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A Marine Veteran's Tribute

I have clear memories of the many fine individuals I worked with during my four years in the U.S. Marine Corps. When I, and others of my seniority-level, finished our (peacetime) military tour and were discharged from the Corps in 1965-66, we scattered to the four winds and embarked on other pursuits. However, we did leave behind others who remained in the Marines by reason of either (1) their still having time remaining on their obligated tour of duty, or (2) their having consciously chosen to make a career of the Marine Corps.

Me, I hopped directly from the Marine Corps into law school. To tackle that demanding course of study I deliberately put on the blinders for three years and ignored anything not directly related to my academic pursuits. Thus did I lose contact with most of my colleagues from the Corps.

As the years passed after that, as my life and my career progressed from graduate schooling to different jobs in a variety of locations, my thoughts would occasionally drift back to the men I knew and worked with in the Marines. But there was, in those days, no feasible way of learning what became of them. And then, some thirty years later, the Internet appeared on the scene. With this amazingly-powerful technology I could now track down many of the men I had known in the Corps.

Of those who had remained in the military (for whatever reason), nearly all served at least one tour of duty in that far-off land of Vietnam. Most of them came back OK, a few came back wounded.

But five of them didn’t come back. I may be years late, but I knew them well, and I’ll dedicate this message to their memory. They are (in alphabetical order):

ARQUERO, Elpidio A. Arquero was born in Hawaii of Filipino parents. He was short in stature, barrel-chested and powerfully aggressive, an ideal Marine. He was a Corporal squad leader in my platoon, and before long I had the pleasure of promoting him to the rank of Sergeant and the position of Platoon Right Guide (3rd in command). He died in action as a Staff Sergeant (E-6) on May 10, 1967, on Hill 110 in the Que Son Valley in Quang Nam province. He was 27 years old. For his extraordinary heroism on the day he died he was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.

BARBER, Henry E., Jr. Sergeant Barber was from San Marcos, Texas. He was a wiry and superbly-conditioned Marine who was a veteran of the crack Force Reconnaissance Company at Camp Pendleton. When I first arrived at the Fifth Marines I tried out for Force Recon and went through their punishing “JJ“ hell week, but I didn’t make the grade. Several months later I sucked up my gut and volunteered for it again. This time I came out first in the class. When I got back to Battalion HQ Sergeant Barber was the first man to seek me out to shake my hand and congratulate me. That gesture meant a lot, and I didn’t forget it. He died in action as a First Sergeant (E-8) in Quang Tri Province on October 23, 1969. He was 35.

COATES, Sterling K. Sterling Coates was a 1961 graduate of the Naval Academy, a polished and thoroughly professional career officer from Plymouth, Pennsylvania. He and I were second-lieutenant platoon commanders in the same company in the First Marines, our initial stop after completing basic training at Quantico. Sterling and his wife Janet (and their baby son) had me over for dinner one evening while we were at Camp Pendleton. He and I shared a cabin (along with four other lieutenants) aboard the USS Iwo Jima during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He died in action as a Captain in Quang Tri Province on July 22, 1967. He was 29.

MAYES, Richard L. From Sidney, Montana, he joined my platoon as a Private directly from Basic Training, and I soon promoted him to PFC. Our battalion of 1100 men spent 13 months in Okinawa together. When we returned, half of us (including myself) were either discharged from the military or transferred to other duty stations. The other half, mainly those junior in service (including Richard Mayes), were retained in the battalion, and a year later were sent back to the far east, this time directly to Vietnam. Richard Mayes died in action as a Corporal (E-4) in Quang Ngai Province on March 28, 1966. He was 20 years old. His niece wrote a beautiful memorial to him and posted it on the Internet. When I saw it I exchanged correspondence with her, and sent her a group photograph of our platoon.

WHOOLERY, Tracy L. Tracy Whoolery was from Baltimore, Maryland. Tall and erect, he was a natural military leader who loved the Marine Corps and everything about it. He was a Lance Corporal fire-team leader when I took over my first platoon, and I had the honor of promoting him first to full Corporal, and then to Squad Leader. I later transferred him to take over a troubled squad, and he straightened up that outfit promptly and professionally. He went on to spend a successful tour of duty as a Drill Instructor of recruits, one of the most demanding tasks in the Marine Corps. I could easily imagine him eventually becoming a first-rate Sergeant Major. He died in action as a Staff Sergeant (E-6) in Quang Tri Province on November 2, 1967. He was 26. For his bravery in combat he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.

To many who may read this message, these may be little more than names printed on a piece of paper, or perhaps engraved on a wall somewhere. But to me they were flesh-and-blood human beings, men with whom I worked and interacted on a daily basis. The passage of time has long since blurred any distinctions based on rank. They weren’t just my colleagues, they were my friends. And they are not forgotten.

Rest in peace, Marines.

Semper Fi –

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Comments

peter sinnott - June 6, 2020

Thank you for your comments. I also recommend Togetherweserved.com because the men you remembered have memorial pages set up for them ( I only checked two names) and your comments might reach not only those who served with them, but their families as well. Force Recon Association is another source. Semper Fidelis Marine,peter Sinnott

Father Richard Gorman - June 6, 2020

How blessed we are that these brave men were there to fight and to die for us, especially at a time when so many of our fellow Citizens failed to support them!

GEORGE LAQUINO SR - June 6, 2020

THIS W AS A GREAT STORY FROM A TRUE MARINE AS ALWAYS ONCE A MARINE ALWAYS A MARINE, I WISH I COULD FIND SOME OF THE MARINES I WENT THROUGH BOOT CAMP I WAS THERE IN 1954 SEPT TO NOV PLT 406 PARRIS ISLAND SERVICE # 1477676 I WILL DIE AS A MARINE TY

Bill Allen - June 6, 2020

Mike, I was a L/Cpl 2531 with Hq. 2/11 in An Hoa from Nov 67 to Jan 68, at which time I was sent with the forward party to 1st Field Artillery Group in Phu Bai in early January just in time for TET.

Henry Young - June 6, 2020

L/Cpl,H.Young RVN 65 66/69. Headcold, I was battalion ammo tech @ Hqtrs 2/11 An Hoa, Jan 69 until?. I reported the day after the ammo dump had been hit. Semper Fi.

David M. Franklin - June 6, 2020

Staying connected with Marine Roots becomes even more important growing older. Marine [1958-1986], Lawyer, Superior Court Commissioner/Judge, I did it all. The title Marine is foremost. Going on my third Post-War tour in February 2018, via VietnamBattlefieldTours.com. These trips have been a helpful and a significant experience for me and the others. GOOGLE the site, grab a Buddy and try it. Also, the 1st Mar Div Assn & M.C. League have helped with keeping in touch. Working as a Mentor at Honolulu Veteran’s Court with other Marines, FMF Corpsmen & Service Members is extremely rewarding. Look for a Veteran’s Court in your Town and volunteer as a way to keep mentally strong. Retirement contentment is not reached just because the “Surf’s Up.” [Fishing, Golf, Horses, etc.] Wear covers & clothing with some Marine Corps connection on it and be surprised how many contacts are made. It all works for this Marine. Aloha & Semper Fi!

Dave Granger - June 6, 2020

Captain Sterling Coates was the CO of B/1/9 on July 2 of ’67. I didn’t know him well as he was with the company only a week or two. We walked into a fresh NVA regiment that had just crossed the DMZ and got our asses kicked. He and 59 Marines from Bravo co. died that day along with all attachments. He did all he could, but the odds were against us. May he rest in peace.

Bill Walter - June 6, 2020

All of your friends and our brothers including S.Sgt. Barber at 35, died way too young! I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes, even though I didn’t know any of you. It’s because of who we all are … MARINES. I am 70 years old and I cry alot when I see Marines, young or old. It’s some because of my age but mostly because I lost a brother. I was born an only child but when I became a Marine I inherited a few thousand. Semper Fi brother and to your friends, God Bless each and everyone. Cpl. William D. Walter (second generation Marine. My Dad and Hero was on Guadalcanal)

MICHAEL FELCH “Head Cold” - June 6, 2020

START SOMEWHERE… Mike Felch 2531 HQ. 2nd. Bn. 11th MARINES Dec 67/Jan 69 DaNang-Phu loc-An Hoa -“USA”…

Mickey Blair - June 6, 2020

Ssgt. Arquero was my platoon commander in 1966 plt. 1064. He was a hard charging Marine. I had just arrived in country with HQ 3/12 when he was KIA. His example of dedication and leadership changed my life.

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