Sgt Grit and Staff would like to wish all of our Marines and customers a very Merry Christmas! May we all embody the spirit of giving during this holiday, and may we also remember those that are stationed overseas or forward deployed far from home, as well as the families that have to celebrate Christmas without them.
Sgt Grit & Staff
Marine Corps Christmas Carol
USMC boot camp, circa 1968, celebrating Christmas USMC style.
"Full Metal Jacket" video found on military.com.
Marines and sailors from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, enter the Boondocker training area at Marine Corps Base Hawaii after a 9-mile hike Dec. 19. More than 500 people attended the Island Warrior Combat Competition III and Toys for Tots drive, which included a hike, toy collection and a series of physical competitions. This was the first time the unit included a Toys for Tots drive in their combat competition. The Marines and sailors hiked carrying toys and wearing festive decorations with their combat gear. The five companies in 2/3 also competed in four different events including tug-of-war, an obstacle course, pugil sticks and a sandbag relay. Weapons Company won the wooden-battleaxe trophy for the overall competition.
Write up by Blair Tomlinson
Photo by Kristen Wong/USMC
Santa Claus Boot Camp
Earning the title of Santa just got real!
Is This Familiar
Check with the newsletter readers and ask if this is familiar to any of the old timers. This is from 1948 when I was in boot camp at Parris Island. Platoon 148, 2nd Battalion.
Santa Is A Retired SgtMaj
As you know, Santa is a retired SgtMaj who starts every morning with a cigar, one of Cuba's finest, and a shot of Crown Royal, with a Death Before Dishonor Tattoo. He has spit shined boots, belt, and he has military creases in his Santa suit. He has upgraded his reindeer to Harrier jet engines that allow his sleigh to take off land vertically.
With the days and times we live in, he has armed his sleigh with AIM-9 Sidewinders, air-to-air missiles in case he gets jumped by a MIG, and he has added counter measures with a chaff dispenser with flares and Christmas presents that will be delivered by CBU (cluster bombs) instead of going through the chimney.
So, Ho, Ho, Ho... Merry Christmas!
Sgt Grit Family Christmas Photos
The Barber family decided to make their family Christmas photos extra special. Their oldest son Tajh enlisted in the delayed entry program this year, and is scheduled to depart for Boot Camp in the Summer of 2016. For their family photos they chose to wear Sgt Grit's 2015 Ugly Christmas Long Sleeve T-shirts. The family is wearing red shirts and Tajh is wearing the white shirt.
Merry Christmas young man, by this time next year you will have earned the coveted title of U.S. Marine!
I Miss The Shenanigans
What do I miss about The Corps? I miss the camaraderie that was everywhere, no matter what duty station you pulled. I miss the shenanigans we were always playing on each other. I loved hanging out with best buds at the 5-6 club. I liked the recognition of a job well done, sometimes via kind words from the Gunny or Top or from the Old Man himself at formation. I miss the fact that everyone had a job to do and we all did it to the best of our ability. You always knew where you stood in the Corps, there was very little politics (at least at my level, E-5) going on. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't wish that I had shipped over.
Pith Helmets And Khakis
I recall the incident (1962, Okinawa) at the Butler Brig. At the time I was assigned to Marine Barracks, Naha (where we wore pith helmets and khakis much of the year)... by the time the story got to us, it involved three prisoners attempting a breakout... one was shot and was hanging over the wire, one frozen part way up the chain link fence, and the third on the ground with a change of heart. We also heard that the tower sentry received a telegram the next day from the Commandant, General Shoup (MOH, Tarawa). The telegram congratulated the sentry on his attention to duty and excellent marksmanship, and also advised that he had been meritoriously promoted to Corporal... worked for me...
To The Rear... March
I can't speak for any other former Marines but when I went through Parris Island in 1946 we were all issued pith helmets. We only wore them once when our DI ordered us to don them prior to doing some close order drill. During that exercise we went from right shoulder arms to left shoulder arms (with M-1's) and back again several times. Needless to say, most of the pith helmets were knocked to the ground whereupon the DI ordered "To the rear â€“ march!" The helmets on the ground were promptly crumpled to shreds and we were never ordered to wear them again.
The few helmets that survived were consigned to the owners' sea bags and never seen again either.
Former Sgt., USMC
Boot Camp Pith Helmet
I turned 17 in July '45 and took the bus to Pittsburgh, PA, with my friend Jiggs Cornell to join the Marines. Then my parents would not sign for me unless I swore that I would go and finish school if I should return. We were sworn in on Aug. 2nd and were off to PI.
At our first clothing issue the only cover we were given was a pith helmet. We wore them throughout our time at PI. We didn't get any other cover until graduation and then we could wear our "C" cover with our greens.
You don't have to guess what those pith helmet's looked like after having those three DI's with their swagger sticks at the ready. The only way we found out that the war had ended was we fell out, and were told it was over but the training would continue as usual.
There was no celebration on our part and we were advised that the original orders were that we were to finish training and be on the invasion of Japan.
Our DI's told us this when we first got off the truck inside the gate... Marines never die, they just go to H-ll & regroup!
China Marine '45 - '46
Life Is Great
Seeing an article about a pith helmet brought back memories of my Platoon days - the loudest noise in the world was the DI hitting on your helmet with his swagger stick - Great days! I am a WWII & Korea Veteran MSGT. I now hold two records oldest living ever sky diver in Louisiana at 95 plus and oldest living sky diver in the U.S. Life is great!
MSgt Ray U. Urban
Bossier City, LA
The Finest Military Assualt Weapon
All the recent traffic concerning the replacement of the M-1 with the M-14 (M-14 in boot camp, M-1 in ITR, etc.) has piqued my interest. When did the M-14 officially replace the M-1 as basic issue and when exactly did the M-16 replace the M-14 as issue? I had the M-14 in boot camp and ITR in the Fall of 1964 and the M-16 issued in Vietnam in 1969. I still feel the M-14 is the finest military assault weapon ever issued but I've no experience with the newer weapons.
MP Hite, S/Sgt
RVN 1966-67, '69-'70
Came Up With Chicken Guts
I joined in 1960, became a flamethrower operator and carried the tanks up and down hills with my battalion 3/7 until I made Corporal. I don't remember how many C-Rats I ate during these peace time operations at night, but one day at Case Springs I opened a can of chicken and noodles during a lunch break. Dipped my little plastic spoon in and came up with chicken guts. Checked the date on the case that the 12 rations came in and it was dated 1941. When I first got to Vietnam (Jan. 1966) some of our C-Rats were dated between 1947 and 1949. I was a plt guide at the time and issued the C-Rats. When I went back to Vietnam in March of 1970 (boot company GySgt), we were still getting C-Rats dated in the mid 1950's. When I retired in 1980 we were finally getting C-Rats dated in the early 60's. In between times we got something like Long Rats, freeze dried stuff that had to soak in water for an hour before you could eat it. I remember Ham and Limas, beans and weenies, ham and eggs chopped among others, but I do not remember anything with cherries except the fruit cake that came in the same size can as pound cake.
J L Stelling
Ddick is wrong. Quote, "For all of you who will now claim you ate WWII dated C-rations in VN, I have one short comment... BS... didn't happen." I served in Chu Lai from Nov. '67 to Nov. '68 and I ate many C-RATS that had a date stamp on the box "1945". I also saw food boxes in our mess tent that were dated 1945. Since Ddick was not in Vietnam in '67 and '68 he should be careful declaring BS about something he was not a part of.
SSgt Carl Turner
Riders In The Sky
Reading about a "Riders In The Sky" song in the last Newsletter, jogged my memory bank. Here's a song Platoon 218 sang at MCRD, San Diego in 1964...
You can have your Army Khaki, you can have your Navy blue.
But here's another uniform I'll introduce to you.
This uniform is different, the color forest green;
The Germans called it Devil Dog... the name is just Marine! Marine! Marine!
They trained him down in 'Dego, the land that God forgot;
The mountains high, the desert dry; the sun is blazing hot.
He peels a million onions, and twice as many spuds.
And when he gets a little time... he washes out his duds...
Marine! Martine! Marine!
Now girls, here's a little tip I'm passing on to you;
Just get yourself a good Marine... there's nothing he can't do.
And when he get's to Heaven, to St. Peter he will tell,
"Another Marine reporting, Sir! I've served my time in H-ll!"
Marine! Marine! Marine!
We learned this song at Camp Matthews; sang it a lot while going up and down "Big Agony" and "Little Agony". This song was burned into my mind so deeply that when my band performs, I usually sing it for any Marines in attendance.
To Save Money
Concerning the letter from Ddick (Didn't Happen) and his comment that those claiming to have eaten WWII dated C-rations in Vietnam are wrong, I would generally agree. I served with H&S Co. 3/5, late 1959 to 1961. The bean counters in D.C. were still thinking the Corps might be expendable, so every possible dime we spent was watched. As 3/5 was gearing up to move to the 3rd MarDiv on Okinawa, being in Supply, I watched our Cooks unload a meat shipment one day. As they unloaded beef quarters we laughed because some had already been stamped "Rejected" by the Navy. We assumed that the Corps must have been given a pretty hefty discount to accept the shipment.
Near the end of our gig on Okinawa we were suddenly swamped with tons of C-rations and, indeed, some of them were quite dated. Not being a smoker, I enjoyed watching my buddies light up the cigarettes that came with the rations. They were so old and dry that they practically flamed when lit, giving the guys only a couple of drags before they burned up. The reason for the sudden bounty was that the C-ration was obsolete and due to be replaced. We were told that the Corps had earlier bought up the Army's older rations to save money. We were told to issue as many rations as any of our companies asked for and to pad the order. We were not to take back unexpended rations and to consider them off the inventory. Stacks of rations were in each barracks and Marines were told to eat all they wanted. Okinawa civilians delivering to our warehouse frequently left with many free meals for their families. We were able to get rid of most but, what was left before we shipped out went to the dump â€“ where I'm sure they were scavenged by other civilians.
So I agree with Ddick. The only way I can imagine anyone in Vietnam eating those old rations would be if they were there as advisers, before our first combat units arrived, and I doubt that happened.
The Night They Gunned Down Santa Claus
There's strange things done 'neath the Vietnamese sun,
but the thing that locked my jaws,
Was the night 'neath the moon, the third platoon,
gunned down Santa Claus.
It started off right just another night,
you had to spend in the dirt,
Security was out, 360 about,
with fifty percent alert.
We had 81s and naval guns our tanks were track to track,
an ontos or so an arty FO with barrages back to back.
I froze where I stood 'cause out of the wood,
eight horses came charging along,
This may sound scary those mustangs were hairy,
"Oh no," I moaned, "mounted Viet Cong."
They were coming our way pulling what looked like a sleigh,
you never knew what they'd use,
Our flares were tripped our SIDs had flipped,
our tipsy blew a fuse.
We let them close then we yelled "who goes",
like they do in the movie show,
The answer we got, believe it or not,
was a hearty, "Ho Ho Ho."
Now these troops of mine have seen some time,
they've done some things back-azsward,
They may be thick but I'll tell you a trick,
they knew that wasn't the password.
The nineties roared the 81's soared,
the naval guns raised h-ll,
A bright red flare flew through the air,
as we fired our FPL.
I'll grant him guts but that man was nuts,
or I'm a no good liar,
He dropped like a stone in our killing zone,
I passed the word, "cease fire".
I went out and took a real good look,
my memory started to race,
My mind plays games when it comes to names,
but I never forget a face.
He was dressed in red and he looked well-fed,
older than most I'd seen,
He looked right weird with that long white beard,
and stumps where his legs had been.
He hadn't quite died when I reached his side,
but the end was clearly in sight,
I knelt down low and he said real slow,
"Merry Christmas... and to all a good night."
Now we should have known our cools were blown,
when that light in the East we seen,
I thought it was flares and it had to be theirs,
or the d-mned things would have been green.
I picked up the hook with a voice that shook
said "gimme the Six and quick Colonel."
I said, "hang on to your head,
we just greased old St. Nick".
Now the old man's cool. He's nobody's fool,
right off he knew the word,
If this got out, there'd be no doubt,
he wouldn't be making his bird.
"Just get him up here and we'll play it by ear,
make sure he's got a tag,
Dismantle the sleigh, drive those reindeer away,
and bury that God d-mned bag."
Now by and by the kiddies may cry,
'cause nothings under the tree,
But the word came back from FMFPac,
that Santa had gone VC.
There's strange things done 'neath the Vietnamese sun,
but the time that locked my jaws,
Was the night 'neath the moon, when the third platoon,
gunned down Santa Claus.
By Chet Lynn
Few And Far In Between
Summer of 1970
NAS Glenview and MARTD, that summer the National Airplane Model meets were held at the base. Regular Marines, both volunteer and chosen, were issued pith helmets to distinguish them as judges and assistants to other officials at the meets. These helmets did not come with the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor attached, and I don't recall if any Navy personnel were issued these or not. I still have mine.
If there were, at the time, any "radio controlled" models, they were few and far in between.
"Are you people trying to p-ss me off?"
"SIR, NO SIR!"
"Well You're Doing It!"
SSgt. Benevides, PLT 2019, 1968.
A Story Of Marines In Vietnam
I interview Vietnam Veterans, specifically Marines. I've been doing it a while, and have met a lot of them who've brought a lot of light into my life. Unfortunately, I've lost some, and I wrote this story, based on one that my Marine Corps League detachment lost in 2012. He was a H-ll of a Marine.
As I wrote the story on him, it turned into a story about the strength, dedication, spirit, and love our Marines displayed during the Vietnam War. I have kept his identity anonymous, so that it encompasses not only him, but others who gave as much as he did.
The One Who Slept The Least: A Story of the Love Amongst Marines
I've been interviewing combat veterans for fourteen years; specifically, Marines. I'm 31, and I'm a woman. I'm not who you'd expect to be interviewing Infantrymen, but here I am, and it's what I love to do. I listen intently to what is said, but I've always felt an overwhelming undercurrent of what wasn't being said. I walk away with a lot of heavy emotions from interviews. I tend to take them on, myself, if that makes sense... But if I don't feel it, I can't write it.
This will be my first article written to include that undercurrent, which is just as important, as anything else I could write about with such an experience. We focus on dates, places, and other details, but we overlook what goes on inside, as someone goes to war. But, why don't we focus on the impact on a person? If we did, I think there'd be more empathy, more compassion...
In this story, I'm focusing mainly on one particular group of Marines, but as I read it over, I can see a lot of familiar faces. This story is fictional, but heavily woven together with pieces taken from the Marines I've met, and based on real events. In attempting to express what is underneath the surface, I hope I've come somewhat close, and that this resonates.
This is dedicated to those who've lived it, to the fallen, and especially, to The One Who Slept The Least. Semper Fidelis.
The rain is coming in sideways, again. It's monsoon season in Vietnam. They're all cold, soaked to the marrow. You'd think that they'd be used to it, by now, but you don't really ever get used to any of what this place has to offer. Especially the smells.
'Black as Night' takes on a literal meaning, here. You can't see your hand in front of your face, and this night is no different. You stare into the darkness, and pretty soon, the eyes start playing tricks on you. Or are they? Shadows begin to move... But are they really there?
They're all beyond tired; no one can fathom what that means... to be that ragged, that exhausted... To know that you're so tired that you very well could fall asleep while standing up, if you allowed yourself. Yet, even when you have the chance to sleep... Doesn't mean that it's going to happen. With the mortar's nightly, random H&I missions, where the 81s, the 105s, or even the 155mm howitzers are firing sometimes just 10 yards behind your fighting hole, your head is left pounding, your ears ringing. You're scared sh-tless each time one fires. So much for some kind of rest. You have to accept that you're going a whole year without sleep, and you'll be dragging.
... And it's not just physical; it's in every possible way imaginable. Their very souls are tired. Nobody but them... nobody but those who are living this experience along with them will understand what that means. The weight of it. You'd also think that during yet another pitch-black night watch that drags on forever, that many of these men would have trouble staying awake between random mortars being fired off. Well, you'd be right.
... But that isn't allowed here, sleep. Falling asleep gets you killed. Gets your buddies killed. They figure out ways around it. Ways to remedy the problem. Turns out, the one who sleeps even less than they all do, has a solution. It may be a little unorthodox, but that doesn't matter... it works, and that's what counts. So, while on watch, continuously fighting the drooping of his eyelids, breath slowing... He sits with his K-bar balanced upright on his thigh. His elbow balancing on top of the razor-sharp blade. All it takes is one time for him to nod off, and that blade cuts clean into his arm. Problem solved. He will pass this trick onto his men. As time passes, he'll not only share what he knows; he'll lead with an iron fist, and care with an selfless heart. He'll be the first into the worst of situations, and the last to stand in line for chow. Even more, he'll never ask more of his men than he demands of himself. In fact, he's often hesitant to delegate in the hairiest of situations... And he has an uncanny sense for those; he can always tell when sh-t's about to hit the fan. The weight of ordering your men to do things that can kill them isn't something any human being can bear, but he has no choice but to... So he is extremely careful to pick and choose. Often times, this is why he decides to check things out, himself. Better him, than them. He's trying his best to get as many of them through this tour, and back home to their families. While his expertise and experience prove invaluable, there's still so much in war that he knows he can't control, and he'll feel the pang of utter helplessness in this endeavor throughout his extended tour.
The One Who Sleeps The Least has a heart so big -- that even in this place, where men learn quickly build a wall around it to survive -- he leaves a few bricks in his wall out of place, so he can feel as much as he can for those he is responsible for. That heart serves him well, in his position. He's their teacher, their father, their brother, a shoulder to lean on, a set of ears to listen, an occasional reliable azs-chewing... He's their lifeline. He's everything, and anything they need him to be, and he fulfills those roles with pride, with genuine care. He is helpful, friendly, light-hearted, interested in who each and every one of them is, and he wants to know their concerns, their fears... They are his top priority. He is a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, and on his shoulders, here in Vietnam, sits the responsibility of caring for these fine young Marines that he's dedicated himself to protecting. This is why he is The One Who Sleeps The Least.
Yet with that big heart, comes the desire for performance; he takes no excuses, and his standards are very high. He sees what his Marines can do, and he demands the best from them. It has to be this way. Some may wonder how his harsh methods of training, and his evident love for them balances out; it just does. He somehow strikes that balance, and his men soon see that this high bar he's set comes from the deep respect he has for them. Maintain your weapon, follow orders to the letter, pay attention during briefings. He'll help you perfect your topography skills so you can call in supporting fire, should you need to, and it's now your task to prove your proficiency by teaching the Marine next to you to do the same. Take care of your personal gear; grenades, trip flares, ammo, mags, food, water, and keep that rifle clean. Make the mistake of violating any of this, and you'll learn why many only make the mistake of doing that once. They're mortal men, but he sees what they are capable of. He can demand the best from them, and he knows they'll come through. And they do.
But so does he; the standards he sets for himself are even higher. He's beyond disciplined. He's going without, so that you can have that last C-Rat. He chooses to hump the extra ammo, mortar rounds, and grenades... He's desperately in need of sleep, but sees one of his men could use a friend, so he talks to that 18 year-old who just arrived in-country, and is left reeling from the chaos and terror of his first firefight. He's harder on himself, than he is on them. Here, he can't afford not to be.
There are no USO shows here; no Bob Hope, no Raquel Welch, dancing around in go-go boots. They're always working, and it's too dangerous for anyone else to be out here... They're either in the bush, setting up ambushes, clearing fields of fire with C4, setting up LPs (for the truly unlucky three who will have that particular detail this night), or on nightly watch. Then there's sh-t-burning detail, the daily digging and filling in of fighting holes, followed by digging more of them, after already having been humping outside the wire all day. They're beat, and they're about to get even more so. But even though they're worked like dogs, it's not that there's never going to be a possibility of seeing a USO show -- they'll get to go see one in Cua Viet, during Christmas -- it's just not happening, here. Nobody in their right mind would come out here, where they are. The killing fields.
Very rarely is there the opportunity for hot chow, unless in the forward rear, at LZ Stud. Also, an opportunity for a much-appreciated, much-needed shower, a little bit of rest, and a change in utilities. One of the trade-offs of this bit of down-time, is one of the companies having to be on Sparrow Hawk -- a quick reactionary force -- where ten to fifteen minutes notice is all you have before you hop a bird, and head into a firefight in progress. If the chopper isn't shot down, and if you can hit the ground fighting without being wounded, you may just get back to the rare luxury of not having to live like an animal for a bit. This leaves you the rest of the time, obviously without those amenities, dining on C-rats; that is, if you've actually got them. There are times where the AO is too hot to land in, taking heavy fire, and resupply with the much-needed C-Rats and ammo are delayed. But when those boxes of C-rats hit the ground, you'd think it was Christmas morning.
Peaches and pound cake are a delicacy. You can trade a pack of Lucky Strikes or Marlboros for them. Ham and Motherf-ckers are an acquired taste; but you'll take them, if you're starving. Most will, anyway. Those who return home, will do so with an ample amount of weight to regain, after this experience. Family and friends will remark how thin they've become. They know hunger as they know fear and loss. Well.
They haven't bathed in several weeks, at this point. They're as filthy as they can be. They spend most of their tour outside the wire. Sweat, clay, beyond - offensive body odor, all clinging to them, as if for dear life. They can barely stand themselves, being this dirty. Should one take off his trousers, they could stand straight up, stiff as a board, from the sweat and salt having repeatedly permeated the fibers. A very uncomfortable and disgusting feeling. You're always soaked, in the humidity. They long ago started to chafe, and have developed various rashes in their armpits, and other areas where sweat and dirt become trapped. Stinging, burning. Jungle rot sets in. Their feet are just about worn beyond recognition. Open sores plague their steps. Powder only does so much. It's a dire existence, from day to day, with just the predictable challenges, such as these... And it only gets harder. But, Grunts can handle it. And they do.
This day, in Quang Tri Province, one of the longer firefights has just ended, and they've lost ten Marines... Twenty-nine more have been wounded. There's not a whole lot being said. A heaviness hangs over them; a deep sorrow and grief that is sharply palpable, but can't ever be measured. They will shove it down, and they will continue on. There are no other options.
You learn not to get to close to the replacements; they're coming in all the time, but you set yourself up for more hurt, if you make friends with the FNGs. It's not a cold-hearted, 'I don't care about you' stance. Rather, it is an 'I care too much'. A protection of the heart. After a while, you begin to hate to feel. And as time passes, they become more proficient at this... Shoving it down, while trying to protect the heart. Another day, here.
To see them - though you won't find many over the age of twenty - to walk with them, is to walk with men who are far older than their young, yet worn faces let on... And their eyes tell much more than they, themselves will ever tell you. The oldest of them all, The One Who Sleeps The Least, just extended his tour by another six months. There are more to be led, to be cared for, and protected. He feels he belongs more here, in this sh-thole country, than he does back home. He doesn't want to leave them.
By nightfall, he makes his rounds, checking on his men in their fighting holes. Everyone is hanging in there. He will check on them several more times, throughout the night. He'll ask if they need anything. They wonder when he sleeps, if he sleeps... And you know, it doesn't matter how tired, how long he's gone without a meal, he's there to offer a joke, a broad, ear-to-ear grin; something to lift them up, inspire them to keep going another day, another night. They wonder how he does it; he can smile through times that tear men apart. He uses his crazy sense of humor to drive them on, and it works. That smile tells them that it's okay; reassurance that they can keep going. And they do. They look to him, and trust him with everything they have in them. They can't afford not to.
This night, when he finally settles into his own fighting hole, he will provide much-needed warmth for those two other Grunts next to him; his Radioman, and the one he just put on the M-79 a few weeks ago. The latter will joke years later, that The One Who Sleeps The Least was the only man he ever slept with. Only his fellow Marines will ever get that joke, and laugh. Others will wonder what the H-ll he's talking about, and or mistakenly find his humor to be off-color. They will not understand just how much the warmth of your brother's body meant, on a night where the cold reached your very core, and the dampness only helped to sharpen the bite. They'd do anything for each other, and in this fighting hole, an inseparable bond is built out of mutually-understood misery, and a promise: I am your brother, and I am your keeper.
When their boots hit the ground in-country, they walked in with having had the best training available to them. They didn't walk in blindly, as you hear some of what goes on from the others who have already been, or you're lined up before your tour, and told that the odds aren't good that you'll return... But there's no way to truly prepare for this; it's impossible... and once you're in it, it's nothing like you could have imagined. You rely on your training, your discipline, on each other, and most of all, The One Who Sleeps The Least. He is the one who says, 'I won't put my Marines into this situation... I'll Walk Point, I'll go first, check things out'. He's the one who waits until he's made sure that everyone has had some water, before he thinks of getting water for himself. He's just as beaten down as they are, but he knows that they need to come first; their working relationship, the trust he's built, relies on being consistent with them. They have to know that he cares about what they're all going through, and that he's willing to suffer it all alongside them.
When you're lonely, missing home, your family, or you've just received a letter from your wife or girlfriend, telling you that life has moved on without you... He's there, and he listens, intently. He wants to know. He wants to know about you, your interests, what you want to do when you get home -- if you've thought of any of that -- he remembers, too. He not only cares about each of them; he takes the time to show it, so that they make no mistake about it. In a time where you don't get too close, protecting your heart, enabling you to be efficient, face impossible odds and situations not meant for man to see, or experience... Here he is, opening his heart up to get to *really* know his men... Because that makes the difference between just another NCO, and the Squad Leader who will put you ahead of himself, every time. And he knows this. Each and every one of them, is worth opening his heart to them in this way. For him, they would move mountains. And they do.
On this day, he'll have to ask them to move yet another mountain. In fact, he's going to have to ask them to take one. They've just gone several days, low on water, low on ammo, waiting for resupply. It's been a h-ll of a week, and you can feel the misery in the air. They're in desperate need of some hot chow, fresh water, a chance to wash up -- even if it means bathing in a creek -- they need some kind of recuperation. He knows they beyond-deserve it. His heart is again, quite heavy, this day. He walks toward them, rubbing his forehead. That's not good. Seeing this, they know they're not being extracted just yet. The other shoe is about to drop. Anxiety starts to settle in amongst the young Marines. What now?
At dawn's light, they're taking Hill 400. An estimated 900 NVA are encamped toward the top. Thankfully, the choppers are able to make it in by early evening, bringing in more C-Rats and ammo. They'll at least get some kind of meal, and hopefully some sleep before the morning. Dead-tired as they are, there is no complaining amongst the squad; it's not the first time that they've taken on so much, and it won't be the last. Along with the Marines in the adjoining companies, they'll prepare as best they can, and when light begins to show across the sky, they'll set out together to do the impossible. By the time the day ends, more will have been lost, and those who survive will be extracted back to the forward firebase. Once again, that heavy silence will hang amongst them, and their hearts will ache with grief. The One Who Sleeps The Least will watch over them, check in on them, and do what he can for them. They know they can call upon him. Right now, he's not even dealing with his own hurt. He makes sure if they need anything, that he's here for them. Another day, here.
At this time, six months have passed, and his time has come. He long ago decided that he wasn't going to be one to return, and there is a strange ambivalence at the realization that he has survived. He's going home; but he is unsure of what he's coming home to. A new war will be fought, where he will learn to figure out how to fit into the world, after such an experience. The world to which he returns will treat him, and the others with a harsh, misplaced apathy. As if they ought to be ashamed to simply be. They won't stop to wonder what these brave souls have been through, or if how they are treating them is right. This makes the struggle of coming home even harder, and makes the wall around the heart stronger, more impenetrable. Many will choose to quickly fade into the background, and walk many years, alone. They'll shove it down, just like they learned to do over there. Those around him, around the others, won't realize the magnitude of the men they stand next to. The ignorant will not know their value, or recognize the extraordinary feats they've managed to pull off. Only those who have walked the same path, or the rare who know to stop and notice them, and are moved by their presence.
Yet, in this coming home, for The One Who Sleeps The Least... Part of him will be left here, left with his Marines. They have a piece of him, and he carries a part of each of them with him. It will linger for as long as they all live, regardless of the passing of time, regardless of the distance between them, regardless of what happens... But for now, his Marines watch him go, knowing that in his absence, his are impossible boots to fill.
These Marines -- as much as it may confuse or even offend their loved ones around them -- will never know this kind of love again, except with each other. It is a love that is forged only in raging fire. Where mortal men are tried to the very depths of their being. In times of desperation, where you are frightened, worn ragged, unsure of tomorrow. Where sorrow hangs on the heart like a heavy cloak that once put on, can never be taken off. It is a love that somehow ascends beyond the despair, and is reserved only for those who've walked this road together.
This Marine, who led his men by example... Who put his Marines before himself each, and every time. Who cared so little for himself, so that others might make it home, is treasured beyond what words could convey. Words will always fall terribly short. But if you were to ask his Marines, you'd see and feel the impact he left, without question... And if you open your heart to them, and listen closely, you'll walk away with an imprint on your heart, as well.
In the years that pass, they'll grow older, and work to make a life. Not a day or night will pass when the faces, the names, the memories won't make an appearance. This experience will affect their decision making, how they see life, and people around them. How they love, and every aspect of how they make their way in the world. It's hard, the separation from one another, after going through all of this together. That bond is just as strong as it was all those years ago. As if they just saw each other yesterday.
Those faces are no longer young, and though in many ways they have grown, and changed... There is much that stays the same. Their spirit. That love. For each other, they'd do it all, again. Therein lies their beauty.
Not a single one of them doesn't remember and treasure the One Who Slept The Least, and all that he gave for them; what they all gave for each other. Theirs is a selfless heart that is worth more than all one could ever acquire in the world... And for the Grunts who walked beside him through the land from which many never returned, he is etched into the hearts of those who walked that long road with him.
The Friendship Of The Marines
I miss the friendship of the Marines that I met and remember. I kinda like going to different locations of the world. Except the nam. Didn't care too much for certain Sgts that would abuse their rank. And that went to Second Lts who thought they were Generals. There was more good than there was bad. And the worst place I did not approve of was Montford Point, Camp LeJeune. Now here is where I met some Marines I wouldn't trust crossing a mine field with. Just a handful. These guys were mostly from the east coast. The others I would follow or trust.
The food wasn't too bad but having the Navy and AF or Army around at DaNang the food there was better. Well I could go on and on and on but I won't bore you all with what some of ya's will say it's all BS. I am proud to claim the title of U.S. Marine!
The Sgts. I refer to are SSgts.
Gently Wanted Your Attention
June 1948, Parris Island, arrived late in the day, greeted by my D I, Sgt MacMurtry, Plt 110. The following morning, was issued the pith helmet as was 71 other boots. Came in handy on our totally bald heads, they also cushioned the good Sgt's swagger stick when he gently wanted your attention, need I say more...
Semper Fi Marines!
Sgt Ernie Padgette
1st Mar Div.
Also a very proud member of the Chosin Few. 84 years old and still proud of the Corps.
Mike Btry, 4th Bn, 11th Mar, 1st Mar Div
Where are you! I left you June 14th, 1969 and you have disappeared. I tried to get information on what happen when I went home. One h-ll of greeting I got and to this day I still have bad feelings about the people who gave a warm wet greeting. (I think they call it spit.) Enough of that, still bitter. Getting back to Mike Battery, I know the 11th Marines are based out at 29 stumps, and one day I went to a funeral for Marine that passed on and while standing and holding an American flag at the gravesite, a Marine Major introduced himself that he was the CO of 11th Marines. We got to talking and I asked about the Battery and for some reason I never got a straight answer to the question where the h-ll are you. So I'm looking for help! I need to clear my head and any help would be great.
Ed Petravicz, E-5
Motor pool and you name it.
Marine Book Recommendations
I enjoy all the newsletters and also like to see reader recommendations re books. I recently purchased "One Million Steps: A Marine Platoon at War" mentioned by a reader of your newsletter. Stacey Churchill from MCA told me she was at a dinner about 18 months ago, and Bing West was there. I also learned about the "Sergeant Reckless" book from MCA. I do frequently check Amazon for Marine DVDs and books and am just finishing Level Zero Heroes by Michael Golembesky (really like this book except for language). Thank you.
I enlisted and went to San Diego. I later went to Vietnam, served in the drill field as a Drill Instructor and a troop handler at Camp Geiger! Thank God, I got out after my enlistment was up! I'm still a Marine at heart and always will be!
At Khe Sanh in '67: "Jingle Bells, Mortar Shells, VC in the grass.
You can take your Merry Christmas
And stick it up your azs!"
Robert A. Hall
I was stationed at Marine brackets Las Vegas, Nev. from '57 to '60. At one time we were issued pith helmets, they only lasted a short time as they became like rags. If there is anyone out there who was there at that time would like to hear from them. I was in "A" Company, Retired MSgt M.K. Hill, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. I enjoy this site and have purchased items thru them including hard to find items.
C-Rats... Think you better back up a little, You stated that you did not have C-rats from '60-'66. Well let me enlighten you cause you got your head up your ringer. We landed in RVN in '65 and our C-Rats was stamped 1947.
In re to "Pith Helmets". While enjoying my summer vacation at MCRD San Diego in 2000, once we went to Edson Range at Camp Pendleton, CA, for rifle qualification, our range coaches wore pith helmets. Once I made it to the FMF, I don't recall seeing anyone wearing the pith helmets. Things may have changed since my time though.
Sgt USMC '00-'07
"Put fear out of your heart. This nation will survive, this state will prosper, the orderly business of life will go forward if only men can speak in whatever way given them to utter what their hearts hold -- by voice, by posted card, by letter, or by press. Reason never has failed men. Only force and oppression have made the wrecks in the world."
--William Allen White
"To have striven, to have made an effort, to have been true to certain ideals -- this alone is worth the struggle."
--Sir William Osler
"I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon - if I can. I seek opportunity not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I want to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for a dole. I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect, proud and unafraid; to think and act for myself, enjoy the benefit of my creations and to face the world boldly and say, "This I have done."
"The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle... If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters."
"There are only two kinds of people that understand Marines: Marines and the enemy. Everyone else has a second-hand opinion."
--Gen. William Thornson, U.S. Army
"Freedom is not free, but the U.S. Marine Corps will pay most of your share."
This isn't the end of the newsletter... to improve delivery we've shortened the version that is sent to your inbox, so read the rest at our website! Next story: Pith Helmets And Khakis...
"You people are lower than whale sh-t... and that's at the bottom of the ocean!"
"Rise and shine, another day to serve the Corps!"
"You people are too slow, if you were in combat you'd be dead!
Merry Christmas and Semper Fi, Mac!