Proud son of a Marine
Submitted by John S. Wallschlaeger
So where do I begin?
First, let me compliment you on your website and newsletter. It is a fine thing that you do for the Marine Corp family. I’m guessing that when you started this effort you never imagined the input that you get today. What a task you have in editing it on a weekly basis. I admire your efforts to present a variety of opinions on a multitude of subjects. I appreciate your newsletter (online) so much that enclosed you will find a completed application for the published Monthly Newsletter.
So how is it that I found your website and follow the Corps in the way that I do? You see my father was a Marine. His name was Edward Wallschlaeger, #606540. He was a PI graduate at the age of 17, Class of August 1946. (Platoon 170, Gunny Sgt. Floyd and Corporal Hancock) He was initially MOS 521 and assigned to MCAS Cherry Point, NC. Casual Squadron Eleven. Due to downsizing, he was discharged as a PFC in 1947 whereby he enlisted in the Reserves, assigned to the 9th District, “C” Co, 18th InfBn. The Korean War came not too much later and in September 1950, he was called back to active duty. His MOS than was 1811, Sherman Tank crewman (driver) and he was stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC. with the Second Tank Battalion of the Famed Second Marine Division (taken directly from the PIO release when he was discharged). By this time he was a Corporal and had obtained M1 “Sharpshooter” status, assisting on the Rifle Range. He was on Active Duty until September 1951 and was Honorably Discharged in May 1952, under the Reserve Release Program. His mustering out pay from Camp Lejeune was $121.72.
He had many stories about his time in the Marines. Some were funny, some were sad, but all were worth listening to. Being a Marine sometimes got him into trouble and other times it kept him out of it. One story he told was about an incident at a tavern in Wisconsin. After grabbing an armful of shot glasses to use as projectiles to get out of the bar, the group he was with returned to the cabin that they had rented for the weekend. As my dad told it, the other half of the disagreement was not far behind them. The biggest one in the bunch pounded on the door of the cabin. My dad opened the door. The guys outside were yelling for them to come out. The big guy stepped forward to grab the door and noticed that my dad was wearing his Marine Corp issued T-shirt. He asked him if he was a Marine at which he replied, yea, you want to make something of it? Seems the guy was Army and had been in Korea. He said, “you Marines saved my unit’s a$$ over there”. He turned to his buddies and said, “come on guys, we got no axe to grind here”, and they left. Clearly being a Marine has all kinds of advantages.
My father died in July 1997. In as much as I recall my father speaking very fondly of his time in the Corps, I never really appreciated what it all meant to him until the Marines help our family bury him. They presence and assistance exemplified the meaning of “Semper FI”. I am and will always be forever indebted to the Marine Corps for making my father a Marine and for helping us bury him. I see now how his being a Marine has effected me. A few years back the Corps theme was “The Change is Forever”. Without a doubt it was true for my father and it has also been true for me. While I did not serve in the military, I did serve many years under my father’s orders and esprit de corp. We didn’t have any yellow footprints at our house but we most certainly still had to toe a line or two in our days. I learned expressions like “squared away”, “head”, “point man”, “deck”, “daylight in the swamps” and “burning daylight”. I imagine the last two could be courtesy of Gunnery. Sgt. Floyd at PI. My father was forever utilizing what he learned in the Corps. He taught us boys’ firearms safety and the art of improvising, adapting, and overcoming. He could be seen field-stripping his Phillip Morris straight whenever needed and on occasion was seen putting his cigarette ash in the cuff of his pants when no other option was available. When doing chores outside or hiking or hunting, his K-Bar was always nearby. He would always look at it with a sentimental eye as he would put it back in its sheath. I now have and cherish that K-Bar. I could go on and you would read what I imagine is typical of most Marines, love and respect of God, Country and Corps. He instilled those values, along with Honor, Courage and Commitment, in my siblings, but especially in me. His tutelage helped make the change in me forever.
Yes, the Marines helped us bury our father. I am forever grateful to the Marines from Marine Wing Support Squadron, 471 Detachment Bravo, of Green Bay WI, specifically (ranks at that time) Gunnery Sgt. Michael Mingus, Sgt. Richard Barber, Sgt. Alex Wagner and Cpl. Michael Maas, who served as the Honor Guard for his visitation and burial. I never mentioned anything to my father before he died about the Honor Guard idea. I knew he would humbly decline the idea. Yet my mom, a loyal Marine wife of over forty-six years, and I knew better. In fact, my mom loved the idea. She was taken back by and grateful to the Marines who attended to his funeral. She too recalls fondly the days when my dad was in the Corps. She specifically cherishes her trip to Washington DC in the spring of 1951 to see her Marine on leave from Camp Lejeune. They knew he could be sent to Korea, but those orders never came. They got married in November 1951. As my mom looked at the Marines in July 1997, I know she found comfort in their presence. I did too. I also found it ironic. One of the things my dad told me about of his time in the Marines was that he had served on several Honor Guard details. He helped lay to rest Marines who gave their all in the Korea. He described it as very Honorable duty but difficult duty as well. Sgt. Barber told me that for the Marines, the idea of being there is simple. During his time, my father was there for the Marines. Now, it was the Corps time to be there for him. Gosh were they ever. When the Marines shook my hand and told me how sorry they were that my father had passed on, it was as if they had served side by side with him at Lejeune or Cherry Point. The image still blurs my vision and moistens my cheeks.
In between the time I arranged for the Honor Guard with Sgt. Barber and the burial, I did some volunteer time at the local County Fair in a Crime Stoppers tip line tent. As fate would have it, next store to our tent was a Marine Corp Recruiting tent, pull up bar and all. Already grateful for the Corps assistance with the upcoming funeral, I went over to the Marine working the tent to thank him. Staff Sgt. John Jamison of Recruiting Station Milwaukee was on deck. He gave me a very warm reception. He even challenged me to do 20 pull-ups for a T-shirt. With my dad in mind, and pulling a few muscles I didn’t even know I had, I got that 20, and the shirt!
The Marines that attended to my fathers funeral were very squared away. They had fresh high and tights and sharply pressed uniforms across the board. No detail was overlooked. After the Detail folded the flag at the Cemetery the Gunny presented it to my mom. Contained inside of it were some spent rifle casing from rounds they fired in his honor (the funeral home wasn’t too keen on cutting paperwork to allow for it at the Cemetery). Gunny, as he presented the flag, said some kind words about the era of Marine my father served with. My Mom genuinely appreciated those words. One of the Marines in the Detail blew taps on a bugle and we said our final good bye. We later had a luncheon to which the Marines attended. The brotherhood was instantaneous. Many of the other people in attendance, friends of my parents, had served in other branches of service during WWII and Korea. The Marines could hardly get a sip of their refreshment without someone coming over to them to shake their hands and thank them for what they did. It was really something to admire from a distance. I recall one of my father’s friends saying “leave it to the Marines to do it right”.
A few months after the funeral I heard from SSgt. Jamison. He asked if I would like an opportunity to see how a Marine is made. He said he had a slot open in an upcoming Educators trip to San Diego. Of course I couldn’t answer yes quick enough. I made the arrangements at work (my boss asked me not to enlist while I was there) and in February 1998 I was off on a Navy DC9 to MCRD. My shuttle ride to and from Milwaukee Mitchell field was provided by SSgt. Scott George. He was a recruiter in the area and was a darn squared away Marine, lots of ribbons and a barrel chest to pin them on. I found myself pinching myself. Could it really be that I was off the MCRD?
On the way to San Diego I got to know a few people on the plane. One was a Fire Chief in the Milwaukee area and a RVN Marine, two tours. He spoke highly of the M60 he carried there. He had USMC related items in his office. He told me he never had a problem with any Marine he hired as a firefighter for his Department.
The day after we arrived we rode by bus to the Recruit Depot. When we got there a DI boarded and asked all Marines to get off. When they were off he stepped back on. Than, I am sure in much the same tone he gives to the recruits who arrive there early in the morning hours, he began his welcome speech. Or should I say shout. I was videoing it but his demeanor was so intense I began to wonder if he wasn’t gonna ask me what the he!! I was smiling about and yank it out of my hands. He made it clear it was time for us to get off ?his bus” and get out on those yellow footprints. At this point I think it would have taken wild horses to get the grin off my face as I was having the time of my life. Mind you I wasn’t 17 or 18 years old and I knew this was a drill. When we got on the footprints a couple of other DI’s joined in on the fun and proceeded to get in our faces. Well, I darn near peed my pants. When it was done we received a card signifying that we were honorary Marines having stood in the hallowed ?yellow footprints” for two minutes. Two minutes! Is that all it was?
Our workshop included a complete tour of MCRD. We saw recruits in nearly all phases of the indoctrination. We saw them marching, we saw them running, we saw them swimming, we saw them getting, well, indoctrinated. We went out to Camp Pendleton and toured the “Crucible” stations. We ate some Marine Corps chow and visited with some recruits. To top it off we were privileged to see a Graduation. There wasn’t a dry eye in the viewing stand. To say it was enlightening is an understatement. I now understood what it means to be a Marine, and why it is such a brotherhood (no offense intended to any woman Marines).
Our flight back was pretty normal. There was no getting my father and the Marine Corps out of my mind. SSgt. George was there waiting when our plane got in, despite the fact it was delayed and very late. A new friendship was forming with SSgt. George. I stayed in regular contact with him and had opportunities to help him recruit a few Marines. Scott also had me give a speech to a group of delayed entry recruits and their families about what being a part of the Marine Corps family meant to me. It was an honor to be a part of the process.
Scott and his wife Machelle invited my wife and me to a Marine Corps Ball in November 1998. How honored I was to be there. Prior to the Ball Dinner, Scott reupped for another tour. Again, it was clear to me that I was a very lucky individual to be a part of all this. Over the years we have stayed in touch with the Georges as the Marine Corps life moved him around the Country and the World. He was at towns not on any maps that I had. They kept us informed as to his deployments and we stayed in touch with Machelle while she did her duty as a good Marine Corps wife.
I had a standing invitation from Scott, now a Gunnery Sgt. to come and visit him at MCAS Cherry Point, NC. In February 2003, my six-year-old son Oliver and I took Scott up on that offer and flew down to see him and his family. Scott was now a short timer and would be retiring from the Corps later on in 2003. We had a great time on our trip. My son enjoyed the travel (to the chagrin of his mother) and the quality of one on one time with me. We got to see what was left of Marines and equipment stationed at Cherry Point. We also went to Camp Lejeune and saw what we were allowed to see there too. The ramp up for the war in Iraq had nearly emptied both bases. It occurred to me that I was seeing something in real terms that others would not get to see, the effect of preparing for war. My son asked me when he was going to see all the Marines. I told him that the few we saw around the base were it and that the rest had shipped off to the war. At 6 that didn’t have the same impression on him as it did on me. It made me pause to imagine what it means to those children of the Marines that shipped out.
We took photos of buildings and locations that were nearly identical to pictures my dad had taken back in 1950 / 51. That was eerie, being that it was more than fifty years later! We posed for Scott on top of tanks on static display. We also posed in front of the new MTRV 7-ton truck, which is made in Oshkosh, not far from where we live. The Gunny took us to the PX and made sure Oliver had his cammies for the trip back home, in addition to a set for his younger brother. Of course Oliver saw to it that he had the rank of Gunny on his collar! Scott even decorated him with a few ribbons! By the end of our visit the smile on my son’s face was almost non-stop. Once again it occurred to me that the change was continuing to be forever.
A day does not go by that I don’t think of my father and the Corps. The Eagle Globe and Anchor can be seen flying from our flagpole, stickered on our vehicles and woven into the fabric of our clothes. The Marine Corps Hymn, which I got from your website, is the exit sound when I shut down my laptop. The only thing more prominent around our home is the American Flag. I recognize and appreciate the term Honor more every day. I am privileged to be a part of the Honor Guard at the Police Department I work at. This past December I attended a weeklong Honor Guard school, put on by the Washington DC Metropolitan Police. It was no surprise to learn that the lead Instructor was a Marine. He knew Honor, and he taught it well. Once again, the Marines have taught me more about Honor. I don’t see this as a coincidence. If people were to look around they would find that many of the people who effect their daily lives are Marines. They just don’t know it. And I think that makes us all smile. It’s that Marine thing. If you aren’t a Marine, or don’t know the Corps, you won’t understand it.
I am fortunate to have daily reminders of that Marine thang. Several of my coworkers are Marines. I am very willing to put my life in their hands and I would go through any door with them at my back. The core values are there, along with others that life has taught them. We enjoy discussing the Corps and the of the Marines traditions. The occasional gift that I get for them come from your catalog and the smile they brings to their face is priceless. In a way, it is the present that keeps me linked to the past.
In closing let me say thank you for all that you do for the Marine family. I heard of your website from Gunny George. It was well worth the Goggle. I have found your merchandise excellent and service outstanding. I couldn’t imagine anything less.
So as I close let me refer back to the expression, “The change is forever”. I think I have detailed that for my father it was. I believe that the change the Marine Corps has had on me will also be everlasting. Now let me add that forever is along time, so I am doing my part to keep the spirit alive. My two sons love wearing their cammies, saluting the flag (covered of course) and can often be heard humming the Marine Corps Hymn. You might even catch them singing a marching cadence. They also know that being a Marine is something special. Some of their other favorite songs include God Bless the USA and America the Beautiful. Many of these things have been rooted in me courtesy of my dad, Marine Corps class of 46. So perhaps the change will continue on in my sons too? Time will tell, but I sure hope so. What I do know is that we are off to a good start.
Thank you again for all you have done. I know of no other non-religious website that contributes like it does. To you and all Marines and their families I wish you a fond and respectful “Semper FI”. May God continue to bless us all, especially those that are in harms way protecting our great Nation all around the world.
John S. Wallschlaeger
Proud son of a Marine
Photos: TankCamp Lejeune 1950-51
2 men-Camp Lejeune 1950-51He don’t know who the buddie is.
Platoon 170August 1946
Recruit photoAugust 1946 Marine photo1950-51