Just like most Marines, I honor all Marines, especially those who served during WW2 and Korea. Recently I had the honor of meeting a Marine from the Battle of Iwo Jima, Pfc. Robert Hensley, 3rd Marine Division. As a Garland Deputy Marshal, I get the chance to meet many citizens during the week. On one occasion 3 months ago I observed a senior citizen entering the lobby of the building I am assigned to. As he got closer, walking slowly with the aid of his cane, I noticed that he was wearing a cover with the Marine Corps Emblem. So I gave him a strong "Semper Fi Marine" greeting! He stopped, straighten up and looked over at me and with a slight smile on his face he returned the greeting! And as almost all Marines do, I asked when he served and what unit he served with. He responded proudly that he is a WW2 Marine and served with the 3rd Marine Division at Iwo Jima. So he stopped next to my desk and we discussed our experiences in the Corps. As you can guess, my part of the conversion was brief and his was a bit longer and more interesting!
He is Pfc. Robert Hensley, USMC, and as he began to talk about his Marine Corps experiences and mentioned that he was at Iwo Jima. I asked him about his part in the battle for Iwo and he talked about him being in the 3rd Marine Division. Pfc Hensley said that they arrived at Iwo on the 5th day of the battle. He was a truck driver and "his Ford Truck" was loaded with ammo, so as soon as they could, they hit the beach. When they landed he said that the terrible carnage on the beach was undescrible! Upon getting on the beach he and another truck were sent to resupply a unit that was heavily engaged with the enemy. As Pfc. Hensley and a second truck arrived at the unit's supply point, he remembers how ecstatic the Marines were! They told him that he had just saved their lives because they were about to run out of ammunition and the Japanese would have overrun them! After they finished unloading the trucks, he asked one of the officers what they could do to help. The officer pointed at a pile of stretchers and told him that he and the 2nd driver should "take one of those and go out on the runway and remove the dead off of the landing strip!" They told him that the landing strip was needed to allow planes to make emergency landings!
His voice began to soften and his eyes appeared as if they were looking off into the distance as he continued "So we went out onto the strip and began picking up bodies and pieces of bodies, placing them on the stretcher. Then we would take them to the collection point next to the airfield." I could only guess at what was going on in his mind, going back to those awful scenes of war. Of body parts that had once been young warriors running toward the sounds of battle, just a short time before. His trip back to those terrible days was short one as my handshake brought back! I told him that it was an honor to be in the presence of a United States Marine, a Hero to those of us who came after him and his brothers! Pfc. Hensley was a humble Marine and replied, "I am no Hero, I just did my job!"
As we were ending our discussion, he looked over and saw a coaster with a Marine Corps Emblem on top of my counter. He said that it was a great gift and I told him that my wonderful daughter, Ashley, made it and had given it to me last Christmas! He mentioned how great it was that my daughter would make such a special gift for me and I agreed! As my new Marine brother slowly walked out of the building I thanked our God, who had given this country so many great men and women such as Pfc. Hensley! A few days later I was talking to Ashley and mentioned my meeting with the WW2 Marine. I asked if she would make another Marine Corps Coaster, so that I could give him one next time that he came to the building! She readily agreed and a few days later Ashley handed me another coaster, just like mine!
With Ashley's coaster in hand, I waited to see my new Marine Brother again. And as several weeks went by I grew concerned that Pfc. Hensley may had received Transfer Orders to guard the "Streets of Gold". Then on Monday, July 6, 2015, I saw my Marine Brother walking into the building and I started smiling. As we met and exchanged greetings, I asked him to stop by my desk when he had completed his business. A short time later he came walking up and I presented him with the Marine Corps Emblem Coaster that my beautiful daughter had made for him. Pfc. Hensley then took it, looked at it and with a wide smile he thanked me. He asked me to tell Ashley that he was very grateful and that it was truly a special gift! He said that it was such a special gift, he is going to have it mounted next to a picture of him at Iwo Jima. The picture had been taken when he was on an "Honor Flight" to Iwo Jima two years ago! He will treasure it along with his "Iwo Jima Honor Flight" picture which will be passed on to his grandson! As Pfc. Hensley walked out of the building, I was reminded of Our Brotherhood, Young Marine or Old Marine – Semper Fi!
I am enclosing a picture taken when I presented Pfc. Hensley the USMC Coaster!
Fred "Speedy" Gonzales
Corporal of Marines
2nd LAAM Bn. 1962 – 65