Giving Back: Veteran Using Books to Inspire, Support New Generation of Marines
By Tina Valentine
Following 26 years of service in the Marine Corps, Maj Ralph Bates Sr., USMC (Ret), found another way to give back to the Marine Corps community. Through writing books about Marines and their families, Maj Bates wanted to expand the knowledge of current active-duty Marines and their knowledge of Corps history. His latest books include: Short Rations for Marines and A Marine Called Gabe.
A Marine Called Gabe is a historical novel that follows the life of Lt Gen John Archer Lejeune, the 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps. The book received rave reviews in the October issue of Leatherneck Magazine. Since then it has been nominated for the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation’s James Webb award for a distinguished fiction book dealing with U.S. Marines or Marine Corps life.
“Gabe created or inspired today’s traditions as well as countless standards which set the United States Marine Corps apart from rank and file of the military and naval world. This book brings it all together, telling it like it was. The true story, as it might have been, of John Archer Lejeune, the greatest leatherneck of them all.”—Leatherneck Magazine.
Completing a short story on LtGen Lejeune—which later became chapter one—Maj Bates felt compelled to write a book.
“After I wrote the first chapter of Gabe at the lighthouse, it just took a hold of me. I wanted to know more about him and I wanted to share my findings with the current generation of Marines and their families. The story of the one man who actually saved the Corps and made it what it is today.”
Being inspired by his wife Lyn, who served as his co-editor and researcher, and the editor of Leatherneck Magazine, Col Walt Ford, USMC (Ret), he began to research LtGen Lejeune’s daily routine and was able to learn about his Marine Corps career. Maj Bates spent 18 months traveling throughout the United States gathering information on the famous Marine.
“My wife and I put our sweat, blood and tears in creating this book. By investigating information on his daily routine instead of reading it in the library, we felt as though we really knew him by the end.”
During the investigation, Maj Bates and his wife discovered boxes of letters written by LtGen Lejeune in closets and found scrapbooks with photographs and handwritten notes of the famous Marine.
“During our investigation we discovered that former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and LtGen Lejeune had a close friendship up until the day LtGen Lejeune died.”
While serving on active duty, Maj Bates graduated from Los Angeles City College in 1975 with an associate degree in political science and Sam Houston University in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in criminology.
A portion of the funds from both novels was donated to numerous Marine Corps- affiliated organizations in the U.S. The Marine Corps Association Foundation recently received a $500 donation from Maj Bates. He donated the money to MCAF in part due to all the help he received from Col Ford when writing and publishing his two books.
“I am just an average Marine. I love and respect the Corps because it saved me from a fate that I don’t want to consider. I am who I am because of the Corps.”
The only child of Hubert and Myrtle Bates, Maj Bates enlisted in the Marine Corps on July 2, 1955. Three months after arriving on Parris Island, S.C., he was sent into the Fleet Marine Corps. Maj Bates’ father, a WWII veteran, served in the South Pacific during his seven years in the Army. While his father was away, his mother Myrtle worked in a war factory and was nicknamed “Rosie the Riveter.” The term “Rosie the Riveter” is considered a cultural icon in the United States and represents the many women who worked in factories during WWII while men fought in the war overseas. His uncle Horace Bates—also a devil dog—encouraged Maj Bates to enlist in the Corps.
“My uncle gave me the nudge to join the Corps. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to join the Marine Corps,” said Maj Bates. “I knew that it was something that I was destined to do.”