I joined the Marine Corps in June of 1965 and graduated from Platoon # 342, 3rd Battalion in September of that year. After Advanced Infantry Training at Camp Geiger, I was on my way home for leave, looking forward to seeing my girl and old friends. I didn’t realize that the recruiter in my hometown of Norristown Pennsylvania, had been reporting my progress to several high school classmates that had expressed interest in joining the Corps. Attending a high school dance with the girl I was dating at the time, I ran into one of them Michael Baronowski, or Mike as I had known him since the 6th grade, already knew about my prowess on the rifle range and that I had been promoted meritoriously at graduation, but he wanted to know more. We talked briefly about the Corps and I shared my experiences with him and told him what I thought. He thanked me and we shook hands and went our separate ways. Fast forward to the summer of 1966. I was walking thru Dogpatch on my way back from the Hill 327 PX outside of Danang to the Marine Base at Marble Mountain. It was a tropical hot, dusty afternoon and I was doing my best to keep out of the way of the never-ending stream of military traffic that was passing within an arm’s length as I made my way along the narrow shoulder between the gravel edge and the hooches clustered along the right of way. Suddenly, I became aware of a vehicle coming up fast behind me and sliding on the gravel as the driver braked hard, stopping a few feet from where I stood. At first, I could only make out the driver’s goggles as he sat there, the dust settling around us. Then I saw that big, wide smile and I knew it was Mike. How he ever recognized me from behind on that dusty, crowded street, thousands of miles from home, I’ll never know. But there he was. I jumped in and we pulled back into the never ending line of military traffic and headed for the gate at Marble Mountain. On the way, we talked about everything and laughed and joked. I commented on the dusty condition of his M-14 which lay bouncing between the seats. He jokingly told me he didn’t use it. Then reached under his seat and pulled out an open box of M-26 frag grenades. That was Mike, always making fun of every situation. When we arrived at the gate, I asked him to stay for chow, but he had to get back to his outfit that was out by the river south of Marble Mountain. We agreed that I would try to get out to his unit the next off duty time I had and we parted. A week later I was hitchhiking down the road past the Marble Mountain and ran into a Marine roadblock. An armor company was performing a search and destroy and I watched the tanks tearing around back and forth across the road for a half hour or so before heading back to MAG 16. The next opportunity to catch up to Mike didn’t come for a few weeks and I doubted his outfit would still be there, but I was preparing to give it a shot when I came back to my hooch and found the mail man had left several of my hometown Newspapers on my bunk. They were always out of date, but news from home was always welcome, so I began to unwrap each one. The last one had Mike’s picture on the front page. He’d been killed in action. I always wanted to go to Mike’s family and tell them about our last meeting, but I never did. I did find out that National Public Radio had done a program about Mike in their “All Things Considered” format, titled “Lost & Found Sound”. I have the disc which is titled, “National Public Radio’s Broadcast Of The Vietnam Tapes of Lance Corporal Michael A. Baronowski”.. Mike’s picture is on the cover with that same grin I saw so many years ago on a dusty road in place so far away.
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