With a tear in my eye and a hole in my heart I need to let you know of the death of one of your own. Paul retired in 1968 and out of his 21 years in the Navy eight of those were FMF. He fought by your side in Korea in 1951 and again in Vietnam in 1965. We had 52 wonderful years of marriage and two sons. RIP Paul, we miss you.
HMC Paul Helms
Family Member Shirts Are Back!
Our ever popular family member shirts are available to order ONLY until January 28, 2007. If your "Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister, Son, Daughter, Aunt, Uncle, Cousin, Grandma, Grandpa, Friend, Boyfriend, Girlfriend, Husband, Wife, Niece, Nephew, or Grandson" is a Marine you'll definitely want one of these new shirts...
Sweatshirts, T-Shirts, Long-Sleeved T-Shirts, Hooded Sweatshirts are available to order until January 28!
Someone mentioned Camp Matthews and the old "pram" tents and cold stoves last week and the memories came flowing back. I learned many things there, how to go up and down Big and Little Agony while "duck-walking" and the runs, but one thing that I learned at Camp Matthews was how to take a cold shower. Get in fast and try to remember to breathe.
That lesson served me well at various times during 30 years in the Corps but came back with a vengeance this past Christmas while visiting my Son and family. I learned another valuable lesson, NEVER take a shower right after one of the Grandkids, they use ALL the hot water. Wow, even 47 years later, it doesn't get any easier. Do it fast and try to remember to breathe!
L. H. Marshall, Sgt Maj, USMC Ret. (59-89)
Insisted That He Stand Guard
Each time I read the newsletter it brings a smile to my face, and sometimes a tear. I earned the title "MARINE" in 1977. I have two older brothers that earned the title, as well as a son, (who died while on active duty), and a nephew. I also have another nephew working to earn his now at MCRD San Diego.
A few years after I got out of the Corps I became a cop. I'll never forget my first day at the academy. The academy director came in to speak to us. He announced that he retired out of the Air Force and wanted to know of many of us had been in the military. Out of eighty two of us only five raised our hands. Out of us five he asked if any of us had been in the Air Force. None of us had. Had any of us been in the Army. None of us had. Out of us five one of us had been in the Navy. He then asked if us four Marines had anything on us to show we were Marines. It didn't matter if it was a coin, I.D. card, photo, or whatever, anything but a tattoo. Each of us did indeed have something. The director then stated that in all his years he had never seen anything like the Marine Corps. He said that the Marine Corps has always been able to achieve what no other branch of the military has been able to. No matter how long it had been since the Marine had gotten out of the Corps, he found that every one of them would have something to show they were Marines. No other branch of the U.S. military has been able to instill that kind of pride. I say they show their "espri de corps", their "Semper Fidelis".
While my son was in the Corps he told his mother that he was glad he joined. He said that if for no other reason he understood his dad a little better. While he laid in the hospital I witnessed the Semper Fidelis that Marines are known for. Many Marines came to see him. Many of them would take their 96's and visit him instead of trying to go home or go out and party. When he died, many of them took leave and attended his funeral. They could have easily taken leave and gone home, but they chose to come to Missouri and see my son off one last time. They carried my son to his resting place. One of them even insisted that he stand guard at attention throughout the funeral at my sons side. These were all Marines that my son served with. They were all in the same unit at Camp LeJuene N.C. The Marines provided the honor guard as well. They were I & I duty at St. Louis, MO. I am so very grateful to these Marines as well as to the Corps. To all of my Marine brethren, past and present, I salute you!
L/Cpl. Curless, Bradley D.
2nd Battalion, 2nd FSSG
Camp Lejuene, N.C
I come from a long line of Marines. My 18 year son is now a Gung Ho Marine and we are proud of him! Maybe (no maybe about it) I am getting old but I worry about the Marine. I offered to go with him to watch his "six" but he just laughed and said don't worry Dad. I survived Viet Nam and know now what I put my dad through.
Carl Crumbacker Sr
"The Marines fought almost solely on esprit decorps, I was certain. It was inconceivable to most Marines that they should let another Marine down, or that they could be responsible for dimming the bright reputation of their Corps. The Marines simply assumed that they were the world's best fighting men."
- Robert Sherrod, 1943, regarding the battle at Tarawa
"You cannot exaggerate about the Marines. They are convinced to the point of arrogance, that they are the most ferocious fighters on earth - and the amusing thing about it is that they are."
- Father Kevin Keaney, 1st MarDiv Chaplain, Korean War
Parris Island, Platoon 202, February 1974. After a few weeks at Parris Island, my Drill Instructors had given all of the recruits in the platoon notice that for any 'extra writing' on the outside of envelopes mailed to us, the recruit would have to 'pay dearly'. Several recruits had the letters 'SWAK' (Sealed With A Kiss) written on the back of their envelopes and had to report to the Quarterdeck and do 'bends and motherf*ckers' for each letter until the Drill Instructors got tired. The Drill Instructor would spell out 'Sealed With A Kiss' and count each letter.
At mail call one evening, the Drill Instructors (I believe it was Sgts. Hurley and Peterson) had all of the recruit's mail in one stack and a huge envelope separated from this pile. Once the Drill Instructors had passed out all of the mail except the big envelope, one could sense the feeling of dread going around the squad bay as all of us recruits hoped this envelope wasn't his. After the two Drill Instructors talked quietly with each other, I hear "Private Glass, git yore a** up here NOW!".
I ran up to the quarterdeck as fast as I could and was presented this envelope. I may be exaggerating now, but it seemed that this envelope was 2' x 3' long! I was told to open it up and present the contents to the Drill Instructors. I opened the envelope and pulled out this large Valentines Day card. On it was a pink hippopotamus, wearing pink boxer shorts with red hearts all over. I don't recall the message on the card or all of the 'fun' comments my Drill Instructors made, but do remember that my girlfriend at that time had written 'SWALBAKWS' on the back of the envelope. One of the Drill Instructors sat down and began writing: Sealed With A Lick Because A Kiss Won't Stick. The two discussed this and then told me to begin 'Bending and Thrusting' and that I would still be at it until dawn the next morning!
I can't remember how many 'Bends and Thrusts' I did on the quarterdeck that evening, but am sure it was in excess of 500, and even now, I have concerns with cards I get in the mail!
Sgt USMC 1974-78
A few weeks ago I was set back on my heels when my 19 year old son called me from the east coast and announced he was going to become a Marine. Naturally, I asked him why he wanted to join my beloved Corps.
His response: Well, it did you right for 20 years, didn't it? There aren't any jobs here and I'm ready to leave this place (he is living with his mother in WV, her hometown).
Then he started to talk about the dates for the ASVAB test, physical, and his ship date to Parris Island. My mind flashed back to three very tough years of duty.
I immediately asked him if he would want to come out to the west coast and go to MCRD San Diego.
His reply: No way. I'm going to the Island - where you went. It's tradition.
If it's the one thing he knows I can't argue against, it's tradition.
He will be shipping out in a couple of weeks for the Island. I could not be a more prouder father and Marine. We all know what's happening around the globe and how much in harm's way we were treading into from deployment to deployment-having just a brief time home with family and loved ones. My son knows what one side of that coin is like. Soon he will get the bittersweet taste of the other-the life I enjoyed and endured. It's a demanding career and a great sacrifice which I would, without hesitation, do again. I am happy and honored that my only son is following in this retired Marine's footsteps.
I wasn't there for his high school graduation, and a lot of other moments like the rest of the fathers, like his school play or to sit in the stands at the high school football stadium, but I will be proudly standing on that Grinder on the Island, when my son Passes In Review.
To those and their family who served, and those and their family serving now, I wish you peace and comfort. Fair winds and following seas.
GySgt. Morrow, K. M., Retired
First taste of McDonalds!
When I was in the Grunts 1-2 Camp Lejeune, N.C. 1963 our great Country was in the height of racial tension and like Cpl. Sully we were 3 white guys and 2 Black guys yet, all brothers, Green Marines. We had left the famous "circle" to catch a ride to Boston and were on our way and almost out of North Carolina. We pulled over to a gas stop and fast food place as we were all very hungry grunts. Our driver who was white began to order when a much older woman approached me and asked what I wanted to order.
I was trying to read the board and pointed to my brother, a black Marine and said he was here first. She again addressed me, what do you want to order. Again, I said with more determination, for I was perturbed that she was ignoring our brother. She told me if I wanted something I better speak up. I said again, this man was first he was before me! She said, what is it you want - you better order or I will ignore you too! I said, he was here first why are you ignoring him? She said he does not exist, he is not a person and will get nothing here. I said how can you say that when our brother is right here before you. We are all Marines, we happen to be government property and if in combat this young man may have to give his blood and probably his very life so that you can sell your crummy food. I ask her, are you a Christian? She said she was and what's that have to do with this? I said that no where in the Bible does it say that God has commanded us to hate anyone, in fact God Who is Love, has commanded us to love everyone even those we hate or who are our enemies. Christ died for all - not just white people, but for everyone, everyone, even hateful people like you woman.
Because our conversation was heating up a State Trooper standing on the side motioned me to come over to him. The Trooper said to me that he was in the Marines, that he did not like how our black brothers were being treated either and that he had a family to support. He suggested that we go further North and we would have no problems. I said because of you we will do that just that. As we started to leave the waitress came with the driver's food and asked for the money. The driver said I did not order anything did anyone else place an order? We all said no, not me, we did not order anything! Perhaps she was hearing voices and needed help!
The waitress were irate and call for the Trooper to arrest us and he said what for, no one broke the law. She asked what are we to do with the food, we said feed it to the cat and see if it lives! With that, we left.
As we drove off I asked the black Marines next to me if they wanted me to go order 3 or 4 hamburgers so that they could have some. They said no, that it was not the same. He said you don't understand, you guy could have some food at least. They really felt bad for us and snapped at us and said you guys could have had the food did you did not have to give it up just because of us. Because of us? We all are us brother! I said, if you would believe me, how could we eat and you not? We do understand because we are all in this together. By rejecting you guys they reject us all. There was dead silence for miles and miles - it was an very eerie feeling that no words could consol. Finally we came to Washing D.C. and we pulled into McDonalds. We had some nice black people wait on us and that was my first ever taste of McDonalds. When I ate their french fries, I thought I went to Heaven. Being a Marine we are all one family, when one has joy we share that joy and when one is hurt we all feel the pain as though it was ours alone, for we are all the same, one big family - US Marine Corps! - We live and die the true spirit of the Corps namely, Semper fi!
a brother Marine
Carlos Hathcock & Scope Shot!
Last night I watched a "MythBusters" episode, and they claimed a sniper, could not do this shot!
It's easy to see how they messed this one up. They where using large, variable scopes! They claimed they where the same as used in Viet Nam. I read the "Sniper" book and if I recall, the Viet Congs only had outdated, 2 1/2 power scopes.
If this is true, the older scope would have a lot less lens as the variable 3X9 etc; would have!
Their basis is the scopes multiple lenses would stop any high powered rifle from penetrating. They made 3 or 4 attempts of doing so including putting the guns only 3 feet away from each other!
My point in contacting you is to see if you could contact their producers and set them straight! They are shown on the Discovery channel.
Although they did not mention Carlos by name, it left no doubt who they where talking about!
If the "shot through the scope" is confirmed, they should stand corrected and make acknowledgement of such!
San Antonio, Texas
"A die hard fan of "White Feather"
Gunny Hathcock Poster
He Didn't Even
Over the Christmas Holidays, my wife and I took our kids to her families side for dinner and gifts. While there, her cousin showed up and I saw on the back of his pickup window he had a 2nd division sticker. Normally I would greet him by saying Semper Fi, but in his case I said nothing. He didn't even make it through boot camp and calls himself a Marine. Just so there was no trouble, I didn't even talk to him, but what should be protocol in that situation? ( short of kicking his *ss in front of his family)
SGT. Robert D. Koenning
I was a tanker, don't know where the apricots thing came from, don't much care. As a Pvt I was told if I bring apricots aboard the tank, I get my *ss kicked, - "Apricots are bad luck on a tank". So Hey, Why Take Chances? And . . .why get my *ss kicked. Had an apricot tree in the back yard growing up, and love apricots. But to this day now, am hard pressed to eat an apricot. Over 25 yrs later, maybe just outta respect for the curse, maybe a little paranoid about stepping off a curb and getting run over by a bus or something. So in the end, if abstaining from apricots will save a few lives, then THE APRICOTS be D*MNED!
G. Cagle, Sgt USMC, 79-83
Sgt Grit: I recently discovered your website, ordered a Marine T shirt, then started receiving the newsletter. What a joy! Thanks for all the great stories and memories.
This newsletter has a couple of stories of orphanages in Vietnam. I was with VMCJ-1 at DaNang Airbase â€“ served as Supply Officer for the Squadron. Unfortunately, I haven't kept up with any of the men from VMCJ-1. A few of us taught English two nights a week at a Catholic orphanage named Anh Sang. Anybody out there remember that?
Robert M. Worley, Capt. USMC, '68 â€“ ' 72 â€“ Vietnam '69 â€“ '70
The Sao Mai Catholic School/Orphanage in DaNang.
In regards to John J. Cihak question about the orphanage, I joined 1st. Rad Bn in the fall of 1969. To the best of my memory this is the same place as I remember. We would still drive down there and entertain the children once a week. I think these visits were the one thing that kept us civilized. Most all of the children were Ameraisian and did not have good prospects for later in life. To be able to hold them and treat them like innocent little children brought a lot of happiness. Sorry to say that when I left Hill 327 I never went back to visit the children.
Cpl. Flattem Vietnam 69 - 71
Reading about the orphanage was a trip to the past! I adopted a little girl from there in 1969 and today she is a beautiful, wonderful, smart, well-educated young lady.
Gen. Barrow even sent me to DaNang on Courier Duty to pick Lara up after I had extended to do an accompanied tour on Okinawa. That is a decision we have never regretted!
R. M. MacConnell
Thank you for the message regarding the Sao Mai Catholic Orphanage. The history of this conflict leaves a bad taste in the mouth of all Americans...Marines and civilians. We fought the good fight and we did so much more.
Lt. of Marines 1968-1971 (USMCR, Active Duty)
I want to thank you Sgt. Grit for getting more CORPSMAN items. I just received my Death Cheaters coffee mug. It really is great. I have looked at other web sites but yours is the only one with FMF CORPSMAN items. It seams like every month you add one more item to your catalog. Thank you again for not forgetting us Corpsman. SEMPER FI
I Co. 3/9 Nam 65-66
Sgt Grit, Old Salt, Bruce Otis of the PI recruit Depot in 1957, has it right. I was a San Diego Marine. I spent 3 week in receiving before our platoon was formed that was Oct 1956.
I was instructed by the Sgt and Cpl in charge the proper way to handle my self when in a Platoon it was to be 2061, S/Sgt Swan a very hard Marine and his staff, Sgt Fish, Sgt Gore, and Sgt Teasley. The instruction of speaking to a DI was first on their list of how to dos.
The first word out of your mouth is Sir and the last word out will be Sir. "SIR as loud as you could yell Pvt ??? wants to speak with the Drill Instructor, SIR" and if it was at all unclear or he had to say louder, it would be push ups or laps around the Grinder for the whole platoon, When one failed the treatment was the same for all recruits the (10%) cause all to suffer the wrath of the DIs.
L/Cpl Thomas A Leigh-Kendall 1649003 Sea Going 2 yrs, G/2/5 then 1st Pioneers(MDB)Engineers, and as Marine Security Detachment, Fallbrook NAD released in 63 Honorably
Semper Fi Tom
Reading My Mind
This is in response to Sgt Garry Olson's remark the week of jan.1
You were reading my mind Sgt. Olson. This is something we all need to think about!
I thought we take care of our on. The reporter's or public did not go through the door, our brother's did
Amen Sgt. Olson........ Amen.
BLT 3/8 83-86
COMM PLT. TACP
Our Marines Are There
Semper fi Sgt. Grit,
I just love to read all the stories from your newsletters. I most certainly agree that the news reporters should not get themselves involved in the front lines. Our Marines are there to seek, kill and destroy by all and any means. How can one determine if an Iraqi is in disguises, its kill or be kill, right? I do understand that there are going by the Geneva convention and that is part of the war laws. but! in some cases, its judgment call.
Many Thanks and Honors to our fellow Marines who served both in peace and war - SALUTE TO YOU ALL! If there are readers out there that went to boot camp at MCRD San Diego who graduated on Jan. 05,1977 Plt. 1108 please make a shout out? maybe we can get in touch.
R. Blas USMC, OORAH!
Camp Tarawa Memorial
On October 6th 2006 The Camp Tarawa Detachment of the Marine Corps League received its charter. A large part of our detachments mission will be to restore and keep up the almost forgotten Camp Tarawa Memorial on The Parker Ranch in the town of Waimea on the Big Island of Hawaii. We have set up a docent program to greet and explain the history and interaction between the Marines and Corpsmen that trained at Camp Tarawa from December 1943 until September 1945, the town of Waimea and The Parker Ranch. The history of Camp Tarawa is slowly being forgotten as the years go by. The docent program will explain the history of Camp Tarawa to local residents as well as visitors to the Big Island. The 2nd Division arrived in December 1943 and built the 441-acre camp from scratch. When the 2nd left for the invasion of Saipan-Tinian the 5th Division arrived to train for the invasion of Iwo Jima and returned to train at Camp Tarawa for the invasion of Japan just before the end of WW II.
Anyone who trained at Camp Tarawa and would like to add their personal histories to what we now have available or anyone interested in our Camp Tarawa docent program please feel free to contact me at: barefoot.one @ hawaiiantel .net.
Sincerely and Semper Fi,
Marine Corps League
Camp Tarawa Detachment #1255
I recently went to San Diego to visit my civilian son and had a reservation for quarters at the MCRD and when I rented a car at the airport the lady at the car rental desk asked if I was there for the Marine graduation. I had forgotten about the term "GRADUATION" but then these were "Hollywood Marines." My son was a Hollywood Marine and I did go to his Graduation in 1976.
When I completed boot camp at 'Pleasure Island" in 1946, we just called it "Survival" but that was the old Corps. I went to China after surviving Parris Island so I am one of the last China Marines. In 2000 I took a commercial trip to China and while in Beijing (Peking to us back then) hired a taxi to take me back to Tientsin, now called Tienjin. Of course I didn't recognize anything from the little town where we offloaded at sea, down cargo nets into LCI's to get into the little town, now a very large city.
I am a retired Air Force Officer now but will always be a Marine. Are there any Tientsin French Arsenal Marines out there?
The Making of a Marine
Sgt. Grit, I am a former Drill Instructor. MCRD San Diego. 1958-1960. I've written this story for Marines. It takes place at Parris Island, (my alma mater) South Carolina. The shock is the same regardless of which coastal transformation station they attended. You are welcome to print it if you wish. I'm sure many boot camp alumnus will recognize something familiar.
Former Sergeant of Marines,
Marine Corps Tradition & Respect
As any good Marine knows, tradition and respect are two of our keystones as Marines. Too frequently in the past, and even in the last news letter to Sergeant (Sgt.) Grit I have seen Sgt. Grit addressed as "SARGE". I looked at the rank and branch of service of the writer(s) and was appalled. It was a Marine(s). That's like calling a Staff Sergeant (SSgt.) "Staff". This "jacks my jaws" to the limit. Other branches of our armed services may call E-5s to E-7s and sometimes E-8s "Sarge", but NOT IN OUR Marine Corps! As we all know rank is a long and hard road in the Marine Corps. So lets give the due respect to each other, whether you were/are a one tour of duty Marine or a career Marine. It is part of what makes us who we are, "UNITED STATES MARINES"------FOREVER!
Semper Fi (Always Faithful)
Fratres Aeterni (Brothers Forever)
"Top" R. Plumlee, Sr.
Master Sergeant of Marines (Gold Wing) Airborne (Retired)
Still Lean, Mean, And Always A Marine!
"Attitude Is Everything"
The "Texas Top" says-----"Never Forget"!
You're The First
I thoroughly enjoyed reading comments from other Marines. It's been over 40 yrs since my tour of duty ended and it's comforting to know that "feelings" (that I thought were my own weakness, or sentimentality) are shared by others. I thought I might be weird, or strange, because my eyes still get wet whenever I hear "the Hymn" or "National Anthem."
For one duty station, I was with the ever-popular Military Police, in Hawaii. Two of my favorite memories are:
A fellow MP, loved to listen to all the bugle calls, which were on tape and were played (for all the base) from the MP Station. Every time he pulled duty, he'd play the entire day's bugle calls, with the base PA system turned off. Until one night, while he was on the 2400 to 0400 watch (as Desk Sgt) he got a call from the Staff Officer Housing area, asking that he "turn off" the speakers for their neighborhood. The next day, he was asked to choose something else to pass the time.
My proudest moment came as a lowly gate receptionist. One evening, I got a phone call from someone who claimed to be base Commanding General to say that he was expecting a visitor and would I please expedite a visitor pass, plus give directions to his home.
When the visitor arrived, I followed SOP and called the General. He didn't sound very happy when he said, "Son, didn't I call you to approve the visitor that you're asking about?" I replied, "Sir, anyone can call me and claim to be a General. I figured that you'd answer, if I called the number that's recorded for you in the base directory."
He said, "Son, you're the first MP that's done that. Thank you for keeping the base secure."
Those were special times that all of us spent; unaware that we were doing anything special for our country.
Baptism Under Fire
Spring of 1953 at Camp Pendleton and awaiting my draft for Korea. I was one of many assigned to Guard Duty.
My assignment was the ammo dump. While guarding this huge "Dump" I stumbled across a hut loaded with M-80 firecrackers. As all teenagers I filled up my pockets and waited for my relief to get off duty.
I packed a few in my suitcase which was being sent home, gave a few to my buddies and kept 2 for myself. The reason I know how many I kept, I'll explain. At the mess hall that evening the meal was stuffed pork chops.
As I went thru the chow line and sat down someone let loose with one of the M-80's. Unknown to me in the chow line was the Officer of the Day and about 10 MP's. All I heard was "Lock the Doors". I couldn't hold a cup in my hand I was shaking so hard. I removed the two M-80's from my jacket and stuffed each pork chop with one M-80. I immediately got up, passed the MP's and dumped my tray into the waste barrel. As I was walking away from the Mess Hall I heard someone yell "I found one". Needless to say the least I made a bee line for my tent area and sweated out the night.
I guess you could say it was my baptism under fire.
Jack Nolan E-2-5
The REAL Party
Reading Bruce Otis letter regarding Sept 7,1957, really got my attention. I was in Plt 167 and had been there for a few weeks. The day Otis was being welcomed to P.I.,I too was being subjected to h&ll. It was my birthday and my Mother, as Mothers will do, decided to surprise me with an unscheduled, and much unwanted visit. She never understood why I was not happy to spend that day with her. She had no idea of the REAL party awaiting my return and visit with S/Sgt Koonce.
Plt 167 - 1957
Bunch Of Squid-Kids
When I was in Field Med School at CLNC in 1967 ( was an HM3 at the time), we had an instructor named GYSGT Yates. Being one of the biggest guys in my class (6'2", 205), I was the center of his attention... literally. GYSGT Yates was about 5'9", and 165 or so, with a voice that sounded like 40 miles of gravel road! To make a long story short, I always swore if I ever saw that little sucker outside the base, I was going to wad him up in a little ball. Well, later I was sent to the Nam, and ended up at Khe Sanh, a few weeks before the opening of hunting season in 1968. I was assigned to the BAS until the powers that be could find a company for me. About a week later, I was doing check ins for new incoming personnel. I took the health record, and started glancing through it. Hmmm... the Name was Yates, and the rank was GYSGT... I looked up, and lo and behold, guess who it was! He looked at me and said, "Well, Doc, you still want to kick my a$S?" (It suddenly got very quiet in the BAS) I jumped up... chair went sailing back... and I stuck out my hand and said... "No, Gunny, I want to shake your hand and thank you for all you taught me. It's kept my dumb butt alive so far!"
For those of you in FMSS, I have this piece of advice... LISTEN to your INSTRUCTORS! Just like boot camp, these guys are taking a bunch of Squid-Kids, and trying to teach them skills that will keep you alive. Gunny Yates, if you are still with us, and read this, or someone else does and knows you, Thank you again, for kicking my butt, making me do the best I could possibly do, and for making a smart a$$ kid into someone who was proud of his 11 years FMF.
Addison (Tex) Miller
HMC(FMF), USN, Ret.
Ribbons of an Unfinished Campaign
I was walking my boxer "Corporal" today and decided to put on paper some of the thoughts running through my mind - mainly for those who know about these things, but also for the few who care as well as those sons and daughters who may one day find themselves rummaging through their Vietnam veteran father's trunk or old boxes.
A "ribbon" is defined as "a woven strip or band of fine material". Military style ribbons of course are much more than that. They also tell a story.
These few ribbons tell a simple story but one I would like to share with you.
A military uniform is just not right without at least one ribbon so anyone who signed up during the Vietnam War received the "National Defense Service" ribbon. These have been awarded since 1950 to anyone serving in our nation's armed forces during a time of war or conflict. It basically meant you were willing to go to Vietnam (except maybe for some of the draftees) whether you were sent there or not. We jokingly called it the "firewatch" ribbon - meaning you earned it during training by walking firewatch at night to ensure the barracks didn't burn down with all hands ! It was the only ribbon you wore when you marched out for boot camp graduation but it sure looked good !
Everyone who went to Vietnam was authorized the "Vietnam Service" ribbon. It meant you served "in harm's way" whether you were a computer specialist working in an air conditioned office in Saigon or a grunt up at the DMZ. The design of the ribbon was based on the South Vietnamese flag which consisted of three vertical red stripes on a field of bright yellow. We used to joke that their flag should have been red with three "yellow" stripes - but their armed forces did struggle for a long time against immense odds. I think the green vertical bars on each end represent the verdant landscape of Vietnam. For me it represents the "jungle"...
"Presidential Unit Citation" ribbons are just that - a citation awarded by the President of the United States to a particular "unit" for actions in a particular battle or time frame. I my case this blue, gold and red ribbon was awarded to the 3rd Marine Division for its efforts in preventing the North Vietnamese Army from invading South Vietnam across the Demilitarized Zone. Way too many good, young Marines gave their lives doing that.
The "Combat Action" ribbon is awarded to any Marine or sailor (usually a corpsman) involved in "ground combat" against an enemy of the United States. This is basically the Marine Corps "grunt" award and we are proud of it.
But there is one more ribbon that means more to me in a nostalgic way than the others. It's not the Purple Heart. I often wonder why, but I was blessed to come home unscathed and I thank the Lord for that often. It's not an heroic award. I was never deserving of an award of that type.
No, it is the "Republic of Vietnam Campaign" ribbon awarded by the government of South Vietnam to all American military personnel (and many other nationalities) who served in Vietnam.
Please look at the silver colored banner with the date "1960 - ". Notice there is no closing date...
At some point in the future, Vietnam veterans were to obtain an updated ribbon with a closing date - perhaps 1970 or later. But that didn't happen and never will. Why ? The government of South Vietnam no longer exists to authorize and issue such an updated ribbon. That all ended on April 30, 1975 when Saigon fell. As a result, the original "1960 - " ribbon will always symbolize, to me at least, an "unfinished campaign".
And I think the ribbon is actually more meaningful this way because the war never had an appropriate closure for many of us. Nothing that traumatic - most of us adjusted quite well in life. Still, those events of so long ago just seem to rest there in the back of my mind. I experience them occasionally (as I think most other "grunts" do) on a hike as I walk toward a tree line, or under the heat of a summer noonday sun, or as I slip between those cool, clean sheets at night - remembering...
I am always thankful that I did not have to pay the ultimate price.
Through the story of these ribbons, I honor those who did.
May God bless America and Semper Fi...
James D. Cool
India Co., 3/4 - 1967
Merry Christmas Marine
I know that this is a bit late for this year's round of Christmas stories. But, I figure if it is too late, you can save it for next year's edition. One of my daughter's friends has been dating a young Marine for a couple of years (since high school). He has recently been stationed at Kaneohe (not sure of the spelling of that), Hawaii. So, she had not been with him for some time. He was coming home, to Centennial, Colorado (south of Denver), for about 5 days for Christmas, prior to shipping out for Iraq. Well, you may have heard that we got a bit of snow for Christmas this year. That caused a bit of a problem for these young folks. You see, she is going to college at CSU, in Boulder. And he was staying with his folks here on the southeast end of Denver. That put them about 45 miles apart. He made three attempts to get to Boulder, to pick her up and bring her home. But, his only vehicle is a small Honda sedan, which could not get more than a few miles before getting stuck in the snow and having to turn around and go home.
All of the major roads and highways had been closed, and the governor had declared a state of emergency, requesting that only emergency and essential personnel be out on the roads. There were many people stranded on the roads, and the plows could not get the highways cleared due to all of the stuck and abandoned vehicles in the way. Well, as you can imagine, this young lady was a bit distraught about not being able to get to her Marine. And, as young girls will do, she called my daughter to "cry on her shoulder". My daughter, without a second of hesitation, told her to pack her things and be ready, because we would be there to get her shortly. She then hung up and came to me and told me the situation. She told me that she figured this was an "emergency" and that she had complete confidence that no snow storm could stop an "old salt, Marine" like me if I decided to go get the girl.
Well, of course she knew that I could not resist a challenge like that and would never admit that Marines can't do anything they decide to. I have always told her that Marines have been doing so much, with so little, for so long, that the improbable they do every day. The impossible just takes a bit longer. To make a long story short, we got into my Dodge Dakota, 4 wheel drive pickup and headed for Boulder. This trip would normally take about an hour and a half to get there and back. Due to the roads being closed, and all of the people that we had to stop to help along the way (as my daughter told these people "its a Marine thing"), the trip took five and a half hours this time.
However, it was more than worth it when we knocked on the door of this young Marine's parent's house at 11:45 pm (we knew he would still be up). When he answered the door, I said "Merry Christmas Marine, I brought you a present". Then his girl stepped out from behind me and flew into his arms. I may no longer where a uniform, but I still get to be a hero once in a while!
Sgt Phil "Akabu" Coffman '72 -'82
KIA During Convoy
Sgt. Fernando Padilla, MWSS 371,3MAW. KIA during convoy operations near Al nasariyah, Iraq, on 20030328 , remains recovered 20030411. I know the remains were recovered by members of Fox Co 2Bn 2nd Marine Division, if any of you know how I can find out more specific information about his death and recovery please let me know. I took part in that convoy and have some questions that I feel compelled to get answered, also want to set up a tribute page to him, please contact me at MarineCorps5811 @aol .com
Howdy Sgt Grit:
In reference to your letter of January 3, 2007 with Mr. Bruce Otis I can say without a doubt his platoon was a squat jump crazy *ss platoon..........So was my platoon #229, year 1958.
My Drill Instructors were; SSgt F. W. Lukasiewicz, SSgt L. C. Brown and SSgt D. E. Kennedy. SSgt Lukasiewicz was the crazy one. If you couldn't pronounce his name he would strangle you until you almost passed out from a lack of oxygen. Then he would have you do squat jumps forever. I did so many squat jumps for screwing up, my upper thighs were inflamed for half my 11 weeks of recruit training. Every morning when I climbed out of my bunk and hit the deck I couldn't feel my legs. The first thing we did when we were so rudely awaken would do squat jumps. If you enter the DI's office incorrectly you would be plastered up on the wall across the hallway and then ordered to do squat jumps. If you talked, or eyeball some one or something......you would do squat jumps. Another incident with SSgt Kennedy when we didn't march right he had the platoon get into a squat position and duck walk back to the barracks. Talk about pain.
Yep! I believe the whole 2nd Battalion may have been crazy with "SQUAT JUMPS"........ You gotta love that pain!
Semper fi Marines.
Don Griffith, USMCRet, 1stSgt
I Remember Being Told
I've read several comments in various copies of your newsletter concerning the Marines who are accused of murder in Iraq. Most of the comments expressed outrage that Marines are being put on trial. I have not responded earlier because I only recently was able to get caught up with my reading of your newsletters. (I'm a high school teacher and had a backlog of about fifteen by the time Christmas break rolled around.) Most recently, in the 3Jan07 newsletter, Sgt Olson (who served during the Vietnam era) said, "Why are the innocent civilians allowing the IED's to be placed where our Marines may get hurt or killed? They should be telling US where the IED's are and where the insurgents that planted them are." I remember having the same thoughts about the innocent civilians who allowed VC to plant mines in roads that the engineers had to clear every morning before vehicle travel was allowed, and booby traps around their villages that injured and killed several of our young men. But the answer in both Vietnam and in Iraq is that innocent civilians are caught in the middle. Vietnamese village leaders whose people helped us were rewarded by being killed by the VC. Until the people feel secure in helping us and their own government, they're not going to stick their necks out.
A few years ago I was browsing through t-shirts in a store that sells military- and police-related items. The slogan on one so- called Special Forces shirt said, "Kill them all and let God sort them out!" Does that slogan truly reflect what we expect of an American soldier or Marine? Are we not a country based on the rule of law? If they truly are guilty of murder, do we want them to go unpunished? Sgt. Logan says it's "not good for recruitment," to prosecute Marines "for doing the job they were/are trained to do." But we Marines emphasize in boot camp and OCS the importance of "Duty, Honor, Commitment." Where is the honor in committing murder?
I remember being told during Operation Desoto near Duc Pho that the area north of the river was a "free fire zone," but the company commanders whom I served (one was killed by enemy fire and one was wounded by "friendly" 20mm fire from one of our own air strikes) tried to make sure that any target we engaged was, in fact, hostile. Theirs was the correct attitude, in my opinion. Indiscriminate killing of people does not encourage others to help our side.
Sgt. Logan and others who served during the '60s and '70s should remember that the massacre at My Lai really happened, and the Army officers who tried to cover it up instead of immediately prosecuting Lt. Calley did a disservice to every one of us who served in Vietnam. The actions of Calley and his platoon added to the anti-military bias that was so prevalent during that time.
I'm keeping an open mind in the particular incident to which Sgt. Logan refers. I hope that the accusations are found to be false, and that no other such claims arise during our War on Terror. If the accused are found blameless--good. If they are found to have murdered innocent people, then I say they deserve to be punished appropriately.
Once a captain, USMCR; always a Marine
1963-76 (Vietnam 4Dec06-18Dec07, including six months with the "grunts" as artillery FO for Lima 3/7)
Hand Over The Defense
I did my peace time duty 56-58 went through the San Diego MCRD next to the Navy Air Field that blotted out the DI's commands for which he gave us he-- when we did not understand and respond to. Did my time at Camp Pendleton with the First Service Battalion at 25 area first then 11 area. Got sent to Yucca Flats in the summer of 57 for one of those bomb blasts. Had my share of climbing debarking nets on the water with the Navy. I feel that as a Marine I was trained and ready for what ever was asked of me. Am proud of my service in the finest group of fighting men in the world. Now as the grandfather of a just sworn in Marine am ready to hand over the defense of our great country to him God watch over him and all the other young men and women serving our country.
SEMPER FI all.
I read about the homemade hooch and had to laugh and tell our story. We were also over in the desert during Desert Shield/Storm with Golf 3/11. My gun section got the idea, hey Listerine is like 26% alcohol, and we get orange juice for breakfast, so why not make some screwdrivers. Well as you can imagine it tasted like s@$t, but it is a memory I remember every Christmas.
Derek Howard 88-92 11th Marines "criminal crew" gun #2
Most Diplomatic Response
The nature of Marine Corps recruit training is such that anyone who ever stood on the yellow footsteps wondering what the h*** they'd gotten themselves into must have at least one good story to tell. This is one of my favorites. I think it demonstrates what a delightful sense of humor our DIs had.
Platoon 2094 (The Texas Raiders), 2d Recruit Training Battalion, MCRD, San Diego, CA; September to December, 1973. SSgt D A Forsberg was our Platoon Commander, Sgt M P Valleau was one of our junior DIs; Sgt Valleau was a grunt; I believe SSgt Forsberg was air wing; both were Vietnam veterans. We were still in the Quonset huts at this time, and my presence was requested in the Duty Hut. SSgt Forsberg and Sgt Valleau were present, along with a Chicago friend of Sgt. Valleau, who was a DI in one of the other platoons in our series. After I reported as ordered, this other DI asked me "Who hits harder, Sgt Valleau or SSgt Forsberg?" Now, I have always considered myself a reasonably intelligent person. I could only surmise at this point that whatever name I gave as the answer to the question, the other person would take exception and prove me wrong in the only way possible. My mind quickly settled on what seemed to me a most diplomatic response. "Sir, SSgt Forsberg and Sgt Valleau hit equally as hard, Sir!" Alas, my career as a diplomat was destined for failure. Sgt Valleau hit me sharply, but not hard, in the solar plexus; I was instantly doubled over and gasping for breath. "Stand up, a**hole...you're at attention!" Sgt Valleau commanded me. I struggled back to attention, and Sgt Valleau's friend, the DI whose innocent sense of curiosity had started the whole affair, provided me with the correct response: "Don't you know that Drill Instructors and Platoon Commanders NEVER strike their recruits?"
Now, to the uninitiated this might seem cruel, even abusive behavior. However, I did not feel myself mistreated or abused, even then. After all, these men who had known war were training us to fight and, hopefully, survive should we ever be called upon to serve in combat ourselves. They owed it to us and to the Marines whose lives would depend on us to be tough on us. What is more, they owed it to the generations of Marines who had come before us to make sure that we earned the right to call ourselves Marines; earned the right to wear the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor. And this story is relevant even today. I read recently that the US Army has determined that more recruits will successfully complete Basic Training if it is made to be less stressful. I guess that means that the soldier of tomorrow will be treated to a kinder, gentler Basic Training. My question is, if a soldier is unable to deal with a stressful situation, would it not be better discovered in Basic Training than on the battlefield, when success or failure, life or death, might well hang in the balance? Let us hope that the Marine Corps' time honored training methods never change.
Sgt Robert Shirley
Panic Set In
Just finished reading your 03 Jan 2007 Newsletter and enjoyed the letters concerning Boot Camp. They brought back great memories of those long-ago days at MCRD. One of my "fondest" memories of my three weeks at the Camp Mathews rifle range occurred one evening after a typical day of live firing. After cleaning our rifles, our DI's began the usual rifle inspection. After checking only a few rifles, SDI SSgt J.T. Bridges went absolutely berserk! He told us to clean those d*#m rifles properly or there would be h&ll to pay! Well, as Marines all know, during boot camp when told that there will be h&ll to pay, there absolutely will be h&ll to pay!
The second inspection was shorter than the first! We were ordered to grab our buckets and rifles and "FALL IN"! We were marched to the wash racks, ordered to fill our buckets 3/4 full of water, fall back in and open ranks. We were then ordered to each dig a hole 4X1X1, open rifle bolts and bury the rifles. Then we were ordered to pour the bucket of water over the "rifle graves". S/Sgt Bridges then told us that we had 15 minutes before the next and final rifle inspection ---- "and they had better be clean, a** h***s! Panic set in as each "boot" pondered how we could possibly accomplish this seemingly impossible task!
"THE SHOWERS" , someone yelled! And off we went to the showers where we began this task! The sand and dust came off quickly. We ran back to our tents, cleaned the rifles at a furious pace and awaited the inspection that never came, but the laughter emanating from the DI's tent was a loud and clear exclamation point to our evening of "rifle burial duty"!
What a great time we all had, right? Our lives have been forever altered by the work of the DI's! They pushed us to the brink and forced us to perform! We at times hated their guts! But they made us into Marines! They pushed us to succeed!
I hope my DI's read this letter so that I can Thank You!, S/Sgt Bridges, Cpl Stelling and Cpl Wright for pushing me and all of the "boots" of Platoon 218, MCRD, San Diego, into becoming proud Marines on 13 May 1964. SEMPER FI, MARINES!
Sgt USMCR, 63-69 / 83-84
The Marine Corps is famous for ingraining task within you so that you respond without even thinking. A good example was one that I demonstrated while training at Camp LeJuene with the U.S. Coast Guard in 2001.
I attended boot camp in San Diego, Platoon 2001, Jan-Mar 1969. After leaving the Corps in 1979, I joined the U. S. Coast Guard Reserves. While attached to a Port Security Unit attending training at Camp LeJuene, we had the opportunity to go to the grenade range.
As the Gunny assigned to be part of our training team showed the Coasties a hand grenade and how to handle it he dropped one on the ground and yelled "Grenade". Everyone dove to the ground, feet pointing toward the grenade and covered their head. That is everyone but this old Marine. As taught so many years before, I dove atop the practice grenade and shielded everyone around me.
I could not believe I did such a thing without even thinking of the consequences. But then again, it had been ingrained in me to protect the buddies around me. Thirty-two years later, that training received during boot camp was still there. I told everyone of all the times our Drill Instructor would through a butt or piece of paper on the ground and yell "Grenade". All in the platoon would fight to be the one to dive on it first and save the rest of the platoon. Some things just never leave us.
Cpl, USMC 69-75; 77-79
PSCS, USCG 82-
Lights Went Out
I enjoy reading the boot camp experiences of others so much I thought I would share one of my own. I was sitting in school one day in Sept of '51 when two Sheriffs deputies took me from class and deposited me in an office at the nearest Sher