Two Promises

After I graduated from high school in 1964 I announced to my father that I was tired of taking orders from him, tired of getting up early and tired of making my bed so I had solved all those problems. I had joined the United States Marine Corps. My dad smiled at me and said, “Well, son, it looks like your troubles are over.” I left for Marine Corps boot camp 2 days later.

In 1966, I was assigned to a new engineer battalion that was being formed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. Later that year we deployed to Chu Lai, Vietnam. I spent 13 bloody months in country and then returned to the States in 1967 followed by an Honorable Discharge as a Sergeant E-5 in 1968. That same year I joined the Indianapolis Police Department. For the next 32 years I worked as a police officer until January 2000 when I retired.

On 17 April 2009, I received a phone call from a recruiter for a major defense contractor in response to a job I had applied for online. After interviewing me he offered me a position as a Law Enforcement Professional (LEP) advisor to the military. It was a one year commitment and I would be going to either Iraq and/or to Afghanistan with a U.S. Marine Corps infantry battalion. He said if I took the job it would help save the lives of young Marines and Soldiers who were being killed by IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices.)

After the phone call from the recruiter I told my wife I wanted to accept the job. I told her I loved America and I felt honored to be able to serve our great nation in uniform twice in one lifetime. With reservations and lots of tears, she said she would support me in whatever I wanted to do. I said goodbye to my wife, my kids and to my grandkids and I flew to Washington, D.C. for training on 30 April 2009. I was 63 years old.

After training I received orders to report to an infantry battalion at Camp Pendleton, California. When I arrived there I met several other retired law enforcement officers who also had volunteered for the LEP Program. Our group underwent more training at Camp Pendleton and then we received our individual assignments to various units throughout the Marine Corps. I was the only advisor to be assigned to a battalion at Camp Pendleton.

I had not kept a journal when I went to Vietnam and I regretted not having done so. You forget names and details over the years so this time I made a decision to keep a journal detailing my deployment. I emailed the following journal entry to my wife on 10 May 2009:

Journal Entry – Sunday, 10 May 2009 – Oceanside, California

The afternoon was spent washing uniforms and other clothing, calling my wife to wish her a happy Mother’s Day and generally getting myself ready to report aboard my battalion tomorrow morning. I spent the early evening catching up on some emails with family and friends and then I drove alone down to a fish house overlooking San Diego Bay for a celebration of sorts.

The following story I have never told to another living soul before now. I am recounting it now so my family will know my real reason for volunteering for this mission to save young Marines and Soldiers from being killed by IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices.) I want you, my family, to know the real reason I volunteered for this mission in case I don’t come back.

Let me go back in time. The date was 13 January 1967 and I was stationed in Chu Lai, Vietnam with the 9th Engineer Battalion, United States Marine Corps. That morning my fire team and another fire team had been assigned to a patrol area off Route 1 north of the village of Tam Ki. I was ordered to stay in camp by my company commander for some reason that I do not now remember. I do remember I asked him if I could go on this patrol and take care of my other duties when the patrol returned, but he was unyielding and ordered me to stay in camp. I went to where my buddies were loading up the truck so I could tell my guys to watch their backs and to crack a few jokes before they left. I had my camera with me and I shot the below photos as they loaded up.

My buddy Marines loaded extra ammunition on the truck and climbed aboard. I told them I couldn’t go with them because the Captain was making me stay in camp. In true Marine Corps fashion, they all gave me the “one-fingered-salute” as noted in the below photo.

Then they drove out the front gate and towards the area they had been assigned to patrol. I busied myself with my assigned duties for the next couple hours or so until another Corporal ran up to me and asked me if my fire team had left the base by truck. I said they had and he spoke words to me that I will never forget. He said, “Their truck hit a mine buried in the road, Judd. Your whole fire team is dead.” I just stood there. I couldn’t and wouldn’t believe it. I told the other Corporal he must be wrong. It had to be somebody else. The other Corporal told me the truck was a 9th Engineer truck because it had our battalion markings on the doors. I remember walking to the motor pool where they brought in damaged vehicles. I sat on a sandbag and waited. It wasn’t long before a Marine Corps flat bed trailer was pulled into the motor pool with what was left of another truck resting on the trailer. I walked up to it and saw the 9th Engineer Battalion logo on the door. I still had my camera. I took the below photos.

I sat down again on the sandbag and stared at the damage to the  truck and my heart sank. The next thing I knew my Captain was standing next to me. He said, “Corporal Green, I’m sorry to tell you that your entire fire team was killed in that truck. “I don’t have words to express how I felt. I guess I would say now that all people have defining moments in their lives that change their core being. You are just never the same as you were and you will never be what you would have otherwise been. That moment in time stood still for me and it seared my soul forever. My buddies, my fellow U.S. Marines, the guys I ate with, slept with and had laughed with had vanished from my life and from the face of this earth forever. I want you to know who they were because I have never, ever forgotten their names or their faces or their smiles or the sparkle in their eyes. They were:

Private Jeffrey Thomas Dines USMC of Waterloo, Iowa, 19 years of
age.

Lance Corporal John Patrick Eads USMC of St. Louis, Missouri, 21
years of age.

Private Aaron Burr Jones, Jr. USMC of Wilmington, North Carolina,
18 years of age.

Lance Corporal Michael Joseph Kehoe USMC of New York City, New
York, 20 years of age.

Private First Class Leroy Pierson USMC of Hamilton, Ohio, 20
years of age.

And the NCO who took my place that day was:

Sergeant Bobby Gene Jackson USMC of Marshall, Missouri, 26 years
of age.

Now I will finish my story about the celebration dinner over looking San Diego Bay and you will understand. Once again, I have to go back many years. The time was the summer of 1966 and the place was Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. A bunch of young Marines were getting ready to ship out to Vietnam. One evening it was decided that we would treat ourselves to one last great meal before we left. We drove down to a fish house overlooking San Diego Bay and got a table outside. I can’t remember what any of us ate but I can remember lots of laughs, arms around each other’s necks, punches in the shoulders to see who could ‘really take it like a Marine’ and just a great time of fun and fellowship for a bunch of innocent, young guys getting ready to go off to war. We all made a promise to each other that night. All of us would return to that place when we came back from Vietnam, to have dinner and to celebrate coming back home. We couldn’t admit it then, even to ourselves, because we were tough Marines, but what we would really be celebrating was our love for each other as brothers in arms.

Tonight, 10 May 2009, I was alone at a table outside on the deck of a fish house overlooking San Diego bay. The evening was cool so no one else was eating outside and I was glad it worked out that way. The waitress had looked at me rather strangely when I requested a table outside because it was so cool. I ate a great meal and afterwards I asked the waitress to bring me a brandy. I sipped it and looked out across the sea that we all had sailed across to meet our destinies in 1966. I remembered that celebration some forty-three years ago and the promise we all had made. I raised my glass and toasted those brave, young heroes, my buddies and fellow Marines, six pieces of my heart that were torn out so many years ago. I was the only one to make it back and it was my duty to them to keep the promise.

To my family, all of whom I love more than I can tell you, now you know why I had to accept this mission to go to Iraq with the Marine Corps. I will use my skills as a veteran police detective to seek out insurgents and terrorists who plant hidden explosive devices that kill young Marines and Soldiers and I will do my best to stop them. I have made a silent promise to the young Marines in my battalion to do all I can to help save their lives and to help them return safely to their families. God willing, I will keep that promise too.

Journal Entry – Saturday, 28 November 2009 – Al Asad, Iraq

Today I was honored to meet the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James T. Conway, when he visited our infantry battalion in Iraq. He told me he had heard that I served with the Marine Corps in Vietnam and I told him that was true. The General asked me why I had volunteered to come to Iraq at my age. I handed him a copy of my journal entry from 10 May 2009 and told him that would explain it. He shook my hand and pressed a Commandant’s challenge coin into my palm. He thanked me for my service to our country and to the Marine Corps. I told him it was an honor to serve again.

Journal Entry- Sunday, 20 December 2009 – Al Asad, Iraq

Today I received an email from my wife. She told me that I had received a personal letter from the Commandant of the Marine Corps. It said:

Journal Entry – Monday, 3 May 2010 – Indianapolis, Indiana

Today the last of the Marines from my battalion returned home after our deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. We left the U.S. with over 1,100 Marines and Naval personnel in our battalion. They all came back home safe.

Second promise kept.

Below are two more photos. The first photo is a picture of me in Chu Lai, Vietnam, Cpl Judd Green, 9th Engineer Battalion, 1966 – 1967. The second photo again is of me in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, Law Enforcement Advisor Judd Green, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marines, 2009 – 2010.

 

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24 thoughts on “Two Promises”

  1. Wow what a amazing and tragic story, thank You for Your service to our Country and for sharing this, from one Marine to another Semper Fidelis!

  2. Sad story at the very least. Met several guys from the 9th when I was with Mag-12 Comm at Chu Lai from Sept.’67 to Jan.’69. Can remember hearing some tales of what some of those guys with the 9th saw or went through. Seems you missed Tet of ’68, when Charlie or some of his Northern pals got our Bomb Dump. Got hearing aids and jumpy nerves to this day after getting knocked unconscious by the blast wave off of that morning.

  3. Great moving story Marine. Thanks for sharing. Benny SKELDON, Kilo 3/3, arrived in Nam Aug. 26, 1968. I was a M60 machine gunner. I remember guys named Pete, Jim, Andy, Rusty, Ted, Jim, Squirrel, Joe, Soto, TJ, Stanley, Stein.

  4. Excellent story, well written and on point. I will be in DC soon; will be at The Wall during my visit and pay my respects to your friends.

  5. This is a great story, Judd. I was a Navy Corpsman with 1st Recon Bn in ChuLai the same period you were with 9th Engineers. I too lost a large portion of my platoon in February of 67. I was not with them at the time of their deaths and have beat myself eternally over that absence. I remained in the Navy for 30 years, serving a total of 13 of those years with the Marine Corps in various duty stations. The Marine Corps and the Navy were my support group following that Vietnam tour. Since my retirement, I served as a County Veteran Service Officer for 10 1/2 years assisting other veterans in submitting their claims to the VA. I feel your pain and suffering and wish you nothing but the best. Proud to have been a member of the Marine Corps team, this Corpsman of Marines will always remember and honor their service.

  6. Rick says: Thanks for reliving your pain and coming back to our beloved Corps to ensure others don’t have to endure the pain of losing love ones and friends. Semper fidelis Marine.

  7. I was there in Chu-Lai during that same time period… Didn’t leave until relieved by ARMY’s 196th. Light Infantry Brigade and we moved up north … Had a buddy from Chu-Lai who was TAD to Quang-Nai, just South of Chu-lai with the Korean Marines ROK brigade… Same thing happened to him… Hit a mine with his jeep in 67… Can’t even describe his condition when I saw him… I even extended while there… Didn’t leave until after mid year 1968… I never even thought of keeping a journal… Now, as you mention it, I wish I did… I have no way to remember those REAL names, as we all had nicknames… Serf, Colt, Squeak, Curley, Hog-F–ker, Etc. … Hard to try and find others with names like that… I kept moving North though, until they brought me and one other of my Marines back South to Phu-Bai to train some new guys who came in from the states… I AM sorry for your loss… But one Marine to another… Welcome Home Marine, & God Bless !!! One foot in front of the other, & one day at a time !!!

  8. Powerful moving story. One question I have is the Marine holding the door “hatch” open by any chance Fred Brink? I was stationed with Fred at H&S Engr Plt 1/3 at Kaneohe MCAS im 1970, and that guy wood pass for his twin.

  9. Wow, what an incredible story! I can’t imagine the anguish you went through that day and I’m sure you still battle with now and again. As I was entering infantry training, I had some problems with my arches. They would swell and turn blue so they sent me to the hospital where I found out my arches were flattening and I was to be discharged. I tried to fight the discharge but was told no. Although it gets nowhere near or compares to what you and so many others went through, I was so devastated that I would no longer be in the Marine Corps! I wanted to be with the friends and brothers I had made. I so miss the Marine Corps! Please don’t think I’m trying to relate my story to yours. It just reminded me what I missed about the Corps. Brotherhood and camaraderie. About two years after my discharge I began working with the fire department and 25 years later still do. Public Safety brotherhood is very similar to the Marine Corps but just not quite the same. God be with you brother! Thank you for serving not once, but twice! Semper Fi!

  10. Really moving story, Semper Fi. I was in Chu Lai in 69-70 in MAG 13. Was there when they dropped over 120 Rockets in May of 70. Lost two guys and had three wounded.

  11. Cpl Jude Green , I think I have photos of the truck when they brought it back into the compound on the trailer of 2 lowboys . Was it a 5 ton dump truck ? I was with 9 th ENG from Feb ’67 till late Oct ‘ 68 . Spent April ’67 – Sept “67 with ROK Marines , Jan ’68 till Sept ’68 with ” B ” Co. 9 th Eng. . Lot of folks think the Engineers just had easy jobs , not true 9 th ENG check web site 2-7-68.com I myself have kept saying I need to put my story and photos out there instead of in a box in the closet. Should be able to reach me through the 9Th ENG

  12. A very moving story. Thank you for your service and thanks to your family for allowing you to return to serve our country. Semper Fi Brother

  13. Great story. I too served in Vietnam. 1969, 11th marines. Went to Afghanistan, in 2005 as a construction contractor. Stayed till 2011 and came home. My specialty is construction management. I helped build a man camp (next to flight line) for the Marines who came to Kandahar. I too had the honor to meet Cmdnt Conway. and the Sgt Major. He asked me about my son who at that time was a young Lcpl with 1st Force Recon and about my service years earlier. He thanked me for my service and he and the Sgt Maj gave me a challenge coin. One of the most memorable days of my life. Semper Fi

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