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AmericanCourage #216     24 DEC 2009

Merry Christmas from RCT-7 Marines in Afghanistan To all our friends and family back home,

Merry Christmas from Camp Dwyer, Afghanistan!

Grace and Peace,
Chaplain Andrew Wade
RP1 Rodney Bracey

Merry Christmas. As the picture above shows, there are Americans serving in dangerous places. We all should be thankful and grateful that some fellow Americans are still willing to protect us. May God Bless them all!
Sgt Grit

Merry Christmas Message

A borrowed quote;
"A good Marine goes home every night with two important things intact, his Honor and his Integrity."

I've been reading these newsletters for some time now and I find great comfort and pride in most of the content. My name is Patrick Moran and I am a former Marine. I joined the Marine Corps in 1980, I didn't go anywhere but Camp Pendleton, Ca. but I did have a great three year enlistment.

Due to a wife and two new babies, I left the Corps in 1983 with the belief that my Honor and Integrity were intact, that I had done my time and my share, that is until 2006, when my son Joshua joined the Army, (Tried the Marines and was turned down... another story.) and was sent to Iraq. Although I was incredibly proud, I guess the combination of a fathers love for his son and his need to protect him, and love of country and the fighting men who protect her, left me in anguish and feeling completely helpless. I began to believe that my Honor and Integrity were lacking, that maybe I didn't do my part, maybe I didn't do enough. I truly believed that if anything were to happen to Joshua in Iraq I wouldn't be able to live with myself.

I know, pretty ridiculous, but nevertheless it's how I felt. So I joined the National Guard, I tried the Marines and the Army and was told I was too old, the Guard even had problems with my age until they found out I was a former Marine, that and being in relatively good shape, I received a waiver and I was in. The first thing I did was volunteer for Iraq, and the first thing the Guard did was send me. I had done it, I was in Iraq at the same time Josh was and although we were 300 miles apart, I felt I was helping him and my country, I felt whole and useful once again.

It's 2009 and I'm home at my civilian job, I have a new wife of one year and we just bought our dream home, Josh came home and has since been medically discharged, he's doing fine and is a full time college student. Now the ironic part, I have three more years on my enlistment, I've been asked and agreed to go to Afghanistan next year. It's not that I want to go this time; it's that no matter the reasoning, I signed on the dotted line, I gave my word. Now I hear over and over from friends and family alike, "Josh is home now, you did your part, you went over and came back, you now have every reason in the world to stay home... why"? My reply to these folks; "I have every reason in the world to stay home... except two, Honor and Integrity".

I know now that my Honor and Integrity were always intact, and maybe that's whole reason that at 46 I went the first time, and at 49 I will go again.

I'm really not trying to toot my own horn here, just venting and very appreciative of both the forum to do it and the good folks who read from it. Thanks.

Corporal of the Marines
Specialist of the Army
Patrick M Moran

Thank you to everyone who sent an "Adopt a Marine" package to a deployed Marine this year. You'll never know what a great difference you've made to a Marine who doesn't get much mail from back home.

Don't let the arrival of Christmas stop you from continuing! Marines still need our support...just choose a package.

Adopt a Marine

And I Quote...

"And when you have served among good people, fellow Marines, some of whom you came to love with the same intensity as you do your own family, there are few others you will meet in your lifetime who can ever gain that same level of trust and respect."
--Senator Jim Webb, "A Time to Fight."

G'day Sgt. Grit,

In spite of being a Corpsman in that bad place, a sense of humor was one of my most important tools I used for my Marines. This picture was taken Christmas week 1966 near An Hoa. We were using a partially destroyed cement building for some shelter from the rains.

Father Christmas handing out REAL ground coffee and a few hoarded cigarettes in An Hoa 1966 Given a bit of orthopedic stockinette, cotton wool, merthiolate and adhesive tape... Father Christmas with his white beard and red hat made a call handing out REAL ground coffee and a few hoarded cigarettes. It has remained my favorite of the very few photographs we were able to take.

Semper Fi!
Doc 'chopper john' Patrick HM3

My thinking is that people who go to war are warriors. That doesn't mean that they live and support war. In fact, my gut and some discussions with other warriors is that we prefer peace. I taught the martial arts for 25 years. I began every class with the statement, as I bowed to the class and pushed a closed fist into an open palm, that the fist represent war, the open palm represents peace. We are capable of both but prefer peace over war. That is not say that I would not fight again. Of course I would. The reason must make sense to me, such as an attack on our Country like the one that occurred on 9/11.

When I came back and landed in California - El Toro - we were greeted by wives and families of Marines who were in the terminal offering coffee, cake and cookies, etc. They welcomed and thanked us. It was a glimpse of what we all hoped to hear. I do not think we served in order to get thanks but because we did serve, we appreciated hearing those sentiments. It did not take long upon leaving the base that protesters who were outside the gates with signs and verbal invectives who judged us, believed we acted in certain ways and placed disgraceful motives to those actions. I accept and acknowledge that I fought and other Marines and I survived. I also acknowledge and carry in my heart and values, those who did not. I was shocked. Americans were condemning us.

I attended my brother's wedding. He and my sister-in-law postponed their wedding until I could attend and be one of the grooms men. I had been home 2-3 days and was in uniform. At the reception I was confronted by a non-military person with a bandanna around his neck who saw my ribbons and did not think much of me. He challenged me to justify myself and my fellow Marines. Instead of walking away, I grabbed his bandanna and dragged him across one of the tables where people were to sit and have a meal. I told him to make sure I never saw him again because, well, you know the words and sentiment I conveyed to this guy. If dragging a guy across a table at a wedding reception does not dampen the festivities, I don't know what will! It is a story we now talk about in my family. My brother knew this guy and told me he was an as%h*le, pure and simple.

I share this story here with you because I do not talk about my experiences. When I am asked about Viet Nam I usually respond that it was a tough way to make a living. My goal is to deflect the question rather than engage in any conversation about it. I am guarded in this area of my life experience. I think people are curious, nothing more. I do not want to satisfy someone's curiosity. They can read a book.

I support our Marines and all others who serve. This summer we lost a Marine in my town. The town came out and honored him and his family. Though very sad, it was also very meaningful and touching for everyone. I wore an EG&A from my uniform on my jacket. People came up to me, asked if I had served in the USMC and thanked me for my service. I, too, thanked others for their service.

I write this long note as way to thank my fellow Marines, particularly, for their service.

God Bless You and Semper Fi.

Cpl - USMC
RVN - 1968-69

Birthday ball Photo Contest

I have been blessed as so few have. Not only did I earn the title Marine...

Cpl Thornton 1982

... but I also had the opportunity to return to MCRD Parris Island 27 years, 74 days later...

Cpl Thornton 27 years later

... when my son earned the title Marine as well!

Cpl Thornton and son

Old Corps. New Corps. It's our Corps!

Cpl Thornton's son posing in front of entrance to Parris Island main building

Semper Fidelis!
Thornton, M.A.
USMC Cpl. '82-'86

And I Quote...

"The commitment of our forces to this fight [Iraq] was done with the casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions - or bury the results."
--Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbolt, USMC, Ret.

Recently I was in the parking lot of Costco's in my neighborhood. I was pulling out of a parking spot and I heard someone beeping their horn. I didn't pay any attention to it at first. Then I heard the beeping again. Now I'm starting to wonder what was the problem. I looked to my side and saw a seventyish White guy pointing to his cap. On the cap was the EGA. The old guy had apparently seen the EGA decal on the back of the sixtyish Black guy's car and wanted to affirm the camaraderie of the Corps. I threw him a snappy salute. We both smiled and went on our way feeling good that even in our senior years we kept the spirit of the Corps.

Also recently, A guy saw my Marine Corps tie clip and asked me if I was a "ball and a bird" also. For a millisecond I did not know what the h&ll this guy was talking about. But then I saw that he was looking at my Marine Corps tie clip and I caught on. I said yes, we shook hands and gave each other a "Semper Fi".

I had never heard that term before.

W. Joseph, L/Cpl., "60"-"64"

I attended a Marine Corps graduation ceremony on Nov 17, 2006. After 37 years ( I attended my own graduation in December of 1969) the memories and sights and sounds left me with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Upon my return a friend asked me why I would even want to go, there was no explanation I could give that could convey an answer that would make sense to anyone who had not been through the experience.

Many things had changed since the time I went in, there were PFC's scattered throughout the ranks whereas there was only one PFC promoted in each squad when I went through training. The guide on bearers still had the dress blues but there was one company honor man who was a lance corporal. I could not believe the amount of PFC's in each of the graduating platoons but was flabbergasted to see a promotion to E-3 straight out of boot camp.

To my surprise I also learned that each Marine was issued a pair of dress blues after graduation. I never got them since it seemed an expense beneath my means at the time and only the platoon honor man received them. The same espirit-de-corps was evident throughout the ceremony and when the company commander told his men to greet the audience I felt as if I was hearing a jet engine, the sound was deafening.

I had originally hoped to see if I could find the old metal Quonset hut I drilled in along with the old showers but since everything was mostly gone I settled on a walk through old familiar territory. The memories were stronger than I ever thought they would be but I was happy to see they did not take all of the old Quonset huts down. Sadly the area was in disarray, as I remember raking the dirt before sleep and thinking what a letdown it was to see my history so shabbily displayed. I would hope that the upper brass would recognize the historical significance of this area and keep it as pristine as I once proudly did.

I, as many others, regret not having served a full commitment of 20 years but during my time, after going to Vietnam, my pride was not shared with the civilian world and I did not feel the same then, or now, I frequently talk with other veterans and although I was an (RAMF) Rear area Mother f..... we all served and no other veteran has said anything negative about my not being in combat, I was there and had even volunteered (selfishly to get out of Camp Lejeune) which I and many others considered to be the armpit of the universe (hated that junk on the bunk) it was a lonely time, but the rejection of my country seemed the worst of all. To those who served a full tour, I applaud them and wish I had been stronger in my choice, the brotherhood never dies however and I still see Marines who made the same decision as me, only to say it was the greatest experience of their life. God bless the Corps and all who served, I am proud to have been one of the few, the proud, the Marines.

Edmund Hruscik (Sgt) 1969-1972

CPL Bemetz customized Marine Corps vehicle

Always nice to hear proud parents of Marines. I serve now with the Patriot Guard as a civilian Marine from the Vietnam Era. Just wanted to send best wishes to you and yours.

Cpl Anthony F Bemetz

And I Quote...

"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war...shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation."
--General George Washington, 1789.

Dear Sgt. Grit-I would like to relate this short story to you because it meant so much to me as i am sure it will my fellow Marines.

A few days before Christmas last year my wife and i were at the mall doing some last minute Christmas shopping. We had stopped for a second looking into a stores window when i heard a young man say, "Excuse me Sir". I turned to see a young man in this late teens standing there with his hand extended. He said, I would just like to shake the hand of a hero. I thanked him and shook his hand and he told me he had just enlisted in the Corps and was heading to San Diego to Boot Camp right after the holidays. I could see the pride in this young man's eyes and hear it in his voice. I shook the young man's hand and wished him well but i couldn't help but think, I am a hero, no, this young man going off to boot and then to defend his country is the hero. It meant so much to me to have this young man recognize my service and thank me for it, so the next time you see the EGA on a jacket-on a cap-on a car or wherever-stop for a second shake their hand and thank them for their service and give them a big ol OOOORRRRAAAAHHHH SEMPER FI my BROTHER- for we truly are "A Band of Brothers"

Larry E. Maxwell Sgt.
USMC, 1968-1972

Hello Sgt. Grit

Sgt Skyler Whalen My name is Emily Whalen, I am happily and proudly married to Sgt. Skyler Whalen. We get a lot of things from your very nice online store you have put together. He is home for about 10 more days and then he is going back to afghan I couldn't live without your store I could build a dog house from all the nik-naks I got. I had an old Marine salute me yesterday he saw me emblem on every window of my truck and it just made me feel like shouting out to you were getting Skyler a Marine Corps Saddle made for Christmas his 2 most loved things n one i will send you an image of what it looks like you might get a kick out of it.

Sincerely Emily Whalen

My lunch with Lee Marvin...back in the early eighties, not long after receiving my retirement orders to CivPac, I happened to be in Culver City CA (which is actually where a lot of the "Hollywood" stuff is...) on a business call (well, actually, was there to fix a wheelchair lift on a Culver City transit bus). Got the job taken care of and decided to stop into a "Bob's Big Boy" for some lunch...sat down at one end of the counter, ordered and got my salad. About that time, this big guy with about size sixteen feet (I mean, they were huge.....didn't fit on the little step ledge...) comes in and sets down about four stools over. Don't. think at the time that I was aware that Lee Marvin was a Marine, or I would have spoken to him, but it was one of those things that gets your attention. He ate whatever it was that he ordered, paid, and left. I had some time to kill, and needed another cup of coffee (AKA 'lifer juice') anyway. When the waitress came over, I asked her, indicating the now empty stool, "Do you KNOW who that was!???). She snapped her gum, and nonchalantly replied: "Oh, that's Lee Marvin...comes in here all the time...not much of a tipper, though..." I took the hint...

For them as didn't get around much....'Bob's Big Boy' was the chain of restaurants that had the fiberglass statue of the fat little guy out front, holding up a Big Boy in the South, it was Shoney's...same statue......

Donald Dickerson

Note: They are known as Kips Big Boy in Oklahoma. The night before I read this story two friends, my wife and I went out to look at Christmas displays. In one of Oklahoma City's most affluent neighborhood we find as part of a Christmas lawn display a large Kips Big Boy statue. We all did a triple take on that. And then got in to a discussion of all the different names it is known by.
Sgt Grit

Note: He may not be much of a tipper. But the movie with him as a Marine and Japanese soldier stranded on the island is great. Very funny scene of him p!ssing on the J*p from a cliff. Don't like the ending, very PC.
Sgt Grit

The word J a p has started showing up as not acceptable in some of your provider's filters.

And I Quote...

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."
-- H.L. Mencken

I'm an old former Marine (Sea Duty, 3-1, 2-9, 2-26)

In reading a column today by Bob Herbert, (yes, he writes for the NEW YORK TIMES), he comments that only 1% of Americans are being called to fight our wars. He calls this "obscene", and I agree. He goes further to quote our first Commander in Chief;

"It must be laid down as a primary position as basis for our system, that every citizen who enjoys the protection of a free government owes not only a portion of his property, but even his personal service to the defense of it."

The next time I hear someone say, "we should just go in there and take care of business" I am going to quote General Washington. I will do so, because almost all of them have never felt the recoil of a M -1 or M-16. Also, they have never heard the unique sound a AK-47 makes when you are down range from it.

Semper Fi!

Ray Robinson

A couple of weeks ago, on a Friday night, I was at the local VFW, to listen to one of my favorite local bands. A man with white hair approached me, and asked if I was a Marine. I responded yes, and he asked where I had served. Upon stating I had been in Nam 68-69, and various other stations as fits a tour of sixteen years, I asked him when he was in. He indicated he had been in 63-68. I asked him who he was with in Nam, and he shot me a look that could have killed; and responded, "I don't talk about that!", and "Why would you want to talk about that?" He emphasized "Why would you want to talk about that?" three or four times.

I'm sorry, but I have yet to find a fellow Marine who spent time in Nam, who won't tell another Marine who he was with. In fact, I have found it pretty cathartic to be able to talk with fellow vets about the time spent there, and places we have been. I got a funny sense about the guy, so I approached the former Commandant of the local MCL, who is a friend of mine, and a retired Colonel. I pointed the guy out to him and asked if he knew him. After explaining that the guy would not talk about his service, my friend indicated he didn't know the guy had served, but that he had recently been released from prison and was well known to say just about anything to anyone. I was also informed the word would be passed to the rest of the Marines to keep an eye on him.

That's all I want to say about that!

I do want to wish a very Merry Christmas, and a happy and prosperous new year to all of you who make Sgt Grit work.

Semper Fi
GunnyPink, USMC

Dear Sgt Grit,
The one thing I have never seen is anybody that has ever told about how it is to be the Son of a Marine . My dad served in WWII in the Pacific . Guam , Iwo Jima as well as Bougainville were some of where he went. He and 2 buddies survived a mortar round that landed in fox hole they were in because it was a dud.

I was brought up with yes sir, no sir, elbows off table, sit up straight, and above all else don't slouch , There was God ,and country as well as Marine Corps values instilled in me at an early age . Did it hurt me no indeed as far as I'm concerned that made me a stronger person.

Those values were so instilled that I found where he had a Bronze Star had been awarded to him but he never got it . So I did what any good well brought up Marine brat would do, I sent for his medal by writing the Commandant of Marines and asked if there was any way he could receive it on the anniversary of the award, or on the birthday of the Marine Corps , and even to the point of by his birthday in January. Well it did arrive on Nov. 10 1984 , 40 years after he should have gotten it but really I didn't care so long as he got it.

When he was presented the award I was so proud of him. The Corps in Greensboro held the cake ceremony and presented him with his award . Best part of all this is that he knew nothing about what was being done and I had a part in it the only thing I had to do was to tell him the truth when my mom made him call me and asked what I was doing because every time he talked about going to the recruiting office she'd try to stall him . All I told him was that I put him in for his award and didn't have any idea as to how or when he'd get it.

I asked him one day when I got older. Was it me or did you run the house the same way you did in service? He said son I was a Platoon Sgt and I had the lives of men under me in my hands and when I gave an order it was obeyed since their lives where in my hands and the wrong command could get them killed. I understood a lot then and do I ever enjoy talking to WWII Marines or for that matter any Marine. Because when he died that Band of Brotherhood came together with cards, letters, and one of the guys he knew sent me a photo of my dad I didn't have.

I think all Marines are special they go in harm's way and yet do not forget their buddies 40 years later. They may not see one another for a long time yet that bond is there especially when tragedy strikes the family of a buddy or at reunions. When they say once a Marine always a Marine truer words never came out so eloquently

To all Marines past and present Merry Christmas and Semper Fi and if at all possible go to the Marine Corps Museum . It's awesome and a fitting tribute to every Marine that ever put on the uniform

Frank H. Dilger

And I Quote...

"It is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth -- and listen to the song of that siren, till she transforms us into beasts. ... Are we disposed to be of the number of those, who having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not?"
--Patrick Henry

First, I want to say how much I enjoy reading your newsletters every week. I also want to thank you for all the high quality "moto" gear that I have enjoyed from your store over the last few years. Whenever I need something Marine-related you are always where I turn to first.

Rhondie's Semper Fidelis tattoo. I also wanted to tell you about my husband, who has served in the Marine Corps Infantry for 9 years. He left just over a month ago for his second combat deployment. He first deployed to Iraq in 2003 and now he is currently serving in Afghanistan. Words cannot express how proud I am of my husband and the sacrifices he continues to make for our country. Before my husband left he was describing to me how several Marines he knew had their wives just up and walk out on them, unwilling to go through the deployment with them. Well that made me really angry to hear! Just as Marines have a code of honor, so do Marine wives. When we said "I do," we were making a promise to stand by our Marines through thick and thin. So to show my husband that I am behind him 100% I went and got this tattoo just before he left. True love is not weakened by a deployment - it is made stronger. Thank you to all the Marine spouses and significant others that stand faithfully by their Marines through good times and through hard times.

Semper Fi,
Rhondie Tait
Wife of Sgt. Isaac Tait

I wear my Marine Vietnam Veteran "stuff " and Nam ribbon on a lot of my shirts , jackets etc.. for these reason...
(1) For the 58,000+ Nam Veterans that can t wear them....
(2) That Is who I am and always will be, I'm not ashamed of it..
(3) For the Nam Veterans who might be still afraid to wear it because they may be still in shock for the way they were treated and what they were called when returning from the Bush. Sometimes I think I have met all of them...))-:
(4) Can t tell you how many Nam Vets that I might have helped " come out of the closet " when after seeing my "stuff " they'll come over and say " Hey, you were in Nam..? So was I , but never really wanted to talk about it "! Then after a short or long talk we part with a " Welcome Home" some tears, A big hug and a hand shake...! ((-:
(5) One of my Favorites... To P!ss off all the anti-war, M.Fs. Old and New that hate the U.S. and didn't / won't lift a hand to defend the country / Soldiers that gave them the right to act like Coward that they are.. They sure as S*** don't say anything to me.
(6) A Surprise added benefit.... While living in Israel I can't tell you how many IDF Soldiers..Men + Women I have met that, in just about every contact possible, have said in ....Aw, I still don't understand.... " YOU were in Nam..? Really..? and in the Marines...? Wow...! Still to this day.. being a little embarrassed... "I Thank them but let them know that after 40+ yrs I'm still kinda wondering what the h&ll we were really fighting for over there ...BUT.... I so respect them because in every sense of the word they ARE fighting for the safety and existence of their Country... " The State of Israel " and the very existence of the Jewish people. "

To bring a smile to their face I add that most Nam Veterans that I have talked to, including me, would rather fight in the Jungle then the Hot, No Hiding Places, no water Desert. S***... Give me a stream of water with leaches then the hot sun , sand and scorpions.... ANY DAY..

You get a 1,000 % more respect from these Israeli Men and Women today than we ever got from American Men + Women back in the 60s + 70s

NUFF SAID...! ..... Shalom, Tikvah + Semper Fi J.V. ((-:

ps.... One of the things I try to do every a result of what is written when I come in contact with a group of IDF Soldiers, in passing - taking photos - talking to them...I ask " who speaks the better English ?? and when someone responds I ask them " Please let them all know " Toda Raba - Thanks much... for Serving " and off I go.. because the rain starts on my face I feel so blessed that I am able to do that...! Don't get bedda den dat...!

In reply to Jeff Zgorzelski
I sure wish my husband would be as proud of himself you are. My husband came from a wonderful loving family. He learned early on to value your possessions and the meaning of, "earn your keep."
My husband enlisted in the Corps just after high school servicing 1974-78. His family wasn't rich, and he needed a job, so he joined the Corps; they have the best dressed uniform he said.
Our oldest son has wanted to be a Marine since he was barely able to walk; follow in his dad's footsteps ... but make the Corps a career.
After graduation from high school in 2008 David was off to MCRD in San Diego; yes a Hollywood Marine just like his dad. Just two days ago our sons Company left Afghanistan; this tour was up. His on his way back to Okinawa to remember what a hot shower and a clean bed are like.
He has said he would have never believed it gets so warm till now. Our son said that you can actually crack and fry an egg on a skillet...with out a flame. The temperatures were that hot this past summer.
We have yet to see our youngest Marine; he should be home in 21 days.
My husband is so very proud of our son, and his brother who is also a Marine, but he doesn't hold his head high.
He says he didn't have a choice in regards to serving, that his being an Avionics Tech wasn't anything special.

My Christmas wish is that someday my husband will finally be able to see that he did make a difference, he was important to the Corps, to our country.

The proud wife and mom of United States Marines

And I Quote...

"One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them."
--Thomas Jefferson

Hi! Grit; These were taken Dec. 5th up here in NH. What a great turn out again this year.
Merry Christmas to you and your crew. Keep up the good work.

Photo of wreaths placed throughout cemetery Photo of wreaths placed throughout cemetery Group of marines posed in front of truck Marines standing in front of monument with a wreath placed at the foot of the monument. Group of Marines standing in front of United States Marines monument Sorting out the wreaths

Semper Fi!
Joe Shea PDD MCL Dept NH

Book Review

Before I say another word, I want to go on record as saying that I was not a combat Marine in Vietnam. I was a radio repairman with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine regiment, 1st Marine Division. I was never in combat, and fired my weapon in anger only one time - well, more in fear than in anger - and the target was a solitary figure in the wire about 2- or 3 o'clock in the morning. My Vietnam experience was endless guard duty, 24-hour workdays, and getting drunk on my nights off. I spent a few days under six months in country at LZ Baldy, near the town of Hoi An, south of Da Nang.

For years, I had what I suppose was akin to survivor's guilt about not having been in combat. I was just an REMF (ask a veteran about that) and didn't feel I really deserved to call myself a veteran. The feeling was made stronger by a couple of smart-mouthed jackasses who, upon reflection, probably had even less claim to the title than I. In the early '80's I was attending UNM, and met a fellow who had served two tours with the 5th Marines as a machine gunner. Whether he really had or not is not relevant to this anecdote, because he gave me something very, very valuable. I told him of my feeling of unworthiness and he shut me up right quick. "Look," he said. "You put your [sensitive masculine body part] on the block. The axe didn't fall. It's not your fault. Get over it and get on with your life." Thinking back on that fellow, I don't recall his ever telling a single war story. I think he was probably the genuine article.

For my 58th birthday, my brother gave me a gift certificate for Border's Books. With that certificate, I bought a book called, "Unheralded Victory - the Defeat of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army - 1961-1973," by Mark W. Woodruff, Ballantine Books, 1999. The back cover says that Woodruff was a Marine in Vietnam, and that his book puts forth the idea that the war was an overwhelming victory for American arms. With an eye wary for revisionist propaganda, I started the book. By the time I'd finished it, I was proud, enraged, bitterly depressed, furious, really, really proud, and madder than a sonofab!tch.

The book is 344 pages of text with a few photographs, 28 pages of footnotes, and 6 pages of bibliography. It does NOT include the famous photo of the naked little girl running from an American napalm strike, nor of the ARVN general blowing the brains out of a Viet Cong.

Woodruff sets the stage for America's involvement in the war with a very brief history of the region, and a description of the world political atmosphere in the mid-50's. To wit, there had been bad blood between the north and south for generations - bad enough to include several wars and a good deal of bloodshed. The French had tried to reclaim their colony after WWII, but couldn't simultaneously feed that war and keep a legitimate army in France to bolster NATO. The Russians were rattling cages all over the world, and the US was extremely anxious that France be a major player in NATO. The French said they could only do that if we'd support them in Indochina. We supported them with money and material, but no troops. (I have read elsewhere that Ike's cabinet discussed using tactical nukes to relieve the siege of Dien Bien Phu, but Woodruff does not bring this up.) After the French walked out, we already had many of millions of dollars invested in the region, and a vested interest in stopping the spread of Soviet and Chinese communism. The South Vietnamese asked us for help, and we gave it.

The first myth that Woodruff demolishes is that the war was a civil war. It was not. It was a war of conquest by the North. Period. Funded and equipped by the Russians and Chinese, the North Vietnamese recruited, trained, and equipped entire divisions of Viet Cong. The early VC were NVA in all but uniform and name - a far cry from the barefoot, freedom fighter militia the world press loved to paint them.

The second myth Woodruff tears up is of the efficiency of the VC as fighters. They were dangerous, and given an advantage, could do some damage. But the US and Australian military knocked the snot out of them on a regular basis. The main force VC were especially well-equipped and trained, but never learned to cope with the lightning reflexes of American company and platoon leaders, nor the savagery of the American air-ground team. (Woodruff is also generally complimentary of the ARVN, and especially so of the South Vietnamese Marines and Paratroops, and backs up his opinion with quotations and statistics from both sides.)

The first action that saw US troops meet NVA was, likewise, a serious butt-whuppin' for the North: The Marines' Operation Starlite. The Aussies gave them a shellacking at Long Tan. The US Army killed more than 3,000 NVA in the series of actions generally called the Battle of Ia Drang. Americans and Aussies died in those actions, but they gave better than they got, by orders of magnitude. Woodruff offers a list of 66 actions in which the enemy lost more than 500 men each, prior to June of 1968!

Typical of Woodruff's analysis of these events is a quote by Army general Kinnard: "When General Giap says he learned how to fight Americans and our helicopters at the Ia Drang, that's bullsh!t! What he learned was that we were not going to chase him across a mythical line in the dirt." I have read Giap's claim in many books, but never Kinnard's refutation of it.

I have long known that the Tet offensive in January and February of 1968 was an unqualified catastrophe for the Communists, especially the VC. What amazed me was the degree to which I have been misled by the American media reports of that action. For example, I'd always believed the VC had taken most of the US embassy in Hue. In fact, they never got into the buildings. The Marine guards and a couple of soldiers on the grounds shot them down like dogs as soon as they crossed the fence. Another example: how long after the war was it made generally known that the VC murdered many hundreds of civilians in Hue and the surrounding area? We were finding the graves for years. The Tet offensive was not the masterfully organized thunderbolt we've been lead to believe. Some NVA outfits jumped off a full day early, so poor was their organization, due in no small part to the intense pressure put on their supply and communication lines by aggressive patrolling. Woodruff does not take a particle from the fighting ability and spirit of the NVA. He shows the courageous stand in the Citadel of Hue for what it was, and gives them full credit. But he doesn't perpetuate the myth of their being superior to us in any way.

The Allied commanders were congratulating themselves on a brilliant victory, and were dumbfounded to read in the world's press that they'd been defeated! General Giap, likewise, was amazed to see what the press had made of his debacle. It was at this point that he realized he had divisions and Corps unnumbered in the copy rooms and news-stands of the world. He began to attack US troops with the specific intent of causing casualties in order to play his new-found ace for all it was worth.

Khe Sanh gets a chapter of its own, and, like Tet, Woodruff tells a story I'd never heard before. Grossly underestimating the resolve, toughness, and flexibility of the Americans - and their willingness to carpet bomb entire grid squares - Giap figured he'd blow past the little post at Khe Sanh and flood the south with men and supplies. As the American press was portraying the Marines at Khe Sanh and the Special Forces at Lang Vei as demoralized, whipped, and scared, Giap's divisions were being more than decimated. In the end, he pulled in his horns and slunk back across the DMZ and into Cambodia and Laos, being saved only by the totally arbitrary and whimsical sense of propriety of Washington. Unlike Meade at Gettysburg, the victorious Americans and South Vietnamese were more than ready and able to annihilate the routed enemy.

The reason so many Blacks were killed? According to Black writers and leaders, it was because they volunteered to go where it was hottest. They'd found a way to be, not just equal, but superior, and they took it. Where else have you heard this perspective?

Did the American's fixation on body count lead to wildly exaggerated claims of enemy casualties? I heard from one of our grunts that if they found a foot, a hand, and a head, they counted three enemy dead. Based on that, I'd always looked with contempt on the published figure of 500,000 enemy dead. However, in the late '70's, Hanoi admitted to more than 1.1 million! Hanoi admitted that!

According to Woodruff, drug use in the US military was less than in the general population in the States, especially in combat units. This is one particular point that has challenged me. I have said that in the six months I was in country, my battalion lost 16 men to drug overdoses. Now I know for a fact there was at least one, because it was a fellow from my platoon. However, being encouraged by Woodruff to really ask myself where I got that number, I must admit it came from scuttlebutt. I have thereby resolved to do some research and see just what the real number was.

There is a short chapter on men who lied about their service - some of them so convincingly that they became leaders of veterans organizations, or even counselors to veterans! How many times have we all heard claims of individuals having been in the SEALS, Recon, Green Berets, LRRPS, Operation Phoenix, or other elite organizations? I have met not less than 100 men who claimed to have been in one - or sometimes two! - of these elite groups. I've met a dozen Navy Cross claimants, but not one of them appears on the official list of recipients - ditto Silver Stars. Oddly, I've never met anyone who claimed to have the Medal of Honor. Could it be that at least one thing is held sacred by liars? I've probably met two dozen who claimed to have been assassins with Operation Phoenix. Unfortunately, some of these clowns have received a great deal of attention from the press, and even after their lies have been made known, the press has never recanted or withdrawn the articles and programs.

Woodruff goes to some length to discuss the stories of American troops being abused on their return to the States. This is one item on which I'm unwilling to grant his point. He says that documentable cases of people spitting on veterans or otherwise assaulting them are extremely rare. He posits that most of the stories are hearsay - "A buddy of mine said..." or "...the buddy of a buddy said...." Until, over time, the stories have achieved the status of unimpeachable fact. Now, I know for a fact that when we landed at Seattle for refueling, we were allowed to walk through the terminal for a little while. A few people threw garbage at us and sneered. At least one b!tch yelled, "Babykillers!" to the group I was with. That is not hearsay. Other than this, though, I must admit to believing without questioning what I've heard from other veterans. Perhaps Woodruff has a point, but I'll have to see some more serious research done by someone who has no political axe to grind.

In chapter after anecdote after statistic, Woodruff lays down an unassailable case to show that we not only whipped the VC and NVA, we utterly destroyed their will and ability to wage war. This was not, as it has been patronizingly called, a case of winning the battles but losing the war. We won the stinking war, too! The NVA withdrew from the fight. The VC were reduced to starving bands of hoboes and bandits, able to do nothing more than mine a footpath or murder the odd schoolteacher.

Giap, with his allies in the press and the US antiwar movement, broke our government's will to win. No, that's not exactly it. They convinced our government that we'd lost the war, after we'd already won it! Woodruff devotes several chapters to exposing specific lies and mythology about the war, from "combat correspondents" who never left the Saigon whore houses, or who deliberately and knowingly fabricated stories about the wily Viet Cong making fools of the fat Americans, and on and on and on. Eddie Allen, the man who took the photo of General Loan killing the VC, bitterly regretted what had been made of his photo. (The VC had just confessed to having slit the throats of Gen. Loan's best friend and entire family, including several children.) Other correspondents and photographers are quoted expressing regret about how their work was either ill-advised, inaccurate, or twisted for propaganda's sake. Where have you ever heard anything like that?

And you know what makes me just absolutely pig-bitin' mad? The bast*rds are doing the same thing again in Iraq! Exactly the same thing! Treason is too weak a word for what they are doing.

This book was obviously a very powerful experience for me. I don't know just yet what I'm going to do about it, but I think I need to take some action to get Woodruff's message out. I wish to goodness my own kids would read this book, because it gives a stunning portrait of the power of the press to manipulate a nation's resolve. This is not just a history lesson; we are seeing this same thing again every day. It is absolutely current events!

I recommend "Unheralded Victory" without reservation to veterans of Vietnam or other wars. (My own father, a Marine veteran of WWII, once sneered at me and said, "At least my generation never got their asses kicked by a bunch of gooks!") I recommend it to all Americans, including Americans of Vietnamese descent. I recommend it to all members of the press, including those who would write books or produce video works on the present war, whether fiction or non-fiction.

And I've just got to say it again: We whipped those suckers to a fare-thee-well, and we didn't lose the war. The war was won before the politicians went back and gave it away later.

To my fellow Vietnam veterans, "Well done and welcome home."

Semper Fidelis,
Wess Rodgers
2nd Btn, 5th Marines
RVN 1970-71

And I Quote...

"A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks."
--Thomas Jefferson

Sgt Grit
I recently returned from vacation time seeing my Daughter/Son in Law/Grandson in Calif. It also included visiting an old friend in Los Angeles. While visiting in LA, I had the opportunity to see the sights followed by chow at a deli. I was wearing a tee- shirt I had purchased at MCRD, San Diego. An older woman seated at a nearby table asked me if I was a Marine to which I replied "Yes I am". Her eyes lit up and she quietly said She had been a Marine during WWII. I took her hand and told her she still is a Marine and thanked her for her time in. Typical of her generation she downplayed her time in as a Marine. I let her know Hers is a legacy that is carried out by Today's Marines