As a former Marine ('62-'66) and aviation nut, I was thrilled to read the 1 May SGT GRIT article about WW II Marine pilot and ace Joe Foss. To follow up on the article, Joe was not only the highest scoring Marine ace in WW II (26 enemy aircraft shot down), but as your article indicated he was also a Medal of Honor recipient, as well being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. And if that wasn't enough for one lifetime he went on to become the Governor of South Dakota, the first Commissioner of the American Football League, an Air Force General, as well as serving two terms as the President of the National Rifle Association; and it was during his time with the NRA that I had the privilege of meeting Joe.
During the late 80s and early 90s I was the Southern California Field Representative for the NRA, and part of the job entailed assisting with a number of PR events, no least of which (at the time) was a VIP sports shooting event in SoCal geared toward the Hollywood movie crowd. Just about anyone who was somebody was invited, and although I had a chance to breath the same air as some famous folks, my biggest thrill was to meet and spend time with Joe Foss. When the General and his wife flew into John Wayne Airport (in Orange County, CA) I was the designated driver to pick them up and deliver them to the function, and after the initial shock wore off I found Joe to be a congenial and friendly gentleman.
At the event, and while Joe was meeting and greeting movie stars and movie moguls, he found time to walk over and talk to me while a photographer was present. The attached photo shows the General and I standing together; I have been told numerous times that I should be smiling in the pic, but the fact is I was a humble enlisted Marine, in awe, standing next to a living legend. This photo is now one of my prized possessions, and it hangs prominently on my USMC "Wall of Fame" along with other OoRah paraphernalia. For the record and for all my Air Wing buds, my MOS was 6711 (Air Traffic Control), and I served my time at MCAS Yuma (the sandpit!) with MATCU 65.
Semper fi my brothers and sisters, the Old Corps is still alive and well, and I got your back now and forever!
Simi Valley, CA
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