Here is a picture of the group that attended the Lima 3/5 Unit Reunion that served in Vietnam from 1965 - 1971 in Arlington, Texas this year in June.
Mary Anne Hand
aka Flames Diva
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Legion of Merit
I bought your black leather belt with gold buckle and raised Marine Corps Emblem, BKB2.
It is absolutely perfect!!! The belt has no holes in it. The buckle slides along and locks in place where you want it.
The designer should receive a Legion Of Merit. Oh yes, I bought the 41" model. Even though I'm 85, I still lift weights and exercise twice a day. And my waist size is 38".
George Goodson, LtCol, USMC, (Ret)
Get this great belt at:
Silver Buckle w/ Gold Eagle, Globe, and Anchor and Leather Ratchet Belt
I spent 7 months at Cherry Point after Nam, and before I got out after being there a few weeks, I ran into Cpl Larry Shamus from 11th Marines. We were buddies in Nam. He lived in Pittsburg. Six hundred miles from Havelock, NC. We swooped every weekend for 5 months. On a good weekend we could do the 600 miles in 9 hours. I had a '69 Plymouth Roadrunner and could seat 5 plus me. At 15 dollars a head, I had all the money I needed for gas, partying in Pittsburg, and still had money left over. ($75 doesn't buy sh-t now). I dropped most of my passengers off somewhere along the PA Turnpike and picked them up Sunday afternoon on the way back. Most Sundays we didn't get back to Cherry Point until 2-3am. Which made Monday mornings a bit of a challenge.
We would stop for gas at the same stations. Each had a duty, like a pit stop. One would start the gas pump, one would get pop, candy, etc... we each took our turn in the head in order, another would finish the pump and back on the road we would be within minutes. Great stuff to be back in the "World" with cash, a car, buddies.
We even timed the tool booth baskets to catch the money. We knew how long it took the coins to register... never stopped. Kinda rolled past, threw the coins in, light changed from red to green and I would floor the Roadrunner. Vrrroommm!
Make Sgt Grit your one stop shop for all of your Uniform Supplies such as medals, ribbons, and mounts. Mounting orders may take up to 7-10 business days to ship.
Missing Out On So Much
This afternoon while taking care of some personal business, a man approximately 90 years old stopped me and asked if I was a Marine (I had a cover on that identified me as such). When I told him I was, he stuck out his hand and said, "shake hands with a Marine brother that you have never met." Semper Fi's were exchanged and then I asked him when he served and he then told me his unit... on Iwo Jima. I immediately stood a little more erect. Almost like I should be standing at Attention while addressing this man. Naturally I had to shake his hand one more time and tell him how much appreciation that he deserved. His answer... He didn't want thanks. He was just doing his duty. When he asked me when I served and I told him Vietnam Era, he then started to thank me. This is the 3rd or 4th Iwo Veteran or Chosin Reservoir Veteran that I have met and talked to, and every one of them has the same response. They don't want thanks. They were just doing their duty. But, then they turn around and thank me for my service. Every time I tell them, that I don't make a pimple on their b-tt, the answer back is "you are a fellow Marine, we are the same." Nothing in the world compares to that feeling. To be acknowledged by men of this caliber. Even though I don't feel that it is deserved. I know there are a lot of fellow Marines out there that have had this happen to them numerous times also.
We talked for about 15 minutes or so, before he had to go. I could of talked to him for hours. During our too brief conversation while talking about Iwo, he broke down a couple of times and was having a hard time getting the words out. At about this time, the A/C must of kicked on in that building and the vent was pointed right at my eyes, because they started to get a little wet also. There was a lot more to the conversation, but I think you get the message. While this is going on, I noticed one or two men had stopped to listen. They never said anything, they just listened and smiled. Like I said, this has happened to me at least a half a dozen times. And every time it does I walk away from the conversation with my mind swirling with these thoughts:
Admiration for these men that they are not thanked enough. That my life has become just a little richer for having talked to them. That total strangers can meet, strike up a conversation, and within minutes become friends. The only reason for this is, We Are Marines! And that does not go away. It only gets stronger. Nobody understands that feeling. Nobody, but Marines.
What is sad, is that the day is rapidly coming when these conversations will be no more. That is why I cherish them so much, and whenever I get a chance to talk to these men, I drop everything and listen to what they have to say. And, that one thing is sorely missing in this country today. The young people (civilians) growing up now, don't want to hear a d-mn thing as to what the old people have to say. They are missing out on so much.
John Belaire, Cpl 2721680
Back in '68, after being in-country for a few months, our unit was called upon to do a sweep of a ville west of Da Nang that was suspected of harboring VC sympathizers. We filled up a couple of 6x's just after midnight, and moved out on a moonless night. The trucks took us to about a mile from the ville and we hiked the rest of the way in, and were placed in positions all around the ville. My squad was assigned to a ditch to the northwest of the ville to await dawn. During the night, we were provided with C-rats to eat (cold, no heat tabs to give away our presence). I declined and so did most of my squad because the smell in the area was bad. But, bad smells were a part of the Vietnam experience and we didn't think much about it. Just as dawn was breaking, several of the villagers headed directly for our position. Once they saw us crouched in the ditch, they ran back to the village. Since our presence had been revealed, we began the sweep right then. As it became lighter, it was revealed that we had been positioned in a ditch that the village used for its latrine.
Bill Reed, E-4 Cpl.
68'-69' in Nam
We were all exposed to Marine Corps history and traditions during our tour of active duty... usually in a class conducted by a SNCO or officer. But, did we really get anything more than just the basics? Well, once again, being a history buff, I'd like to offer some food for thought that my brother Marines may not have ever heard in any class.
The Medal of Honor was first authorized by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Lincoln in 1862. There have been a total of 3459 Medals of Honor awarded since then. Since WW II, there have been 864 Medals of Honor awarded. Today, there are only 79 men who have received the award still living. Of those 79 heroes, 16 are Marines.
Now, some information that many may find surprising. There have been 19 Americans that have been awarded the Medal of Honor twice. Yes, I wrote 19. I find that number amazing. Even more amazing is that 7 of those were Marines. I know, I know, we were taught that only two Marines were awarded the medal twice, Smedley Butler (April 22, 1914 and November 17, 1915) and Daniel Daly (August 14, 1900 and October 24, 1915). They both received the Navy Medal of Honor for separate heroic actions on the dates listed above. But, there were five other Marines who received the Army Medal of Honor and the Navy Medal of Honor for the same heroic actions, I'll list them.
Sgt. Louis Cukela - July 18, 1918
Sgt. Matej Kocak - July 18, 1918
Pvt. John Kelly - October 3, 1918
Cpl. John Pruitt - October 3, 1918
There is one more who just happens to be a very interesting character. And as you might already have guessed, he was a GySgt. His name was Charles F. Hoffman. He was awarded the Army Medal of Honor for his heroic actions on June 6, 1918. Subsequently, he legally changed his name to Ernest A. Janson. After the name change, he was awarded the Navy Medal of Honor for the same action on June 6, 1918.
I'm guessing that the Marine Corps doesn't consider two Medals of Honor for the same action as having been awarded the medal twice. I do because the Army MOH and the Navy MOH look very different, and the citations read differently.
The last Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor is Dakota Meyer for his heroic actions on September 8, 2009 in Afghanistan. He is also the youngest award winner still living.
Why do I write about these heroic men you may ask? First, there are no Marines currently on active duty who have been awarded the MOH. So, very few Marines ever get to see, let alone meet a Marine who has received the award. They should be role models for all of us to emulate, and certainly for our children to emulate.
Thanks for allowing me to "sound off".
A Former "Hat"
GySgt, USMC, (Ret)
G. B. Annin's story about the Drumming Out was correct, he did hear a "snare drum". At that time, this Marine served in the 7th Marine's Drum and Bugle Corps. A Drummer, from this unit, was ordered to join a detail, to march a Dishonorably Discharged Marine, form 1st Tank Battalion, located at Camp Las Flores, to the Las Polgas gate. At the time (Circa 1961) no one in 7th Marines knew the nature of the charges, but the Drummer remembered the long hot walk.
Thomas Gray, Corporal of Marines
Having read the Gunny's explanation in your last newsletter (the practice was terminated in April of 1962 by General David M. Shoup who was the Commandant from 1960 until 1963), that explains why I only saw one drumming out in my 4 years in the Corps. In 1960 or 61, I was with 2nd Amtracs at Courthouse Bay in Camp Lejeune, when they drummed out a sh-tbird that had just completed brig time for stealing a .45 cal pistol. The entire base was assembled (2nd Amtrac BN, 2nd Anglico Bn and Engineer school). We assembled on the company street in front of the mess hall and after reading the dishonorable discharge, and stripping of all military insignia, we were given about face, and he was taken to Sneads Ferry gate by the MPs.
It was a great military tradition that I was proud to have witnessed and up to now, never knew why I never saw it again. I even served at the 3rd Marine Division Brig on Okinawa (Camp Smedley D. Butler) during my tour, and never saw a drumming out again. This is a great tradition that should be revived to keep us, The Few, The Proud, The Marines!
Back To The Brig
I was witness to a "Drumming Out" ceremony in '61 or '62 at Kaneohe Bay. My friend and I were on our way to the PX when we stopped to watch an odd ceremony being carried out behind the 2/4 barracks. The Battalion was drawn up in formation in class A's when a man was marched "front and center" between two chasers. There may have been drums, but I couldn't say for sure. The First Sgt. than began to read from papers he held. When he finished he advanced to the prisoner and removed his cover (tropical p-ss cutter), removed the EGA and then threw the cover to the ground. He then removed the EGA's from his collars, he didn't have to remove his stripes because the man was a "slick sleeve". The First Sgt. then ordered the formation to about face and the prisoner was escorted back to the brig by the chasers. This all took less than a half hour to occur. There were 10 to 15 onlookers by this time it was over, and we all just looked at each other without saying a word. It was quite an experience to say the least, and left a lasting impression on me. The prisoner was taken back to the brig and not to the gate because we were on the island of Oahu.
From reading the latest version of the newsletter, it must have been 1961 because it looks like the practice was abolished in '62.
Wanted To Get Home
Korea, about June 1951.
1st Sgt. "Pappy" (anon) wanted to get home for his oldest son's wedding - and had no ideas. A lieut. in his unit asked him if he had false teeth. Pappy replied "Both top and bottom". The Lieut. told him that there was no Dentist in Korea that could replace them, and that he would have to go to San Francisco for replacement. Pappy walked out of the tent and both plates disappeared into the Emjay (?) River.
Never saw Pappy after about a week. I hope he made the wedding. I should know how to spell the name of the river, we played hopscotch with it for about two months. First north and then south again and again and again.
Ed Tate, Ret'd
Arlington National Cemetery
I had the opportunity for me and my son to visit the Arlington National Cemetery this past July 9th. It was a once in a life time experience, and I'm truly glad we made the trip. We were up there in the area to see my oldest daughter graduate from her AIT school at Ft. Lee. We took the rest of the day to visit our Nation's capital and see the main sights. I really wanted to get to the Arlington National Cemetery since I was a kid, and knew that was the first place we needed to go. It was an experience that I almost can't explain. I didn't realize how large of grounds it covers, and we had to take the tour and get it all in. I was in awe of the history that is there. And we definitely caught the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers and watched the 'Changing of the Guards'... it was amazing! We took in as much as time would allow and as we left we ran into this young man. Extremely polite and highly professional. His job was to take anyone that needed a ride to and from the cemetery. My son, met him, thanked him for his service to our country and wanted to get a picture with him. He was great to meet and as always, stood out.
Our family is a house torn in two. My wife, is ARMY. My oldest daughter is ARMY. My brother was former ARMY and I have an uncle that was in the 82nd Airborne, and was a part of D-Day. However, my two yougest daughters now are wanting to be part of the United States Marine Corps. I have faith in both of them that they can obtain their goals. They plan on enlisting as soon as they graduate from high school. My grandfather was a Marine and was at Iwo Jima '45-'46.
Bottom line, our family has a tradition serving this great nation of ours. Protecting the values and freedoms for all to appreciate. Making this visit only solidifies my patriotism.
Something Between Marines
About three years ago, my wife and I were in Long Beach Airport waiting to catch a flight to the East Coast. There were about a half dozen Marines waiting as well. Of course I told my wife I'm going to talk with my BROTHERS. One Marine and I really connected. What was so funny was, we were trading places. I was a field radio operator in Nam and this Marine was on his way to the Middle East as a Radio Operator. After a short talk, I had to leave this Marine and rejoin up with my wife. Before I left, he gave me his Eagle, Globe, and Anchor from his cover and asked that I keep it and pray for him while he was gone from his family.
I never heard from him again. I still have his Eagle, Globe, and Anchor. It's just something between Marines that I don't think anyone else understands.
Charlie Btry, 1st Bn, 12th Marines
An M777 howitzer kicks rocks and dust into the air after firing during a recent mission. The Marines with Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, remain undaunted as they listen to the recorder to see if they have another mission.
2nd Marine Division. Photo by Cpl. Jeff
Distinguished Gray-Haired Gentleman
It was in the fall of 1974, just over a year after my discharge from the Corps. I was working for a pharmaceutical company and was doing a medical display in the hallowed halls of the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville. As I stood by my display, a group of perhaps a dozen doctors in white lab coats walked toward me down the hall. Leading the procession was a tall, distinguished gray-haired gentleman I recognized as the head of the department of surgery. As the residents and interns walked by, I suddenly recognized one of them - it was our old regimental surgeon from the 9th Marines, Dr. Golden. I immediately yelled out - "Doc Golden, is that you?" He looked at me and with immediate recognition, shouted back, "Lt. Van Tyle - what the h-ll are you doing here?" We hugged and back slapped while the chief of surgery looked on - quite annoyed. The chief then said, "Doctor Golden, we are having grand rounds here!" Golden didn't even look up - he just blurted out, "Just a minute Sir, this guy is a Marine I served with in Vietnam." So we talked on a bit more, until the chief of surgery sharply barked, "Dr. Golden - let's GO." Golden and I then quickly traded telephone numbers, and he said, "let's get together this Saturday night." I said, "you got it - what do you have in mind?" Dr. Golden then practically shouted, "H-ll, let's do what we used to do in Quang Tri - Get drunker than a sh-t house rat!" The other residents and interns in the group burst out laughing and the chief of surgery's face turned a bright red. Yes, we did get together on Saturday night, accompanied by our wives, and yes, we did exactly what Doctor Golden had suggested."
S.R. Van Tyle
I was in the Corps from '61 to '65. On the subject of "Cut me a Huss". My understanding is that a Huss was like a favor. I could be wrong. It's been a while. The old brain housing group is not what it used to be.
Sgt. Of Marines
An early Marine helicopter designation, often used to request a helicopter... they would say, "get me a huss." Later it came regularly to mean do me a favor or help me out as in "Cut me a huss." (origin) Vietnam.
Robert A. Hall
Former SSgt of Marines
The first time I heard this was back in the mid '60's. It basically means if I recall, cut me some slack or do me a favor. I had totally forgot about that phrase until I read it in the newsletter. Brought a big smile to my face remembering the good times before Vietnam.
That's A Big Order
On Friday evening I left Camp Lejeune and headed for Henderson Hall, VA, directly across from HQMC. I checked in at the Transient Quarters and put in a call for 0700 - for a very important meeting across the road.
On Saturday morning I walked across the road to HQMC planning to go up to the Transportation Dept. When I stepped inside the door to HQMC I was greeted by BGen S. K. Bird and Mr. Volkman. They were waiting for me. We shook hands and the Gen said, "Let's go up to my office." I could not imagine what this was all about. I was told to take a seat. The Gen said, "Mr. Volkman told me last year that you were not too happy about going back to Lejeune. But, I had a reason for sending you back there. We had suspected that there would be a need for the 2nd Marine Division somewhere in the Pacific. Now we know that the info we had was correct. I do not want to screw up your weekend so I will cut through the chaff and come right out with it. Do you think that you would be able to handle the transfer of the 2nd Marine Division (Reinforced) to the west coast?" I said, "Wow! That's a big order. The reservists are pouring onto the base like water over a dam. Do you have any idea how many there will be when they all arrive?" He said, "We sure do. There are about 20,000 in the 2nd Division and there will be about twice that many reserves. There will be some 62,000 or more." I told him that "If anyone could do this job, I could." He said, "That's what I wanted to hear. I was sure you could. I won't hold you any longer other than to tell you that the phone company will be installing a phone - for your use only - at Col. Davidson's desk. When you pick up the handset, Adolph will answer. You will have to keep in constant contact with us when this gets going. You can go now. Have a nice weekend."
If I tried to tell you everything about this movement - like I did not have a security clearance - this letter would not end for a couple of weeks. I'll be brief. This movement required 22 trains - each about a mile long. All but the last one had just under 3,000 men and the last one just over 2,000 - most of whom had joined the reserves after the War started - when the requirements had been lowered. The railroad had furnished 23 trains, but the last one was not used.
When I called Mr. Volkman to let him know that all of the trains had departed, he told me that Gen. Bird wanted to talk with me. He put me on Gen Birds line. He said, "I'm mighty proud of you, Sergeant. Adolph has been keeping me abreast of this movement. He tells me that most of the trains have already crossed the Mississippi and we have had no glitches yet. This is the biggest movement I have ever handled - and the very first where something did not go wrong. I am going to promote you to Staff Sergeant. How does that sound?" I told him, "That sounds nice. I just made Sergeant in May." "Well..." he said, "Let's do this. Staff Sergeant next spring, Tech. Sergeant the following spring, and Master Sergeant in March of 1953. How does that sound?" I replied, "That sounds awesome, almost unbelievable." He said, "You can count on it." And I knew I could."
A few days later he called to tell me that the Commandant had asked who it was down at Camp Lejeune that had handled the movement. When I told him that it was a Sergeant he said, "That man deserves a medal." I told him I had already made arrangements to promote him. His response was "Do both!" So you will be getting a medal, too. He did not say which medal I would be getting - and that is something I will have to save for a later date.
Actually, when I sat down to write a letter for the newsletters, I had something else in mind - but that, too, will have to wait till next time.
MGySgt Harold T. Freas, USMC
I have Platoon books that I have found and have bought. I collect them and give them back to who ever has lost theirs by flood, ex-wife, or fire. So far I have return 6 Platoon books to Marine and still have 138 Books left.
Please tell all your readers that read your Sgt.Grit newsletter online.
My email for them is marinecorps1955[at]yahoo.com. I have information on our site about how to find there books. I would like to find them a home.
William E. Pilgrim Jr.
U.S.M.C. '72 TO '81
The Parris Island, S.C. Books I have on hand are:
Platoon 254 June 28, 1976 to Sept. 9, 1976.
Platoon 194 Sept. 20, 1976 to Dec. 6, 1976.
Platoon 1088 July 27, 1977 to Oct. 12, 1977.
Platoon 2082 July 13, 1977 to Sept. 26, 1977.
Platoon 3305 Sept.12 , 1977 to Nov. 28, 1977.
The San Diego, C.A. books I have on hand are:
Platoon 2049 June 29 , 1978 to Sept. 13,1978 (2 Copies).
Platoon 1072 Sept. 1, 1978 to Nov. 17, 1978.
Platoon 1064 July 16, 1980 to Sept. 26, 1980.
Platoon 3070 August 11, 1982 to Oct. 22, 1982.
Platoon 2060 June 15, 1983 to Aug. 26, 1983.
Mr. Pilgrim has many more Platoon Books. We will list them in groups of (5) in each future newsletter until all have been listed.
The FLIGHT LINE
Submitted by: MARINE Jim McCallum (the ole gunny)
Vol. #5, #11, (NOV, 2015)
An hour ago I was scratching my head for another story and then I remembered the Ships Platoon that I was involved in, and with that there is another story about Cubi Point in Subic Bay that is kinda different so, I thought that I would share it with you and include it. Because, in all actuality it's part of the story that I wrote in Vol #5 #10 for the Oct., 2015 issue. It also happened at the Quonset Hut area up on the hill over looking the Cubi Point Naval Air Station, at Subic Bay in the Philippines. And, as in the previous confession, it has to do with food. From the methods of acquiring, to field preparation. Now, one would think that I enjoyed food, but in all actuality I'm not very much of a big eater but I do enjoy a good dish from time to time. That being the case, we (the Pioneer Platoon) decided that we'd have some "Helmet Stew". I'm sure you've all heard of it, and maybe some of you have even tried it. If so, I'm open to suggestions!
Now, to show how naive we were we thought that all you had to do was build a fire and hang your steel helmet (Kevlar does not work) over the fire suspended by the strap (another bad Idea) and pour in what you wanted until it smelled good enough to eat, Right. WRONG!
Lets start over, OK! We had just had an IG (Inspector General) inspection before we left Okinawa, and we had re-painted our steel Helmets. Once they were hanging over the fire the paint cooked off the substrate and contaminated the contents of the stew. Then the straps burned to a crisp and the whole mess dropped in the fire and now our helmets were blackened to the point that they almost couldn't be cleaned. Now, I hope that you realize that we didn't have our helmet liners exposed to our stupidity. Plus, we had removed our Cammie Covers... otherwise we would have had more of an azs chewing then we did. Now, it doesn't seem possible that so many guy's could have gotten caught up in this stupidity, but maybe all the beer that we were drinking had something to do with it, plus the altitude at Cubi Point made the air pretty thin, and difficult to breath. You start to put this all together and you have a very bad place to go camping. I submitted a request to never go there again, but it was denied. But, they sent me back in '73 for the Mine Sweeping Operation in the Hai Phong Harbor.
Burial at Sea
By LtCol George Goodson, USMC (Ret)
In my 76th year, the events of my life appear to me, from time to time, as a series of vignettes. Some were significant; most were trivial.
War is the seminal event in the life of everyone that has endured it. Though I fought in Korea and the Dominican Republic, and was wounded there, Vietnam was my war.
Now 37 years have passed and, thankfully, I rarely think of those days in Cambodia, Laos, and the panhandle of North Vietnam where small teams of Americans and Montangards fought much larger elements of the North Vietnamese Army. Instead I see vignettes: some exotic, some mundane:
*The smell of Nuc Mam.
*The heat, dust, and humidity.
*The blue exhaust of cycles clogging the streets.
*Elephants moving silently through the tall grass.
*Hard eyes behind the servile smiles of the villagers.
*Standing on a mountain in Laos and hearing a tiger roar.
*A young girl squeezing my hand as my medic delivered her baby.
*The flowing Ao Dais of the young women biking down Tran Hung Dao.
*My two years as Casualty Notification Officer in North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland.
It was late 1967. I had just returned after 18 months in Vietnam. Casualties were increasing. I moved my family from Indianapolis to Norfolk, rented a house, enrolled my children in their fifth or sixth new school, and bought a second car.
A week later, I put on my uniform and drove 10 miles to Little Creek, Virginia. I hesitated before entering my new office. Appearance is important to career Marines. I was no longer, if ever, a poster Marine. I had returned from my third tour in Vietnam only 30 days before. At 5'9", I now weighed 128 pounds - 37 pounds below my normal weight. My uniforms fit ludicrously, my skin was yellow from malaria medication, and I think I had a twitch or two.
I straightened my shoulders, walked into the office, looked at the nameplate on a Staff Sergeant's desk and said, "Sergeant Jolly, I'm Lieutenant Colonel Goodson. Here are my orders and my Qualification Jacket."
Sergeant Jolly stood, looked carefully at me, took my orders, stuck out his hand; we shook and he asked, "How long were you there, Colonel?" I replied "18 months this time." Jolly breathed, "Jesus, you must be a slow learner Colonel." I smiled.
Jolly said, "Colonel, I'll show you to your office and bring in the Sergeant Major." I said, "No, let's just go straight to his office." Jolly nodded, hesitated, and lowered his voice, "Colonel, the Sergeant Major. He's been in this G-dd-mn job two years. He's packed pretty tight. I'm worried about him." I nodded.
Jolly escorted me into the Sergeant Major's office. "Sergeant Major, this is Colonel Goodson, the new Commanding Officer." The Sergeant Major stood, extended his hand and said, "Good to see you again, Colonel." I responded, "Hello Walt, how are you?" Jolly looked at me, raised an eyebrow, walked out, and closed the door.
I sat down with the Sergeant Major. We had the obligatory cup of coffee and talked about mutual acquaintances. Walt's stress was palpable. Finally, I said, "Walt, what's the h-ll's wrong?" He turned his chair, looked out the window and said, "George, you're going to wish you were back in Nam before you leave here. I've been in the Marine Corps since 1939. I was in the Pacific 36 months, Korea for 14 months, and Vietnam for 12 months. Now I come here to bury these kids. I'm putting my letter in. I can't take it anymore." I said, "OK Walt. If that's what you want, I'll endorse your request for retirement and do what I can to push it through Headquarters Marine Corps."
Sergeant Major Walt Xxxxx retired 12 weeks later. He had been a good Marine for 28 years, but he had seen too much death and too much suffering. He was used up.
Over the next 16 months, I made 28 death notifications, conducted 28 military funerals, and made 30 notifications to the families of Marines that were severely wounded or missing in action. Most of the details of those casualty notifications have now, thankfully, faded from memory. Four, however, remain.
My First Notification
My third or fourth day in Norfolk, I was notified of the death of a 19 year old Marine. This notification came by telephone from Headquarters Marine Corps. The information detailed:
*Name, rank, and serial number.
*Name, address, and phone number of next of kin.
*Date of and limited details about the Marine's death.
*Approximate date the body would arrive at the Norfolk Naval Air Station.
*A strong recommendation on whether the casket should be opened or closed.
The boy's family lived over the border in North Carolina, about 60 miles away. I drove there in a Marine Corps staff car. Crossing the state line into North Carolina, I stopped at a small country store / service station / Post Office. I went in to ask directions.
Three people were in the store. A man and woman approached the small Post Office window. The man held a package. The Storeowner walked up and addressed them by name, "Hello John. Good morning Mrs. Cooper."
I was stunned. My casualty's next-of-kin's name was John Cooper!
I hesitated, then stepped forward and said, "I beg your pardon. Are you Mr. and Mrs. John Copper of (address)?
The father looked at me - I was in uniform - and then, shaking, bent at the waist, he vomited. His wife looked horrified at him and then at me. Understanding came into her eyes and she collapsed in slow motion. I think I caught her before she hit the floor.
The owner took a bottle of whiskey out of a drawer and handed it to Mr. Cooper who drank. I answered their questions for a few minutes. Then I drove them home in my staff car. The storeowner locked the store and followed in their truck. We stayed an hour or so until the family began arriving.
I returned the storeowner to his business. He thanked me and said, "Mister, I wouldn't have your job for a million dollars." I shook his hand and said; "Neither would I."
I vaguely remember the drive back to Norfolk. Violating about five Marine Corps regulations, I drove the staff car straight to my house. I sat with my family while they ate dinner, went into the den, closed the door, and sat there all night, alone.
My Marines steered clear of me for days. I had made my first death notification.
Weeks passed with more notifications and more funerals. I borrowed Marines from the local Marine Corps Reserve and taught them how to conduct a military funeral: how to carry a casket, how to fire the volleys, and how to fold the flag.
When I presented the flag to the mother, wife, or father, I always said, "All Marines share in your grief." I had been instructed to say, "On behalf of a grateful nation." I didn't think the nation was grateful, so I didn't say that.
Sometimes, my emotions got the best of me and I couldn't speak. When that happened, I just handed them the flag and touched a shoulder. They would look at me and nod. Once a mother said to me, "I'm so sorry you have this terrible job." My eyes filled with tears and I leaned over and kissed her.
Six weeks after my first notification, I had another. This was a young PFC. I drove to his mother's house. As always, I was in uniform and driving a Marine Corps staff car. I parked in front of the house, took a deep breath, and walked towards the house. Suddenly the door flew open, a middle-aged woman rushed out. She looked at me and ran across the yard, screaming "No! No! No! No!"
I hesitated. Neighbors came out. I ran to her, grabbed her, and whispered stupid things to reassure her. She collapsed. I picked her up and carried her into the house. Eight or nine neighbors followed. Ten or fifteen minutes later, the father came in followed by ambulance personnel. I have no recollection of leaving.
The funeral took place about two weeks later. We went through the drill. The mother never looked at me. The father looked at me once and shook his head sadly.
One morning, as I walked in the office, the phone was ringing. Sergeant Jolly held the phone up and said, "You've got another one, Colonel." I nodded, walked into my office, picked up the phone, took notes, thanked the officer making the call, I have no idea why, and hung up. Jolly, who had listened, came in with a special Telephone Directory that translates telephone numbers into the person's address and place of employment.
The father of this casualty was a Longshoreman. He lived a mile from my office. I called the Longshoreman's Union Office and asked for the Business Manager. He answered the phone, I told him who I was, and asked for the father's schedule.
The Business Manager asked, "Is it his son?" I said nothing. After a moment, he said, in a low voice, "Tom is at home today." I said, "Don't call him. I'll take care of that." The Business Manager said, "Aye, Aye Sir," and then explained, "Tom and I were Marines in WWII."
I got in my staff car and drove to the house. I was in uniform. I knocked and a woman in her early forties answered the door. I saw instantly that she was clueless. I asked, "Is Mr. Smith home?" She smiled pleasantly and responded, "Yes, but he's eating breakfast now. Can you come back later?" I said, "I'm sorry. It's important, I need to see him now."
She nodded, stepped back into the beach house and said, "Tom, it's for you."
A moment later, a ruddy man in his late forties, appeared at the door. He looked at me, turned absolutely pale, steadied himself, and said, "Jesus Christ man, he's only been there three weeks!"
Months passed. More notifications and more funerals. Then one day while I was running, Sergeant Jolly stepped outside the building and gave a loud whistle, two fingers in his mouth... I never could do that... and held an imaginary phone to his ear.
Another call from Headquarters Marine Corps. I took notes, said, "Got it." and hung up. I had stopped saying "Thank You" long ago.
Me, "Eastern Shore of Maryland. The father is a retired Chief Petty Officer. His brother will accompany the body back from Vietnam."
Jolly shook his head slowly, straightened, and then said, "This time of day, it'll take three hours to get there and back. I'll call the Naval Air Station and borrow a helicopter. And I'll have Captain Tolliver get one of his men to meet you and drive you to the Chief's home."
He did, and 40 minutes later, I was knocking on the father's door. He opened the door, looked at me, then looked at the Marine standing at parade rest beside the car, and asked, "Which one of my boys was it, Colonel?"
I stayed a couple of hours, gave him all the information, my office and home phone number and told him to call me, anytime.
He called me that evening about 2300 (11:00PM). "I've gone through my boy's papers and found his will. He asked to be buried at sea. Can you make that happen?" I said, "Yes I can, Chief. I can and I will."
My wife who had been listening said, "Can you do that?" I told her, "I have no idea. But I'm going to break my azs trying."
I called Lieutenant General Alpha Bowser, Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force Atlantic, at home about 2330, explained the situation, and asked, "General, can you get me a quick appointment with the Admiral at Atlantic Fleet Headquarters?" General Bowser said, "George, you be there tomorrow at 0900. He will see you."
I was and the Admiral did. He said coldly, "How can the Navy help the Marine Corps, Colonel." I told him the story. He turned to his Chief of Staff and said, "Which is the sharpest destroyer in port?" The Chief of Staff responded with a name.
The Admiral called the ship, "Captain, you're going to do a burial at sea. You'll report to a Marine Lieutenant Colonel Goodson until this mission is completed."
He hung up, looked at me, and said, "The next time you need a ship, Colonel, call me. You don't have to sic Al Bowser on my azs." I responded, "Aye Aye, Sir" and got the h-ll out of his office.
I went to the ship and met with the Captain, Executive Officer, and the Senior Chief. Sergeant Jolly and I trained the ship's crew for four days. Then Jolly raised a question none of us had thought of. He said, "These government caskets are air tight. How do we keep it from floating?"
All the high priced help including me sat there looking dumb. Then the Senior Chief stood and said, "Come on Jolly. I know a bar where the retired guys from World War II hang out."
They returned a couple of hours later, slightly the worst for wear, and said, "It's simple; we cut four 12" holes in the outer shell of the casket on each side and insert 300 lbs. of lead in the foot end of the casket. We can handle that, no sweat."
The day arrived. The ship and the Sailors looked razor sharp. General Bowser, the Admiral, a US Senator, and a Navy Band were on board. The sealed casket was brought aboard and taken below for modification. The ship got underway to the 12-fathom depth.
The sun was hot. The ocean flat. The casket was brought aft and placed on a catafalque. The Chaplin spoke. The volleys were fired. The flag was removed, folded, and I gave it to the father. The band played "Eternal Father Strong to Save." The casket was raised slightly at the head and it slid into the sea.
The heavy casket plunged straight down about six feet. The incoming water collided with the air pockets in the outer shell. The casket stopped abruptly, rose straight out of the water about three feet, stopped, and slowly slipped back into the sea. The air bubbles rising from the sinking casket sparkled in the sunlight as the casket disappeared from sight forever.
The next morning I called a personal friend, Lieutenant General Oscar Peatross, at Headquarters Marine Corps and said, "General, get me the f-ck out of here. I can't take this sh-t anymore." I was transferred two weeks later.
I was a good Marine but, after 17 years, I had seen too much death and too much suffering. I was used up.
Vacating the house, my family and I drove to the office in a two-car convoy. I said my goodbyes. Sergeant Jolly walked out with me. He waved at my family, looked at me with tears in his eyes, came to attention, saluted, and said, "Well Done, Colonel. Well Done."
I felt as if I had received the Medal of Honor!
On Saturday November 9, 2013 at the American Legion Post 703, 703 N. Rt. 12, Fox Lake, IL 60020, we will have the 30th Anniversary of the Tom Grosvenor Memorial Marine Corps Birthday Breakfast for Toys for Tots. Marines celebrate the Marine Corps birthday November 10, 1775 and bring toy or monetary donations for "Toys for Tots". In the past we have collected almost 100,000 dollars for "Toys for Tots". Tom Grosvenor spent over a year in Viet Nam (1969-1970), he passed in 2001. We started the 1st breakfast with just 13, now over 200 participate. They participate from Coatsville, PA to Deming, NM.
"I have shorts that have more time in grade than you been alive boy!" From some old long forgotten gunny along the way.
Cpl. E4, '58 to '62
Semper Fi Sgt.
I was doing some reading this morning and came across this tidbit of info... The 1st Marine Division was to spearhead the invasion of Japan. Of the whole plan of battle that was written for the first six months of the invasion, the Marines orders only consisted of the first six days of the battle. The powers that be expected that the WHOLE division would be wiped out completely in the first six days... I think the Chinese had the same thinking in December of 1950 at a place called the Chosin Reservoir.
A little tid-bit about the Korean War (police action?) as told by my SDI, SSgt (E5) J. L. Westin, a Chosin vet: Just before every attack, a bugler would blow a loud signal. The Marines would sight-in on the sound, and as the Chi Coms emerged over a ridge, all would squeeze off a round in the direction of the sound and blow the bugler to bits.
Good stuff here, and they picked a good song!
In case you missed these guys, exceptional reception by the audience, and oh, by the way, They Got Talent!
Marines Stun Judges on America's Got Talent.
For the benefit of Cpl. Kunkel and other Marine Corps Marines, when I was stationed at what is now called Camp Geiger, in 1951-52, it was called Tent Camp.
Dear Sgt. Grit,
Loved the story about the Faker. On the one hand, I am flattered that our reputation is so good. Me, I am always wary of someone claiming to be a Marine. My first reaction is "prove it, pal".
While studying the bottom of the patch (Huui Duc) it occurred to me it might not be actual Vietnamese but kind of a joke motto like a lot of squadrons have. "When you hear us coming YOU DUCK!" this is only a guess... mind you as I missed out on that mess over there by a couple of years.
L/CPL Wilson M. L.
'78 â€“ '82
In re to VMO-3 Patch hieu duoc is Vietnamese for "understand".
HIEU duoc is (understood) VN.
This is concerning getting your medals and ribbons. I did it myself by addressing it to "Department of the Navy", Headquarters United States Marine Corps, 2008 Elliot road, Quantico, VA 22134-5030. I was surprised when I received two more ribbons, one medal, along with the Combat Action Ribbon. I just wrote a letter asking for my medals. This took me about 4 months to complete.
L/Cpl Ken Kruger
Marble Mountain, Vietnam
USMC 1968 to 1970
"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
"Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness."
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
--William Pitt (1708-1778)
"Freedom is not free, but the U.S. Marine Corps will pay most of your share."
"You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling the wage payer down. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred. You cannot build character and courage by taking away people's initiative and independence. You cannot help people permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves."
"The best and only safe road to honor, glory, and true dignity is justice."
--George Washington (1779)
"A Marine is a Marine. I set that policy two weeks ago - there's no such thing as a former Marine. You're a Marine, just in a different uniform and you're in a different phase of your life. But you'll always be a Marine because you went to Parris Island, San Diego or the hills of Quantico. There's no such thing as a former Marine."
--General James F. Amos, 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps
"Have an outstanding Marine Corps day!
"Stay Off The Skyline!" (with the appropriate emphasis of the day...)
"Today is a good day to die!"
God Bless the American Dream!