the Corps to that day – Operation Blue Star – and the battalion was still loading. By a freak accident I was knocked into an open hatch on the mess deck and fell a couple of decks to the hold, landing in a sitting position, feet hitting first, then butt and slamming backward to bounce my head off the steel. As a side note, I vividly remember the actual fall and had no fear – just an overwhelming anger telling myself what a dumbass I must be to be in that situation. It didn’t knock me out but did knock every ounce of air out of my lungs. The corpsmen, not knowing how severely I might be injured, got me on a stretcher and I was raised by rope to the deck, put on a motor launch and rushed ashore to be taken to the emergency room at the Army hospital. I was conscious the whole time but obviously in a little shock.
Great care had been taken to try to not move my spine for fear it was shattered and might kill me. They got me on a table in the emergency room and a minute or two later the head surgeon of the hospital arrived to check me out. The first thing he told the nurses, male and female, was to cut my clothes off so there would be no reason to move me unnecessarily. No problem. I could buy another set of utilities and skivvies. But when the guy with the scissors moved to my feet I spoke up. “Don’t cut my boots.”
He stopped and looked at the Doc who snapped “Cut ‘em off.”
Again, the guy goes for my boot and I said, a little irritated, “I said, don’t cut my boots!”
The Doc is now agitated that his order is being contradicted by an E-3, f**king 19 year old Marine. “You cannot be moved until I can examine you to see if your back is broken!” and to the nurse “Now cut the damned boots off!”
The guy goes for the boot. I start trying to sit up and, in a very loud, disrespectful tone, “I said don’t cut my f**king boots!”
The Doc, afraid he’s about to lose a patient says “Okay! Okay!” and I relax as he tells the nurse “Just cut the damned laces and see if you can ease them off without killing him.” He turns to the others and, shrugging his shoulders like “What can I do?!!” he mutters “F**king Marines”. He was one highly pissed bird colonel but I still had my prized boots.

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L/Cpl out of boot camp

I spent the summer of 1965 in boot camp at MCRD Parris Island at the ripe old age of 17, straight out of high school. If you left PI or ITR as a Pfc you did a lot of things right. If you made L/Cpl, I certainly never heard about it. Sounds like bullshit to me. Rank was quick then for the right people but E-3 your first what, 6 months? I don’t think so. And for the 60 lbs. (or whatever) of “muscle” out of boot! Man, I thought people had to see me before they would think I was that stupid. Save it for your 50th class reunion. Maybe by then people will forget the truth and buy it. Semper Fi but save the bullshit for the boyscouts.

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MARINE OF THE WEEK: Gunnery Sgt. Juan J. Rodriguez-Chavez

Assigned to the security element while other members of his team led two platoons of Afghan National Security Forces into Ganjgal Village for a pre-dawn meeting with village elders. Then-Staff Sergeant Rodriguez-Chavez heard over the radio that the dismounted patrol was ambushed by roughly fifty enemy fighters in fortified positions. With four members of his team in immediate danger of being surrounded, he drove a gun-truck, with one other Marine as his gunner, forward into the kill zone of a well prepared ambush. With only the machine gun fires of his gunner to suppress the enemy, he ignored heavy enemy fires and drove the vehicle into the kill zone three times to cover the withdrawal of the combined force and evacuate two dozen members of the Afghan National Security Forces. With complete disregard for his own personal safety, he made a fourth trip into the deepest point of the kill zone in another gun-truck with three other U.S. personnel to recover the bodies of the fallen team members. He positioned his vehicle to shield the U.S. members from the intense enemy fire as they dismounted to recover their bodies. By his decisive actions, bold initiative, and selfless dedication to duty, Staff Sergeant Rodriguez-Chavez reflected great credit upon himself and the Marine Corps and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

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I have told myself to visit the WALL many times – never went – was supposed to go with Army friend who we bantered with each other for over 30 years – families were friends – kids played together too! Well, my buddy Jerome – had issues after he came home from Vietnam – had medical issues and demon issues too! He is no longer with us and I still intend to visit wall eventually- to see others as well who never made it back either. May their souls rest in eternal peace- AMEN

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Veterans’ tattoos symbolize loss, service and patriotism

The American flag, when borne on the shoulder patch of an active-duty soldier, is supposed to be reversed, says Timothy Mangolds.

“It’s supposed to commemorate (that) you’re always running toward battle” with the flag appearing as if it’s flowing behind you, explains the 27-year old who served in the Army from 2009 to 2012.

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On this 4th of July Americans should pause in their usual celebrations to appreciate the full import of what this holiday really stands means to them personally. They should consider that millions of people around the world would gladly change places with any one of us – even those who are considered to live in poverty. They see our country as a shining example of freedom, not only in law, but freedom in opportunity to excel personally.
We should also pause to appreciate, not just those Sons of Liberty, who won the struggle to give us our independence, but those who have served, fought, suffered, and died to keep it. “Well, of course,” you might say. Yet there are prominent examples of those who show, not only a lack of appreciation, but a total disrespect for people who have worn our country’s uniform.

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Cpl. Richard Weinmaster
2d Battalion, 7th Marines, Marine Corps Forces, Central Command (Forward)
Sangin District, Helmand Province, Afghanistan
July 8, 2008
Award: Navy Cross

Then-Private First Class Weinmaster’s squad was conducting a dismounted patrol down a narrow side street when enemy forces ambushed the squad with machine gun fire and hand grenades. Upon contact, Private First Class Weinmaster immediately began engaging the enemy positions with his squad automatic weapon. As he delivered suppressive fire and assaulted the enemy, encountering a withering volume of fire that passed within meters of his position, Private First Class Weinmaster saw two hand grenades tossed over a wall land in the middle of his patrol. Noting where one of the grenades landed, he quickly placed himself between the grenade and his fire team leader, using his body to shield both his team leader and several other Marines from the blast, which occurred immediately. Private first Class Weinmaster was seriously injured when the grenade detonated, but his valorous actions prevented his fire team leader from receiving any shrapnel. Although he was critically wounded, Private First Class Weinmaster continued to carry on the attack, engaging enemy forces with accurate automatic weapons fire and forcing them to break contact, until he collapsed from the gravity of his wounds. By his outstanding display of decisive action, unlimited courage in the face of extreme danger, and total dedication to duty, Private First Class Weinmaster reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

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