Sgt Grit Newsletter

I'm reading your newsletter, and see some Marine vet claiming his DI's struck him! I can't believe it. I went through Parris Island in 1964, Plt. 273, and our DIs, Sgt. W. H. Harris, Sgt. M. P. Martin and Sgt. E. Owens Jr. NEVER improperly touched a recruit. They may have helped me, in a gentle way, by "correcting my position," but I'm prepared to testify under oath before any court that they never hit me, and that the squad of angels testifying they did are all unmitigated liars! Probably dogfaces too!
Thanks to the self-discipline and respect those three DIs pounded--figuratively speaking--into me, I've had a great life. I owe the Corps in ways I can never repay.
As to how to address prior services Marines, if asked if I was in the service, I say, "I'm a Marine." Not, "I was a Marine." And I think "Marine Veteran" sounds much better than "Former Marine."
Semper Fi, Brothers
Former SSgt Robert A. Hall

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Dear Sgt. Grit,

Let me also chime in on the apricot thing. When I was assigned to 3rd Amtracs in 1975 we went to 29 Palms for my first field op. As we got out C-Rats our crew chief came by and said "You all know what to do." Every one looked through the boxes and began depositing cans outside the trac. I looked over and noticed that they were all apricots. This is what I was told so if it is not the truth its tradition.
In Vietnam a company of Amtracs was ambushed and when relief came they found everyone killed and a bunch of open apricot cans everywhere, and so the curse of the apricots began. Our crew chief had served in Vietnam in the old P-5 "iron coffins" and we all took his word as gospel. That tradition was so strong in my three years with my "trac rats" that many a new Amtraker or Corpsman got his butt chewed or worse if he had a can of apricots and was not in the process of throwing it away. I never heard that it was a tanker thing (at that time our opinion of tanks was not that high) or anyone else for that matter. In my three years (ok two years and 10 months) serving with Amtracs I learned to appreciate the pride a Trac Rat feels. We may have been called "bus drivers", "train conductors (after Amtrak rail lines)" and other names which can not be printed but we were one of the few units in the Marines with vehicles specifically designed for the Marines. Amtracs were not shared with any other branch of the service, unlike most of Marine equipment. Our traditions and our curses are very strong. Even now when we have our annual camp out at Camp Del Mar I take a small can of apricots and deposit it in a trash can in front of Trac school out of respect. Sounds silly and maybe it is but it serves as a connection to the best time in my life.
You Aint Tracs You Aint "Special"

Semper Fi - YAT YAS!

Luis M. De La Cruz
Amtrac Doc

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Chaplains Corner

Night Ambush
Confessions of a Vietnam Vet

by Rob Wood with Bob Boardman

A letter from a Vietnam veteran to a WWII Marine. As surely as Spring follows a bitter Winter, hope can emerge from the pain, tragedy and suffering of war and its aftermath.

Dear Bob,
It is hard to write my story. I’ve started many times. But I get going and feel this huge weight crushing down on me. It is very difficult for me to describe this powerful force that bound me for 28 years, but here goes.

I had never told anyone about Vietnam—I mean the real Vietnam. The fear, coupled with the boredom was incredible. I was an electronics technician ten miles north of Danang. My tour was about over and the only war I had experienced was on the receiving end of mortar and rocket attacks.

I wanted to be what I enlisted to be, a combat Marine. I trained my replacement and volunteered for patrol duty. I started out checking Vietnamese ID cards in several surrounding villages. Then it was night patrols. This was different.... Read More

Last Date

I would like to comment on Brother Cool on his history of Nam Medals. I to have wondered if that last date would be filled in on RVN Campaign Medal. H&ll! I still think the troopers and grunts are deserving of VN Combat Victory Medal.

Mr. Cool did a fine job. I was impressed and proud.


George 'Doc' Nottoli
I co. 3/4 66-67

A Great Start

dressed up catalog Sgt Grit,
On the way to this years Marine Corps Ball, this retired devil dog stopped to check his mail. How wonderful it was when he received his favorite catalog. Dress blues are very appropriate when receiving a SGT GRIT catalog. this photo was neither fixed or set up in any way. I thought it would be a great shot of my best friend, MSgt Joe Diaz, USMC, retired, checking his mailbox in his dress blues. It was a lucky shot. A great start to great ball.

Semper Fi,
Robert Martinez

Ignore Him

SGT. Robert D. Koenning reports going to a relative's home where a wannabee-but-didn't-cut-it was sporting a Marine sticker. I have been in the same situation, at a cousin's party, where one of the guests was acting like we were brothers & buddies because he'd been to PI, but didn't make it through. For the sake of family peace, I just ignored him.

But you could say, "Thanks for supporting my Corps, even though you didn't make it in." Or something similar.

Former SSgt Robert A. Hall
USMC 64-68
USMCR 77-83

Another Addition

One more. Last year, the roster of C-1-1, Korea 1950-53 had a reunion, which is held every other year, in Savannah, GA. While there we made a trip to Parris Island for a graduation ceremony. After that a tour of the base. One of the stops we made was at the Museum on the base. They have a shop there in the building that has items of Marine interest. I went in and bought a couple of hat/lapel pens. While checking out with the lady, the man behind her, evidently in charge of the store, heard me talking to her, and he said "are you with the 1ST", and I responded Yes, he said something to her that I didn't hear. When I left and looked at the receipt, it had the Corps discount on it. And the man, well, none other that the one you see on the poster, We Didn't Promise You A ROSE GARDEN". And in his action just put ANOTHER additional meaning of Semper Fi!

Chesty's last regimental command!

Sgt Kane

I hope Sgt Robert Kane in reading this----and to add something to the story of a outstanding Marine, I had the pleasure of serving with MGySgt Bill Kane at Cherry Point, NC, during the yr of 1963---but my best memory of Bill is that he and I refereed most of the flag football games while there, the other two were Lou Roline, and John Candies, we also called the basketball games, and soccer games, and the softball games.
Not only was he a good Marine, but one hella good sports official.

Tommie Walker
GySgt Ret

Ice Plant

In regards to the message by L. H. Marshall, Sgt Maj, USMC Ret., entitled "Breathe", I just wanted to thank him for bringing up some good memories and some bad ones, also.
My unit "The Arizona Platoon #354 was the last unit to qualify at Camp Matthews, out of MCRD, San Diego. That was in August of 1964.
I remember the tents with wooden floors, that were housed in. Having to wake up every morning and roll up the sides. I think that is where I learned how to rack DIRT, and the importance if the almighty Ice Plant. According to one of my DI's, Sgt Cohn, it (the Ice Plant) was a protected plant, and we had to care for it with much vigor.
Sgt Maj, thanks again the jogging my memory. Semper FI

Robert D. Adams
June 1964- June 1972

Human Again

Well I am not much of a writer but I do have some memories that I would like to share. I often think back of boot camp in San Diego and there are not very many fond memories that I remember but there is one. A lot of recruits didn't like to get firewatch because we were so tired at the end of the day and everyone wanted sleep but I didn't mind it so bad once I saw one thing. Every night I would be "walking my post in a military manner keeping always on the alert and OBSERVING everything that takes place within sight or hearing" when one night I heard something. I went to the window to see what it was and I saw the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I saw fireworks going off somewhere in the town and I thought about all the people that was there enjoying the freedom of being able to enjoy the simple things in life. I watched them for about 5 minutes and then it was over but in this young Marine it would last a lifetime. There wasn't a special occasion for it but every night that I stood firewatch I remember being excited to see the fireworks. I thought about being at home before I had joined and how my buddies and I watched fireworks in my hometown of Calvin, Oklahoma. I told other recruits about it and they all said to wake them up when they started, so some nights many recruits would stand there and tears would come out of our eyes and fall to the floor. For a few minutes we felt like we were human again and I don't know why but most of us teared up. Afterwards we would tell stories of home and then they would go back to sleep. I often think about my fellow Marines and wonder if life is treating them fairly for the sacrifice that they made. I am fortunate to have served in Operation Enduring Freedom and I will always support my brothers in combat. We fight to bring each other home laughing and looking forward to seeing our families instead of in a wooden box. To all the Marines serving, SEMPER FI and hold your head up high for you are part of an elite fighting brotherhood also known as THE UNITED STATES MARINES.
Always Faithful,
Michael Pino CPL-USMC 1998-2002

When They Finish

Sgt. Grit,
Reading Robert Koenning's letter prompted me to write as well. I was a Corpsman who served all four years of my enlistment with Marine Infantry and training units and I run into the same thing that he experienced on a fairly regular basis. I'm always eager to talk with veterans especially ones my own age. recently on two separate occasions I run into guys who claim to be Marines. When I mention I'm ex Navy (without going into details) both these guy start regaling me with their "exploits" in the Corps. When they finish, I ask a few pointed questions like what units they were with ( one said "the 37th, whatever the heck that means) They can't give me any straight answers cause they're making the whole thing up. So, after the tell me their "war stories" I'm usually asked what ship I served on, that's when their world comes crashing down on them. I say where I was and what I did and for some reason they quit talking to me and won't even make eye contact. The way I deal with these guys is to keep the relationship on a professional level and never mention the Marine Corps to them. I don't like to embarrass or demean anyone but the guy with the story and I know that they're full of cr*p. Thanks, Keep up the good work and God bless the Marine Corps
Doc Lunsford G2/9, Recruit
Field Training Division

Clean Shorts

Sgt Grit,

I was just reading the letter regarding the Marine who "appropriated" m-80s from the ammo dump and it had me rolling thinking about my own episode with "appropriating" ammo.

On my second Med Cruise in 1981, I was a LCpl in Dragons Platoon, Weapons Company, 2/6. We had just spent a week at, I believe, Sardinia in some large life-fire exercises and I had been to the M203 range. It was the best time! We were all given 25 practice rounds to fire down range and I had a blast. But, being a young grunt interested in ammo, I wanted to keep one of the rounds as a souvenir. So, I packed the round away and a few days later we re-embarked on the ship.

Well, as everyone knows, because your unit commander is only looking out for your better interest and to keep you from becoming bored, he schedules all kinds of training and inspections. A week or so after the exercise, the commander ordered a "junk on the bunk" inspection of all our 782 gear. So, my buddies and I laid out all our gear on the poncho liner on our respective racks and our platoon commander carried out the inspection.

So my lieutenant is moving through the berthing area inspecting everyone and finally makes it to me. He starts checking everything . . . The magazines for crud, etc. Of course, after time in the field, one of the inspection items that is routinely checked is your medical kit . .. . . OH CRAP! As the lieutenant picks mine up, he comments on how heavy it is and opens it! Needless to say, I needed clean shorts, the platoon sergeant was losing his mind, and the lieutenant was livid! There laid that souvenir!

Fortunately for me though, I wasn't the only "collector" on board. Right after the lieutenant finished screaming at me covering my face in spittle, he informed me that I was the luckiest "SOB" on deck because someone in one of the line companies had "appropriated" a 60mm mortar round, the Navy was having a field day, and he didn't want me to add to the Corps embarrassment! He took charge of the round and got rid of it! Of course, my buddies didn't let that keep them from keeping their own stashes . . . . . they just found better places to hide them!

Pete Hoeft
GySgt, Ret, 1979 -1999

To Our Table

Dear Sergeant Grit,

I read Jim Mordal's story of Master Sergeant John Salas at the Range and got quite a chuckle out of it as I met John several years earlier and saw him be the butt of a joke.

It seems that John and several of his unit were visiting the Salton Sea here in Southern California on an assignment to teach amphibious raid tactics to some Marine unit. They were using the now-abandoned Navy Salton Sea Test Range for the training. On Valentine's Day, 1977 the local Lion's Club was holding a Sweetheart's Dance at the Salton Bay Yacht Club and the three instructors showed up there in their recon instructor uniforms of comfort boots, khaki swim trunks and red instructor jackets. Obviously they were out of place. Three of us were resident deputy sheriffs there; one a former Navy diver, one an FMF Corpsman, and one a Marine. We invited them to our table and there were more than a few rounds of adult beverages quaffed.

One of the little blue-haired old ladies thought John was the most handsome man she had ever seen, and additionally thought that he was Spanish speaking. One assumption was inaccurate and I have no opinion regarding the other. She rose to her unsteady feet and offered a toast to John in pretty poor Spanish that sounded something like "Waynos No Cheese Senior". John turned to the former diver and said "I don't speak Spanish, what do I do?" Without missing a beat, the diver said "Toast her back and wish her $%^&*()+" John did so and the poor lady almost had a heart attack! Her Spanish wasn't very good, but she did understand what $%^&*()+ meant! Everyone there had a good laugh, save for John and his admirer. Perhaps that's where his mean streak came from.

Michael Hackett


. Reading the last news letter about S.W.A.K. That brought back sweet memories. I was one of the few Reservist that was called into Active Duty back in August 1950. I had just joined the Reserves on my 17th birthday, June 13th, 1950. Who knew that the Korean War (Forgotten War) would start on June 25th. After being activated and sent to Camp LeJuene I was given the op to stay with the company or go to Boot Camp. It was suggested I head to Parris Island.

I was dating a girl back home and wrote asking her for mail. Big mistake. The first letter came with a big SWAK on the envelope. That cost me 4 push ups. The second letter came with SWAK-SWAK. That was eight pushups. By this time I wrote back to her telling her if you can't seal the letter without SWAK don't brother writing. The last letter I received from her had nothing but SWAK's all over the envelope. Needless to say I began to get in shape from all the push ups.

Semper Fi
Jack Nolan, Parris Island, Plt 223 September 1950

I Was Summoned

I get your newsletter every week and enjoy reading about all the "boot camp" memories so I thought I'd share one of mine. I went through "boot" from March 17 - June 19, 1972, with Platoon 233. Prior to enlisting I had spent three years in Army JROTC in high school. I was on several special teams and my recruiter told me not to let my DI's know that I had ROTC experience. Well, when we went to the rifle range for training, I received a box in the mail. As we all know, my DI's went ballistic that someone would send a package to one of their worms. I was summoned front and center, told to open the package, and warned that if it was "goodies" the rest of the platoon would get their fill before I even got a taste. To my surprise, my mother had sent me all my shooting certificates and medals from the ROTC Rifle Team. DI, Sgt. Lee: "What are these, maggot?!" "Sir, shooting certificates, sir!" "Shooting certificates for what?" "Sir, ROTC Rifle Team, sir!" "What type of rifle did you shoot, maggot?" "Sir, 22 Target Rifles, sir!" And now, the line I'll never forget. Sgt. Lee said, "You write home, send this s**&t back, and tell your mommy that we don't shoot peashooters here!"

Semper Fi,
Ben Hunter
Plt. 233, 1972


This is a reply to the message From MSgt. of Marines Plumlee, as far as respect for rank in the Marines. My father is a retired Marine Gunny who served for 26 years. During his time he served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.

He received two purple hearts, the first during the battle of Saipan and his second on Iwo Jima. He was involved in the landings of Inchon and was one of the Chosin Few. He was also present near Hue during the Tet Offensive. When I was growing up and happened to be around when he was with other Marines he would be addressed as "Sarge" not as Gunny or Gunnery Sergeant. At some point from the 50's to today rank became more than just having respect for the individual holding that rank. My father told me when he had attained the rank of SSgt. only to have it taken away due to the Corps adding the rank of Lance Corporal, which moved SSgt from E-5 to E-6. I went on and joined the Corps in '89 and served during Desert Shield/Storm, and got out as a Lance Corporal, so you can see I do know what you meant about how hard it is to get promoted. All I am trying to say, with all due respect, is that at some point, rank has become more important than earning respect from your fellow Marines.

With rank comes more responsibilities and one having more lives to be in charge of, but that does not mean using your rank to its utmost, but to gain the respect of those around you. With all due respect, without that respect from your junior Marines then one doesn't deserve the rank that he attains.

W. Thompson
Former LCpl of Marines '89-'92

My Routine

I just finished reading Sgt. Major Marshall's brief story concerning "cold showers and breathing" with much amusement and a not so fond recall of a similar experience while serving with VMP-254, MAG-33, MCAS El Toro from late 1946 to mid 1948. During February 1948 MAG-12, also base at El Toro, and MAG-33 set up field operations on the air strip at Camp Pendleton. We set up tent quarters in the hills just on the opposite side of the main road into Camp Pendleton. During the day the weather was very pleasant but when night fell the temperature dropped into the 30's. I was a plane captain on a F7F Tigercat and as such was always one of the last to leave the flight line after the days operations were completed which, by this time, was after the sun had set. Although heated water was supplied to the showers from portable tanks it lasted only a short time and from then on it was cold - very cold. Consequently, my routine for taking a shower went like this:

1. After arriving into the tent immediately stripped all clothing from my body.

2. Wrapped the big heavy top coat around me, slipped on my "boondockers" (that is what we called them) and sprinted to the showers which were approximately 150 ft. away.

3. Got inside, threw the top coat aside, jumped out of the boondockers and into the shower.

4. Quickly showered.

5. Reversed the above procedures, got into the tent, grabbed a towel and dried myself while standing very close to the oil stove in the center of the tent.

Sgt. Major, I don't recall if I breathed or just held my breath for what seemed an eternity standing under the ice cold water. To this day I am very sensitive to cold water touching my body.

Ray Cox, Corporal
VMP-254, MAG-33, MCAS El Toro, 1946-1948

Tables Were Turned

Sgt Grit:
Thanks for the opportunity to share our stories among friends. I read with great interest the letters about the orphanage near DaNang. I was a Corpsmen assigned to the 1st Armored Amphibian Co., 1st MarDiv at Dog Patch near DaNang (68-69). One day our visiting Chaplain asked me to ride with him to the orphanage. With a great degree of uncertainty about how I could relate to the orphans, my fears were without basis as both the nuns and children surrounded us as we got out of the jeep and gave us a very warm reception. I thought my role would be to lift their spirits, but there is no doubt the tables were turned! Later, our Company Commander arranged to have the orphans transported to our camp for a Christmas party. The smiles and laughter from both the kids and Marines is a wonderful memory.
Likewise, it was also my privilege to serve with the Marines; and I thank them for protecting me.

Doc Eschbach

Only Known Substance

Dear Sgt. Grit,

Thought that you might get a kick out of this. It was made by Colonel R. D. Ammon, Commanding Officer of H&S BN, MCRD, San Diego, California. He gave it to me when I was his Battalion Career Planner and left for Recruiting Duty. I had it in my office for the Four years that I was on Recruiting Duty. It brought me good luck, at least I think it did. I was Meritoriously promoted to Gunnery Sergeant on July 2nd, 1977. Anyway, this is what it said.....

A Marine private is the only known substance from which Sergeants Major are made...

Semper Fi!
Ray Westphal, Gunnery Sergeant of Marines, Ret.

I Now Wonder

Dear Sgt Grit:

I've been reading you newsletter for some months, but this is the first time I ever written. I was a Med Evac Corpsman with MAG 16 at Marble Mountain in 1969. When my war ended I returned to college, and tried to put it all behind me. Recently the loss of Marines in Iraq has brought back a lot of feelings that I wish could have remained buried. Several weeks ago, while waiting for a connecting flight in Atlanta, I met a couple of young Marines that were returning from a tour of duty in Iraq. We struck up a conversation and shared stories about Marines for the next several hours.

At first it was the usual laughter and common experiences, but after a while we all began talk about our combat. To our mutual surprise they knew more about my era in the Corps than I would have expected, and I guess knew more about the Marines in Iraq than they expected. But what really stopped me in my tracks was when they told me what an honor it was to meet a Corpsman from Viet Nam. It was then that it hit me, they felt just the way my generation did about the Marines that island hoped across the Pacific during WWII, or fought their way up and down the Peninsula in Korea. I remember 38 years ago doubting if I could live-up to the standards set by the veterans of the Old Corps. I now wonder if I'm worthy of honor shown to me by the Marines of the New Corps. I feel that I had the privileged of serving in combat with some of the best Marines of my generation, but when I compare myself to the Corpsmen and Marines of today that are on their 2nd or 3rd tour in a combat zones, I'm not sure that I warrant the respect of these men.

Glen MacIntyre

DI's Liked Cleanliness

Sgt. Grit,

Always enjoy the newsletter. Some of the recent boot camp stories reminded me of one I thought you'd enjoy.

I was in Platoon 1057, "A" Co, 1st Bn, MCRD San Diego from June- Aug 1984. Sundays were "Visitor's Day" and civilians were allowed to visit certain portions of the base. Sundays were also "wash days" where we would take all our clothes out to the wash rack behind the barracks and hand wash everything.

Knowing how much our DI's liked cleanliness, and being the super intelligent and motivated recruit that I was, I decided it would be a good idea to wash everything - including the skivvies, shorts, and T-shirt I was wearing. Needless to say, it only took a few minutes for a DI to notice that I was completely naked while doing my wash right out in the open air on "Visitor's Day."

As I'm sure you can imagine, my DI's really enjoyed "speaking" with me about that one!

Some memories never fade...
Jeff Mitten
(Former) First Sergeant of Marines


I enjoy reading your news letter and I have a comment about those Apricots being bad luck for Tanks.

I was stationed at Camp Pendleton and was in D company 5th Tank BN in 1968; then I was one of the 400 tankers reassigned to the 1st Bn 27th Marines which were shipped to Vietnam as reinforcements during the Tet Offensive of 1968. I stayed with the 27th Marines during their assignment in Vietnam then when they were returned to the United States I was transferred to B company 1st Tank Bn out side of Da Nang. Before I go any further, I would like to say the 1st Bn 27th Marines was a real learning experience for me and those grunts took me under their wing and taught me how to survive and I have always felt I was a better Marine and a stronger person having served with them. I went to a reunion a couple of years ago and they are still great Marines and dedicated to each other. Anyway, after returning to the tank Bn. I was on my assigned tank with some former Marines I served with at Camp Pendleton and I opened up one of the storage bins and found it full of Peaches. I was told never to eat the PEACHES because it brought bad luck to the Tank. Well after being with the 27th Marines, I believed in making my own luck so I start eating the Peaches. Never once did that tank have bad luck while I assigned to it and I had lots of Peaches all to myself. Now apparently the bad luck fruit is APRICOTS, so I guess the bad luck only works with the fruit most of the unit does not like. So, my advice is while serving in combat, eat what you can when you can, the next meal could be a long time away.

Semper Fi
Sergeant of Marines (1966-1970)
Richard Coonfield

Capt. Walter R. Schmidt Jr

. My Fellow Marines; My name is Paul Maguire. I served in our Beloved Corps from 1973 to 1977, as a 5831, leaving as a Corporal. I am on a "mission" to bring home the remains of Capt. Walter R. Schmidt Jr, an A-4E pilot shot down in the A Shau valley 9 June, 1968 while on a close air support mission. Capt. Schmidt's bombs did not drop on his first run and even though the NVA knew he was having trouble, he went in for a second run. His A-4E was taken under fire and Capt. Schmidt ejected, breaking his leg in the process. He was in voice contact with his wingman and rescue forces. Unfortunately Capt. Schmidt landed close to Base Area 611 and was used as a "flak" trap for those rescue elements. "Jolly Green 23" was shot down during the rescue attempt. The crash site recently discovered by a JPAC team and the crew remains returned home. After numerous attempts the rescue was called off. A ground team inserted the next day failed to find Capt. Schmidt. He was listed as a POW. According to two returning POW's, a Navy jet pilot and an Army helicopter pilot told their debriefers that they knew of Capt. Schmidt in a POW camp in Hanoi. The last time the Army helicopter pilot heard Capt. Schmidt was July- August 1971. He was heard screaming "Do Not Push Me" which was followed by a gunshot. This narrative is the reason for my "mission". I would appreciate any help anyone can give me.
You can reach me at returncaptschmidt @msn .com.
Thank you. Semper Fi! Paul Maguire

If Any Songs

Sgt. Grit,
I just read one of your pieces of mail and thought of something. When I was in Washington (the state) a few years ago I went into a recruiters office to get some of those 3" Marine Corps decals, the recruiter was a "Gunny" and he was talking to potential recruit. When he saw me he nodded to me and said he would he would be right with me. I said to take your time. He said that this recruit needed a moment to think, so what did he do for me. I told him and he went to a closet and got me 3 of them. When he was in the closet I saw his Blues blouse, it had about 3-4 rows of ribbons, a pair of jump wings and 4 hash marks, oh yes and expert rifle & pistol medals.
He was about 5' 9" and about 175-180# and thick in all the right places, meaning no fat. The kind of guy you would want to take into a dark alley with you if you so chose. This only took about a minute or so, and as he was walking back to his desk he kind of turned and asked if any songs got to me and I said yes just 2 choked me up they were the National Anthem and the Marines Hymn. He thanked me and all the time calling me sir, I told him I wasn't a sir I was a Corporal of Marines. He kind of laughed and went back to his recruit and I left. I don't know what he was getting at until just now. I was an active Marine from Jan 1960 - Dec 1963. Once a Marine always a Marine.

Semper Fi
Bob Reiseck
Corporal of Marines

Still Have My Respect

In reference to your letters on how recruits reported to DI's,I can only recall how we were instructed. In receiving plt,we were greeted by SSGT Malldonado who changed our lives from that point. He instructed us that the first word out of your mouth was "SIR",and the last word out of your mouth was "SIR"! And we had better say it with a set of BALLS! Upon meeting our Sr. DI,SSGT MARTIN and his DI staff-SSGT MARTIN,SGT BLEACH, and SGT FARRELL, we were also instructed to say recruit, not pvt.,and told why. We were not civilians and we were not MARINES yet! We were in-between! Makes sense. Thanks to my DI's in PLT 2118 H CO I became a MARINE! They were very hard, and very fair,everything we thought a DI was to be! And yes they still have my respect!
Scott W Gates Cpl USMC

Go To H&ll

Well she's at it again, somebody should tell this dam traitor and all those other fools with her that the war was actually started on September 11, 2001 something a lot of Americans seem to have forgotten. The anti - media are probably loving this one, the commie news network will probably make this sorry *REFLECTIONS ON VIETNAM"

Most of my memories now seem fuzzy and foggy, yet at times some are crystal clear as if they happened yesterday or as if I can replay them on on video. They return to me at odd times. It's hard to explain.

The veterans coming back from Vietnam tried to warn us. The ones we were with tried to train and condition us but as long as I live I will never forget that terrible, deadly heat. I felt it first when I stepped on that hot steel-plank runway at Dong Ha. It was crushing. Lord, how will I make it - please stay with me.

It is mid May, 1967, just below the DMZ, Northern I Corps, South Vietnam. We are India Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines and we have just flown in as a unit on C-130's direct from Okinawa. Just three days "in country" and we are going into the bush - into the DMZ for "Operation Hickory". This will be the first time there for U.S. troops and we are pumped ! It's early morning and we have camouflaged ourselves excessively with brush and leaves. As the battalion walks in line of march the mile or so to the helipad area, the "support troops" (God bless them) line the dirt road. They do not cheer, just a few "where are you froms" but their eyes and faces give them away. They reflect a strange combination of both admiration and thankfulness that they are not grunts going where we are going.

As I walk the road in a cloud of red dust, weighted down with my 80 lbs. of gear, the heat is already stifling. My mind wanders briefly back to my roots. I am a son of the Confederacy as my great, great grandfather Walter Cool served in the Virginia Rangers. As a young boy growing up in Chattanooga, I often played "war" among the historic cannons on Missionary Ridge and Chickamauga Battlefield wondering what it would really be like. Would I pass the test? Suddenly, I am one of Stonewall Jackson's men treading a dirt road in the Shenandoah Valley. Little has changed for the foot soldier. Could I march twenty- five miles in a day and still fight effectively? Did they have the same feeling of dread yet exhilaration of what lay ahead this day? I now feel united in a strange common bond with my warrior ancestors - I feel complete - a part of history - maybe that is why I had to be here.

It is now day two of the operation and we have not slept all night - too scared to sleep! Resistance has been strong and we have our share of casualties in India Company - mostly from enemy mortars. You seldom see the enemy and the heat remains another unseen but felt foe. I have not yet learned to carry five canteens instead of my standard issue of two but I will soon learn. About noon my mind grows numb from the heat and we have had several very serious heat casualties already. How difficult it must have been for the soldiers in butternut gray wool uniforms. I have a new appreciation for their stamina, courage and devotion.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, comes the dreadful, terrible sound you never forget. The "crump, crump" and then shouts of incoming! Third platoon, about 200 yards away has just been mortared. When the first rounds exploded you could hear the screams. There are many casualties and our platoon moves out rapidly to set up a secure perimeter for the inbound medevacs. A tall Marine I recognize is standing over a dead Marine crying and I hear him say "goodbye sarge" just before he turns and walks away. In this heat I am at my personal limit but I help to carry that Marine and another to a waiting helicopter. I want to be gentle - even reverent but there is no time. The chopper is "mortar bait" and the pilots are already straining the engines - ready to take off. The bodies are so heavy that it takes four of us two trips. Grabbing their limbs we go as fast as we can and just try to keep their heads from dragging the ground. I feel like I will pass out from the added hear and kerosene smell from the exhaust of the big CH-46 "Sea Knight". The two Marines seem so unreal as there are no visible marks and no blood. I ask a Navy Corpsman, near exhaustion himself, what happened to them and he tells me they died from heat stroke before the medevac could arrive. Everyone seems in a daze. I cannot comprehend it. The memory of those two unknown Marines and my brief time with them still haunts me after all these years. The tragedy, the waste - all because of the heat.

Someone once wrote that if the wind was blowing in the right direction, you could smell the Southern Army hours before it arrived. It's true. Weeks in the bush with no showers, no change of clothes, sleeping in the dirt/mud, drenched every night in military issue insect repellant and sweating your clothes wet day after day; it's the closest smell to that of a decomposing body there is. Those who have been there remember. Grunts remember. Jackson's men remember.

It is late July now - Tuesday, July 23, 1967, to be exact and we are conducting yet another battalion operation northwest of Con Thien just a few clicks south of the DMZ. The heat is ever present but I have adjusted. However, we have not had any water since the afternoon before and my five canteens are empty. This is a dangerous situation and I have never been so thirsty but we are headed in and should have water by dark. Jackson's men were probably fortunate to have one canteen - I can make it.

The sun is low in the afternoon sky as the company exits single file from the thick trees and starts across about 1,000 yards of open ground. We move quickly into our standard "delta" formation in case of ambush. We can now fire effectively in all directions. As soon as the entire company clears the treeline, small arms fire (AK-47's) is directed at us from another treeline about 300 yards to our left. Incredibly, no one seems to be hit. In typical Marine Corps fashion, we wheel in that direction and one of the most memorable events of my Vietnam experience now slowly unfolds. It seemed surreal at the time but has since become one of the videos that I play over and over again in my mind. As the company moves toward the point of attack our "delta" formation changes and develops into two roughly parallel lines. Not tactically sound but it is working. I am in the second "wave" but only the front line can safely open fire. They do so with a vengeance known in military jargon as "fire superiority". We advance at a fast walk which quickly turns into a "charge". My thirst is now the farthest thing from my mind and I struggle under the weight of my gear to stay on line - and as I glance to my right I see it. The scene is incredible and a surge of emotion I have seldom felt before or after goes through me. The "Confederate Battle Flag" flies proudly at the top of a bamboo pole midway in our second wave. Now there are yells and whoops above the firing. Rebel yells !

Too soon the flag is furled - brought down no doubt by a well meaning officer who knows it would become an aiming stake for a mortar attack. But it is too late. I have now served under two flags. I am no longer just a son of the Confederacy - I am a brother. I feel as though I have endured in part with Jackson's men. Have I been in the "last Confederate charge" ?

Several more months will go by; months of anguish involving the loss of close friends but I will make it safely home to Georgia.

Many years have now passed and at times I have an increasing sense of guilt that I am here; that I did not have to pay the ultimate price as so many others did. This awareness comes to me often during quiet times - on a hike emerging from a treeline, just before sleep, watching a beautiful sunset, when I see "Old Glory" and in times of prayer. Thank you Heavenly Father for a mother's prayers and for watching over me ................ I have gone to the Vietnam Memorial and been completely alone in the hour before dawn to see the names of our heroes. I am always reminded of a passage written by David Donovan in his book "Once a Warrior King".

"I have the sense from time to time that I am not alone, and I suspect that despite the limited understanding we have of events in distant places, there will always be those among us who have the gleam of the quest in their eyes. They are people of every s&x and station and they yearn to be challenged to a cause. They will always be looking for that wrong to right, that ill to cure, that song to sing; and there will always be those who will go to arms in aid of the helpless and downtrodden. Ignoring the political issues of the moment, these people will champion the weak and the poor in the face of evil and tyranny. And no matter what the outcome, in their romantic hearts they will keep the secret, if secret it must be, that they are better men for having held the lamp beside the golden door."

Cook, Graham, Diaz, Jackson - all of my heroes - U.S. and Confederate.

We will never forget you

Semper Fi !
Deo Vindice

How Fortunate

Sgt. Grit,
My wife gave me a great compliment a couple of days ago, She told me of how fortunate she was to have married a Marine, that most women weren't so lucky. We made a trip from S.C. to D.C. over The Corps (and my) Birthday. We attended the Birthday ceremonies at the Iwo Memorial, Veterans Day ceremonies at The Wall. I found ten names of friends and took pictures of them on it. Two friends from home (Army) and eight from my boot camp platoon, 253 Mar.- May 1967 PISC.
We also spent a day at Arlington Cemetery, it was a very eye opening experience and brought back a lot of memories. My eyes did a lot of sweating. I'm going to try to make this an annual trip, there are a lot of Marines there at this time and the friendship and mutual respect everyone has for each other is awesome and the respect the Marines stationed there have for us old Veterans is absolutely unbelievable.
Semper Fi !
Sgt. Lawrence Elliott
RVN (H&MS-11) DaNang 69-70

Into The Terminal

dear SGT.Grit,

just writing to tell everyone about the other day my brother was on a flight from CAMP PENDLETON TO MISSISSIPPI. He had a lay over in Chicago for 2hrs. and wanted to know if I could come see him. I called the USO and the women there was so helpful telling me how I could get to see him. So when I got to O'Hare the tellers at American airlines were so happy to help me once they found out I was trying to see a Marine . AA even cleared me to go into the terminal so I could sit with him and talk. It was great to see him and he called me later that night and told me how much it meant to him I would come see him like that. When I was in the CORP my family didn't have a lot of money and couldn't come see me so I know how much it means to our service men and women to visit when you can. But I couldn't have done it with out the help of the USO and AA and would just like to say thanks to all the great people who helped me to see my brother.

LCPL Kezerle 90-93

Harvest Moon

This is a reply to Mr. Michael Gootee's letter about his fathers service during operation "Harvest Moon". I was attached to 2/1 (RLT-7) from Aug.-Dec. 1965 and that among others this was my last before being stationed at FSLG in DaNang just before Christmas of 65. This operation was my last big one. I was on several ships from APA's to the LPH's Valley Forge and Iwo Jima. I don't know how many servicemen know this but agent orange was used a lot during this time. I under went major prostate surgery in 2004 and found out later in the VFW magazine that several cancers can form from this agent. Anyway back to Harvest Moon, which I believe was from sometime in the time frame of Nov.-late Dec. of 1965. I also recall that some Army Division got into some trouble in this time frame and our battalion helped them? Anyone out there that give any more info? And by the way, here's a big Semper-Fi to your Dad..
SSGT. Bob {Hal} Halverson, 1964-1968

Very Small Sorority

Some people don't even realize that there are female Marines. We have 2 in the family.

We joke about the "family business". My father retired after 30 years in the Corps. He commissioned my husband and I as 2dLts at graduation from college. Our children were born at Parris Island, Quantico and Camp Lejeune. My husband retired after 27 years active duty. Our daughter is now a 2nd Lt. Her brother is looking to enlist next year.

We never pushed the Marine Corps on our children....we raised them to live their own lives and make their own decisions. I guess they like what they saw.

There aren't many mothers & daughters who can compare Lan Nav & "O" course stories. Getting through Boot Camp or OCS is pretty tough, you join a very small sorority when you do.

Women don't have many Marine role models. By the time men get through training they've met hundreds of male Marines, women meet only a handful of females. Google BGen Angie Salinas...she's the CG at MCRD San Diego.

The Marine Corps changes your will never be the same. Go for it.....PT a lot before you go to Boot makes it easier (your recruiter will help).

Good Luck.
Patty Lyons

Replacement Dogface antagonizing
Battle Hardened Marines

Sgt Grit,

My father served in the Army during WWII in the Pacific and participated in the invasion of Okinawa. He passed away two years ago (God Bless his Soul). I vividly remember a story he told me - that when he was in the Pacific one of his Army buddies ( a fairly large sized soldier) was harassing a bunch of Marines in the back of a six-bye truck. What names or harassing words were conveyed by the dogface to the Marines, my father was unable to recollect. However, my father distinctly remembered that a short stocky Marine disembarked from the back of the truck and commenced to beat that soldier severely about the head and shoulders for his derogatory remarks. After the severe thrashing - the Marine rejoined his men in the back of the truck.

PS. Sgt Grit if any of your readers can verify or witnessed the story above, please advise.

Former Marine Joe L. Reyna
son of Proud Father PFC Marcelino V. Reyna, United States Army

Found Us All

I never thought I would write in, but I guess a few things this week must have tripped my trigger. For the record I discovered and started receiving your newsletter less than a year ago. At the risk of sounding ridiculous, I will admit that I have a sort of a ritual to follow upon its arrival. I usually pretend to ignore it for a few days and try to just casually think about it. Sort of like psyching myself up in preparation for enlightenment. Then, I have to be alone to read it because even though everyone thinks I'm indestructible, my eyes sometimes well up when I read about my extended family having troubles or feeling pain.

I have read about many topics and in reading have realized that many of the mental issues I have suffered with and have been hiding from everyone for over 30 years are not unique to me. I now realize that I am not alone. Someone once said to me "Are you having a good day"? Without thinking I replied "Any day that I don't have a pistol in my mouth, is a good day". I needed to tell you, that because of this newsletter, I have had a lot of good days. Because of this newsletter, I have been able to understand why I was feeling the way I was. Because of this newsletter, and all my brothers who were compelled to tell their stories, I feel like I understand. So now, I am the guy feeling compelled to spill it. I usually keep my feelings to myself but I cant help but think that someone out there may be suffering as I was, and needing to hear something I have to say.

It started the other day when I had the privilege to shake the hand of a young Lance Corporal who was preparing for his deployment. I thanked him for his service to our country and much to my surprise he hugged me and said "I would also like to thank you for yours". I had this big lump in my throat and must have had a sudden allergy attack because my eyes were full of water. I had a surge of memories and realized that no one had ever said that to me before. It was as if no one to this point had ever cared or had any appreciation for what my brothers and I had been through and sacrificed for our country.

Like many young men I volunteered with dreams of grandeur. I even dragged my "buddy" along with me so I could share this adventure with my best friend. I think I wanted the opportunity to attempt to control the uncontrollable. I wanted to see if I had what it takes. I wanted to be somebody. I wanted to know what my limits were. I wanted to be like the old dogs and tell my stories as all the pups listened in envy. That was my wish.

BE VERY CAREFUL what you wish for...

Now I'm that old dog but my stories have not been told. Why not you may ask? I really don't know what part to tell. Should I tell about when my best friend bled out in my arms? Or that as I held him tightly as if to shelter him from any additional harm, that I was unable to conger up enough emotion to even shed one tear? Or would I describe all the faces of the dead that came to visit me night after night for all those years? I could talk about the years of jumpiness, or the gallons of alcohol, or the failed marriage, or the inability to hold a job, or a million other mental issues. I could tell about my return home and how I was called names, spit on and plastered with rotten eggs. I could show them the scar I still have on my face from some cowardly egg chucking civilian who blindsided me with an object so hard that he knocked me to the ground. Maybe I could tell about the buckets of blood they dumped on me. Somehow it doesn't sound as good as all the old timers stories did, and never really seemed worth telling. I had the privilege to shake the hand of President Ford. He looked directly into my eyes and said that I was a hero it was an honor to meet me. How could he have known how worthless I felt as I stood there being decorated? To this day, I don't even know what he said. My mind could only hear the crowd in the distance shouting "baby killers".

For years I felt that my friend having stepped in front of me while goofing off had taken a bullet that was meant for me. I felt as if I had been somehow cheated or almost like I was a coward because he had died instead of me. I was emotionally shut off and looking back I can say I would have welcomed a bullet. To my knowledge there were no programs available for dealing with young men returning from war. At the time, the public would have likely said we deserved it. Somehow being warriors we survived it all. I'm just glad were in a different era and that our country is backing our troops now. Some of these young men will experience things that are unspeakable. I can say from personal experience that without help some may suffer in silence indefinitely. I'm not cured, but I at least know that I wont end up being another casualty of the war.

So... what should we do?

I try to meet and encourage all my young brothers any chance I get. I also like to pat an old dog on the back and make sure he knows he was appreciated and none of his suffering was in vane. I try to spread the word about the newsletter in case one of my brothers needs camaraderie. I try to listen when someone needs to talk. I try to pass on any wisdom I've located. I tell the young guys who are itching to get some, that there's no shame in coming home alive, and that they have already made me proud. I try to remember all I have met and put them in front of me when talking to the man upstairs.

In closing I wanted to say that my Uncle Sam while looking for a few good men, found us all.

Semper Fi my brothers
Cotton Eyed Joe

She's Your Man

Dear Sgt. Grit,

I served from 1970-75 and again briefly in 1977 to attend OCS (PLC) at Quantico. I had the opportunity to serve with both the 1st and 3rd Air Wings on the east coast and lovely destinations across the Pacific. Interesting times, but when back in the world, people couldn't have cared less regarding the sacrifices made by my generation. Through it all I remained a fiercely proud (if somewhat silent) Marine Sergeant in retrograde.

When my 18 year old daughter announced to her mother and I in 2004 that she had decided to become a Marine, I was filled with pride and more than a little bit of concern. Needless to say she has made the transition from a contrary, stubborn, hardheaded teenager who hung around with booger-eating moron losers, to an intelligent, considerate, responsible Corporal of Marines. If our beloved Corps should find itself in need of a recruiting model for posters--she's your man! This past July, she married another Marine who would also make good poster material, and they are currently stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni Japan. Both are members of the elite Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting MOS and they are in constant competition to outdo one another on their PFT scores.

In my years as an active duty Marine I was never able to get drunk enough to get a tattoo, but when my daughter Errin wanted to get matching tattoos, I couldn't resist. Please note the attached picture of Errin on her wedding day showing her version of body art. bride tattoo

It gives me enormous pride to see how the people of our country respect these young leaders. As far as I am concerned, all is personally forgiven for the lukewarm (at best) reception given to my generation of the Armed Forces in the 60's and 70's.

Today's Marines Rock!

Greg Hamilton
Sgt. USMC 6811

World War I vet Albert Wagner dies at 107

Associated Press
SMITH CENTER - Albert F. "Jud" Wagner, who served with the Marines in World War I, has died at the age of 107. Wagner died Saturday at Smith County Long Term Care, said his son J.S. Wagner, who is 84 and also a former Marine. The elder Wagner was honored along with his family in November 2006 at a Veterans Day ceremony at the Statehouse. At that time, according to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' office and the Commission on Veterans Affairs, he was the only known World War I veteran living in Kansas and the oldest former Marine in the nation. He had also been honored in October 2006 when a 30-mile section of U.S. 36 through Smith County was designated as World War I Veterans Highway. J.S. Wagner recalled his father as a strong man who liked farming and raising livestock in Smith County and talking to his four children about serving his country in France and Germany. He enlisted at age 17 and served in the Marines in 1918 and 1919. The war stories were "the reason I became a Marine. They take care of one another. They're a proud outfit," said J.S. Wagner, who fought in World War II and in Korea. His younger brother, Robert Wagner, of Phoenix, was a Marine in mid- to late 1950s. A Marine detachment from Wich