Letter of the Month
(Leatherneck will pay $25 for a “Sound Off Letter of the Month” submitted by an MCA&F member or provide a one-year courtesy subscription to a non-member whose letter is selected.)
How do you repay someone for getting you out of harm’s way?
I was wounded on a mountain near Koto-ri, North Korea, in December 1950. It seems that almost immediately, I was dragged to a safer spot and tended to by a Fleet Marine Force corpsman. He retrieved a vial of morphine from his mouth (so it wouldn’t freeze) and gave me the shot to help relieve the pain.
A couple of years ago, the Lord presented me with an opportunity to help a retired corpsman. He was having financial difficulties. He became delinquent on his rent and was facing cable and telephone shut-off. Fortunately his landlord was a saint, allowing the corpsman to remain and covering the utilities.
Why was this happening? When “Doc” gave his retirement checks to his daughter to deposit in the bank, she would keep a sizeable amount for herself.
I asked Doc if he would like me to act and sign a limited “power of attorney” to handle his financial affairs. I closed his current account and opened a new account at another bank, and within a month, he was whole once again. I also would do his grocery shopping as directed.
My final act was to pay the expense of his funeral and serve in the honor guard. What a privilege it was to serve this man to the end.
Don J. Mooney, USMC (Ret)
I was an active member of the Marine Corps Reserve, serving from February 1965 to May 1970. In a recent discussion with a Marine major, I was advised that as a member of the active Reserve during the Vietnam era, I was entitled to wear the National Defense Service Medal. As this does not appear on my DD-214, I was under the impression that reservists were not awarded this medal.
Could you advise if a member of the active Reserve was entitled to this medal for service during that time frame?
Cpl Rudy Sannicandro
I read John Klosinski’s letter in the January Leatherneck about conflicts of the Corps.
In 1957 we evacuated Americans from Alexandria, Egypt, and we did not receive the National Defense Service Medal.
In 1958 we made a landing at Beirut, Lebanon and did not receive the National Defense Service Medal.
In 1961 I was recalled for the Berlin Wall and did not receive the National Defense Service Medal. In 1962 we had the Cuban Missile Crisis and Bay of Pigs and did not receive the National Defense Service Medal.
Did we fall through the cracks in those days, or was there something I don’t know about?
Sgt Robert Shofner
•The National Defense Service Medal is awarded for honorable active service as a member of the Armed Forces for any period between: The medal was first intended to be a “blanket campaign medal” awarded to servicemembers who served honorably during a designated time period of which a “national emergency” had been declared during a time of war or conflict. It also may be issued to active-duty military personnel for any other period that the Secretary of Defense designates.—Sound Off Ed.
• June 27, 1950, to July 27, 1954 (for service during the Korean War).
• Jan. 1, 1961, to Aug. 14, 1974 (for service during the Vietnam War).
• Aug. 2, 1990, to Nov. 30, 1995 (for service during the Gulf War).
• Sept. 11, 2001, to a date to be announced (for service during the War on Terrorism).
Reserve members who are ordered to Federal active duty, regardless of how long, may be awarded the National Defense Service Medal. Any member of the Guard or Reserves, who becomes qualified for the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Vietnam Service Medal or the Southwest Asia Service Medal after Dec. 31, 1960, also will be qualified for the National Defense Service Medal.
The following conditions are not considered performing active service toward award of the National Defense Service Medal:
(1) Guard and Reserve forces personnel on short tours of duty to fulfill training obligations under an inactive duty training program.
(2) Any person on active duty for the sole purpose of undergoing a physical examination.
(3) Any person on temporary active duty to serve on boards, courts, commissions and like organizations or on active duty for purposes other than extended active duty.
All Marines go to boot camp. All Marines go to infantry training. All Marines are 0311 infantrymen.
After boot camp and infantry training, the ones who can read and write go to the air wing.
But, a Marine is a Marine.
E. Michael Smith
Sun Valley, Nev.
•Yes, but that leads us to exceptions, such as below.—Sound Off Ed.
I have an 81-year-old friend, an honorably discharged Marine with four years’ service, who says that an “ex” Marine is one who was dishonorably discharged.
I have another friend, about the same age, who retired from the Marine Corps after 20 years of service. He says that there is no such thing as an “ex” or former Marine: Once a Marine, always a Marine.
I spoke with another friend of mine, a much younger Marine, and he does not know how to answer that one.
Paul L. Ouellette
• “You earned the title ‘Marine’ upon graduation from recruit training. It wasn’t willed to you; it isn’t a gift. It is not a government subsidy. Few can claim the title; no one may take it away. It is yours forever.”—MSgt Tom Bartlett, USMC (Ret), the late managing editor of Leatherneck… Yours forever, unless YOU give it up and trade it for a Dishonorable Discharge at which time you will be called an ex-Marine: the modern day equivalent of being drummed out.—Sound Off Ed.
I read Private First Class Francis Welsh’s letter “Nation’s Veterans Deserve Proper Funeral Honors” in the January issue. As the coordinator for the Central Coast Leatherneck Honor Guard, a nonprofit organization formed to render military honors at funerals, I could not agree more with the feelings of PFC Welsh that our country’s veterans are being forgotten by the government.
Due to the fact that there are no national cemeteries in our area of California and the government’s lack of money or willingness to provide full military funeral honors for the veterans of this area (even though many veterans’ families requested full military honors for their loved ones), starting in 1999 a small group of Marine veterans, remembering the Corps’ principles of honor, courage and commitment, stepped forward to fill the requests of veterans’ families.
The current membership of the honor guard is 25 volunteers; 23 are Marines and two are from other branches. They served in all wars and conflicts since World War II. They all have honorable discharges and agree to comply with the dress and appearance codes in line with U.S. Marine Corps regulations.
This group of veterans has been conducting military funeral honor ceremonies since 1999, and last May they rendered their 1,000th military honor ceremony in the San Luis Obispo area. During 2014 they conducted a total of 83 funeral honors for veterans of all branches of the Armed Forces.
To quote President Ronald Reagan: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. It has to be fought for and defended by each generation.”
My belief is: if veterans such as those of the Central Coast Leatherneck Honor Guard of San Luis Obispo, Calif., do not continue to provide military honors for veterans who served to protect the freedom of the United States, then who will? Honoring and respecting the veterans shows their families and friends that the people of a grateful nation truly care about their sacrifices.
SFC Jim Brenton, USA
Central Coast Leatherneck Honor Guard
San Luis Obispo, Calif.
In comment to PFC Welsh’s very good letter, I agree with him and believe it is a problem that this nation should address. Having witnessed the Army’s “Old Guard” and our own Marine Body Bearers at Arlington, Va., I agree there are none better, but in addition to what PFC Welsh said, the local veterans’ organizations such as the Marine Corps League, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion are doing a great job of filling in the gaps.
After taking my retirement from the Corps and subsequently from a civilian career, I joined the local VFW and its honor guard. Throughout the last 14 years or so, I have been involved in roughly 1,000 military funerals. Sometimes the Armed Forces send representatives of the Navy, Army and Air Force who fold and present the flag in a very honorable and dignified manner. We veterans augment the ceremony with a commander’s eulogy dissertation, a chaplain’s prayer, the three-round volley and the playing of “Taps.”
There is a mixture from all military services in our honor guard, the oldest being more than 90 and an Army veteran of Normandy. We are very proud of the service we perform and hope to continue for the years to come.
MSgt Ron Thompson, USMC (Ret)
I read Leatherneck from cover to cover. I suppose by today’s standards I would be considered one of the “old salts.” I joined the Corps at age 17 in 1951, and I was 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighed 117 pounds. I was told by my drill instructor that I had zero chance of making it through boot camp because of my size.
In December I was sent to Korea and was assigned to “Fox” Company, 2d Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment, First Marine Division as a Browning Automatic Rifleman. On July 4, 1952, I was wounded at an unnamed outpost.
I went to Korea as a private first class and left in December 1952 as a buck sergeant; all less than two years in the Corps. Boot camp, as any Marine knows, taught us to obey orders, obey the law, love our fellow Marines and love our country. That has been foremost in my life now for 83 years.
My concern is about the “Letter of the Month” in the February issue from Daniel Ahern and the issue that he had with the law.
We are reminded by those in leadership positions that we are a nation of laws, and no man is above the law. In Mr. Ahern’s letter, he seemed to boast about doing 72 in a 65-mph speed zone and, because he had Marine bumper stickers on his RV, the state trooper gave him a thumbs-up, saying it was OK for him to break the law.
Well, I have Marine bumper stickers, USMC flags on my vehicles as well as USMC flags in my yard and am well-known in my neighborhood and church as the 83-year-old Marine, and I have never considered myself above the law because of it. Yes, I have had one ticket in my adult life, and that was because of an expired sticker. There’s no doubt that we all do things that violate some laws, but a Marine veteran should know better and especially try to set an example for the younger generation.
And, finally, by publishing the letter from Mr. Ahern, especially as the Letter of the Month, it seems to say to all that if you have a Marine bumper sticker on your vehicle, you can go as fast as you want without penalty. The trooper failed to do his duty by giving the speeder a thumbs-up. I doubt that this will make print, but at least Leatherneck should reject this sort of act.
Thomas F. Williams
• Yes, sir! You are right and we were wrong. I think Mr. Ahern and we at Leatherneck got caught up with the act of Marines behaving and bonding as brothers and overlooked the fact that although often done, it is still a violation of the law and is a story probably best told only among friends having a beer (with a designated driver).—Sound Off Ed.
My February issue arrived and I was amazed to find my picture in it! The article “Training Their Own: The Marines of Air Delivery Jump School, 1954-57” has a photograph of me with my Vietnamese Special Forces jumpmaster. I was working with Mobile Strike Force Da Nang, 5th Special Forces Group.
The photo was taken after an operation, somewhere between Red Beach and the hills to the north in 1968.
My copy of that photo was lost when my house disappeared in Hurricane Katrina, and I would be extremely grateful if you could send the image to me electronically. I will open a bottle of Jarhead Red, and the photo and I will have a celebratory reunion!
LtCol Tom C. McKenney, USMC (Ret)
Ocean Springs, Miss.
• Our staff writer, Sara Bock, who penned the article sends the following: “We made a mistake in the identification of the Marine in that photo, and we apologize. We are glad to put the correct name with the face. It was, indeed, not Master Sergeant Arthur S. Umphrey in the photo; although he has a remarkably similar photo of himself with a Vietnamese jumpmaster, somehow our signals got crossed. We aren’t sure where the photo came from, but it’s a good one. [Too bad it was the wrong one.] Go ahead and crack open your Jarhead Red, because a copy of the photo is on its way to you!”—Sound Off Ed.
The recent stories on Marine football bring back memories of when I was stationed at Quantico, Va.
It was 1956 and the Marines played the team from Bolling Air Force Base for the service championship.
The Air Force team was loaded with college All-Americans and National Football League pros. They were heavy favorites.
The Marines beat the Air Force in the rain, 7-6. The Marines had a placekicker who won the game, named Second Lieutenant Thurlow “Tad” Weed who played at Ohio State.
The extra point was kicked as time ran out. Since we were the underdogs, we celebrated in true Marine spirit and fashion.
Mayfield Heights, Ohio
I enjoyed Capt Jack Paxton’s letter about “Marine Football!” in the February issue. I would like to add one more name to Paxton’s college stalwarts listing: Harry “The Golden Greek” Agganis.
Harry played on the 1950 Camp Lejeune, N.C.’s football and baseball teams. He was an All-American quarterback at Boston University. The big football game at that time was Quantico’s Eddie LeBaron vs. Lejeune’s Harry Agganis. It was a long time ago, and I don’t know who won. [The game was played Nov. 11, 1950, when Quantico routed Lejeune, 42-7.]
Harry played first base for the Boston Red Sox in 1954 and 1955. The left fielder was a fellow Marine, the great Ted Williams.
Harry Agganis passed away at the age of 26 from a pulmonary embolism, June 27, 1955. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1974.
Cpl Paul Carey
It was autumn of 1972. A company of Marine second lieutenants, students of The Basic School, had humped the hills of Quantico, Va., all day, and now their task was to dig in and prepare to repel a night attack from aggressors, played by leathernecks of Marine Barracks, “8th and I,” Washington, D.C. The lieutenants were a week away from graduation, and every lieutenant was considered rifle platoon qualified.
Suddenly, the word is passed down the chain of command: “All football players back to the trucks.” My squad included a celebrated placekicker. Sometimes he would return to complete the night evolutions; other times, he would return in the morning, freshly showered and in clean, starched utilities. For away games, we pretended he had been medically evacuated.
The same thing happened to the TBS glee club. Training was interrupted for important rehearsals. They were preparing to perform for President Richard M. Nixon’s inauguration.
Tail wagging the dog? Form before function? Train the way we fight?
1stLt Anthony J. Caminiti
New Hyde Park, N.Y.
• You tell me. I don’t see a major wave of standards lowering and training disrupting in your examples. I don’t think I would have Marines in a glee club, even lieutenants, but …—Sound Off Ed.
In 1962 Paul Johnson and I were sitting in the Infantry Training Regimental mess hall, Camp San Onofre, Camp Pendleton, Calif., at breakfast, and three Marines from another company sat down across from us. One, we didn’t know; the other two were Don and Phil … the Everly Brothers. We readily recognized them and had a terrific conversation. As I recall, they were in the Marine Corps Reserve completing their six-month active duty.
We were interrupted by our ITR troop handlers. It seems the entire company was outside waiting for the last two maggots (us), and it was raining hard and they were peeved and not at all impressed that we were visiting with the Everly Brothers.
• Montford Point Marine Assn. (50th Annual Convention), Aug. 12-16, Mobile, Ala. Contact Rodney Lee, (251) 776-2424, or Ron Johnson, (504) 270-5426, www.montfordpointmarines.org.
• Marine Corps Mustang Assn. (30th Reunion), Sept. 15-18, Jacksonville, Fla. Contact LtCol Richard J. Sullivan, USMC (Ret), (508) 954-2262, [email protected].
• USMC Combat Correspondents Assn., Aug. 16-20, New Bern, N.C. Contact Jack Paxton, (352) 748-4698, [email protected].
• USMC Vietnam Tankers Assn., Oct. 28-Nov. 2, Arlington, Va. Contact John Wear, (215) 794-9052, [email protected].
• USMC Bulk Fuel Assn., April 30-May 3, Somers Point, N.J. Contact Howard W. Huston, (609) 432-4027, (609) 927-3857, [email protected].
• 1st MAW Assn. (RVN), May 28-30, Pensacola, Fla. Contact Al Frater, (201) 906-1197, [email protected].
• USMC Hawk Assn. (50th Anniversary), Aug. 19-23, Palm Springs/Rancho Mirage, Calif. Contact Stan Buliszyn, (352) 509-2043, [email protected].
• USMC A-4 Skyhawk Assn., Oct. 8-11, San Diego. Contact Mark Williams, 400 Howell Way, #102, Edmonds, WA 98020, (425) 771-2030, [email protected].
• 531 Gray Ghost Squadron Assn., April 23-25, Pensacola, Fla. Contact GySgt Ralph Delisanti, USMC (Ret), (585) 426-4091, [email protected] .com.
• Moroccan Reunion Assn. (all eras), Sept. 9-13, Branson, Mo. Contact Robert Sieborg, 2717 N. 120th Ave., Omaha, NE 68164, (402) 496-1498.
• Reconnaissance and Combat Helicopter Marines (RVN, 1965-71, 50th Anniversary), April 21-24, Oceanside, Calif. Contact Charlie Kershaw, (760) 438-8638, [email protected].
• USMC Postal 0160/0161, Sept. 13-18, Savannah, Ga. Contact Harold Wilson, (740) 385-6204, [email protected].
• 1st, 2d and 3d Amtracs, June 24-26, Biloxi, Miss. Contact Robert Glausier, (301) 432-5289, [email protected] (subject line: Amtrac Reunion), or Vic Ciullo, (941) 496-8119.
• 3d and 4th Defense Battalions (members of other defense battalions welcome), May 20-26, Fredericksburg, Texas. Contact Charles Buckley, (510) 794-7280, [email protected], or Sharon Heideman, (512) 738-2075, [email protected].
• BLT 1/3 (WW II, Korea, RVN, Gulf War), Aug. 11-16, Orlando, Fla. Contact Richard Cleary, P.O. Box 128, Mammoth, AZ 85618, (520) 487-0327, [email protected].
• BLT 3/9 (50-Year Reunion), Sept. 8-12, San Diego. Contact Charles Saltafor maggio, (504) 812-7369, [email protected].
• 2/4 (“The Magnificent Bastards,” all eras, honoring Gold Star families), July 23-26, Quantico, Va. Contact Jim Rogers, (703) 887-6238, [email protected], or Dave Jones, (410) 310-4571, [email protected].
• A/1/7 (Korea, 1950-53), Sept. 29-Oct. 1, Virginia Beach, Va. Contact Leonard R. “Shifty” Shifflette, 25 Emery St., Harrisonburg, VA 22801-2705, (540) 434-2066, (540) 746-2066, [email protected].
• B/1/5 and C/1/5 (RVN, 1966-67) are planning a reunion. Contact SSgt Jim Proulx, USMC (Ret), (904) 343-4850, [email protected].
• “Bravo” Co, 4th CEB, 4thMarDiv (Desert Storm, 25th Anniversary), May 13-14, 2016, Roanoke, Va. Contact Steve Garman, [email protected].
• F/2/1 (RVN, 1967), April 20-22, Tampa, Fla. Contact Dieter Maass, (920) 846-2988, [email protected].
• H/2/7 (RVN, 1965-70), June 5-7, Buffalo, N.Y. Contact Ralph Sirianni, (716) 903-9640, [email protected].
• 3d Plt, H/2/3 (RVN, 1967-68), Oct. 8-11, Stafford, Va. Contact Chuck Gaede, (512) 750-9265, [email protected].
• Marine Security Guards, 1st, 2d and 3d Plts (Marine Barracks, Naval Gun Factory, Washington, D.C.), May 8-10, Quantico, Va. Contact Don Green, [email protected], or Dale Wilson, (617) 755-5745, [email protected].
• 1st Provisional Marine Brigade (“The Fire Brigade,” Korea, 1950) is planning a 65th anniversary reunion. Contact Col Warren Wiedhahn, USMC (Ret), Military Historical Tours, 13198 Centerpointe Way, #202, Woodbridge, VA 22193, (703) 590-1295, [email protected], www.miltours.com.
• 2d Force Recon Co, May 14-17, Camp Lejeune, N.C. Contact Rick Gallagher, 1466 Evans Creek Rd., Brodnax, VA 23920, (434) 865-3251, [email protected].
• 3d Force Recon Co (50th Anniversary, 1965-70), May 6-10, Quantico, Va. Contact Maj B.H. “Doc” Norton, USMC (Ret), (843) 819-5149, [email protected].
• American Embassy Saigon, RVN (all military and civilian personnel stationed pre-April 30, 1975), May 17-21, Louisville, Ky. Contact MSgt Gus Tomuschat, USMC (Ret), (804) 693-3007, [email protected], www.saigonmac.org.
• Marine Barracks, Great Lakes, Ill., is planning a potential reunion. Contact Gene Spanos, (847) 770-9049, [email protected].
• Ontos Crewmen (all eras), May 5-9, San Diego. Contact Louis Najfus, (678) 546-1444, [email protected].
• TBS, Co A, 1-68 (June-November 1967), April 28-May 4, Fredericksburg, Va. Contact LtCol Dick Kurth, USMC (Ret), [email protected].
• TBS, Co A, 1-70, June 25-28, Quantico, Va. Contact Bob Del Grosso, (908) 334-3496, [email protected].
• TBS, Co F, 6-79, is planning a reunion. Contact LtCol Tom Conners, USMC (Ret), (919) 303-2697, (919) 418-5757, [email protected].
• Plts 17 and 19, Parris Island, 1955 (and others who went through PI during 1955 are welcome too), June 4-6, Parris Island, S.C. Contact Al Pasquale, (484) 802-2516, [email protected].
• Plt 98, Parris Island, 1948, is planning a reunion. Contact SSgt Jim Proulx, USMC (Ret), (904) 343-4850, [email protected].
• Plt 244, Parris Island, 1967, is planning a reunion. Contact former Sgt J.D. Croom III, (704) 965-8521, [email protected].
• Plt 245, San Diego, 1965, is planning a reunion. Contact David S. Alvarez, (209) 735-2601, [email protected].
• Plt 2023, San Diego, 1983, is planning a reunion. Contact Jeffrey R. Johnson, 3751 Merced Dr., Unit 4D, Riverside, CA 92503, [email protected].
• Plt 2030, Parris Island, 1965-66, is planning a reunion. Contact John E. Lyford, (518) 654-6073, [email protected].
• Plt 4035, “Papa” Co, Parris Island, 2000, is planning a reunion. Contact Tammy (Manyik) Epperson, (571) 451-7263, [email protected].
• HMM-265 (1962-present), Nov. 8-15, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Marine Corps Birthday Ball cruise, Holland America cruise line). Contact Tim Bastyr, (770) 304-2290, [email protected].
• HMR/HMM/HMH-361 (all eras), Sept. 30-Oct. 4, Pensacola, Fla. Contact John Ruffini, (850) 291-6438, [email protected].
• VMF/VMA-214, April 24-25, MCAS Yuma, Ariz. Contact 1stLt Shane Long, (928) 269-2730, [email protected].
• VMFA-333, June 17-21, Charleston, S.C. Contact Connie Gause, (202) 306-0848, [email protected].
• USS (CA-130/SSN-698), Sept. 13-18, Louisville, Ky. Contact Jerry Adams, 106 Ashley Dr., Winchester, KY 40391, (859) 771-5651, [email protected].
• USS (CA-70/CAG-2), Oct. 14-18, Mobile, Ala. Contact Ken Minick, P.O. Box 130, Belpre, OH 45714, (740) 423-8976, [email protected].
• USS (CL-81), Aug. 18-23, Green Bay, Wis. Contact Barbara Hillebrand, (608) 424-6095, [email protected].
• USS (LPH-2/LHD-7), Sept. 13-16, Baton Rouge, La. Contact Robert G. McAnally, 152 Frissell St., Hampton, VA 23663, (757) 723-0317, [email protected].
• USS (DD-885), Sept. 16-20, Atlanta. Contact Jerry Chwalek, 9307 Louisiana St., Livonia, MI 48150, (734) 525-1469, [email protected].
• USS “Champ Marines” (CV/CVA/CVS-39), June 21-25, Savannah, Ga. Contact H. Wells “Red” French, (941) 697-1870, [email protected] .com (subject line: “Champ Marines”).
• USS (AGC-7/LCC-7), Sept. 16-20, Milwaukee. Contact Dave Long, (440) 292-7839, [email protected].
• USS (CV-40/LHA-1), April 16-19, Norwich, Conn. Contact Lester Ward, 101 Meadow Ln., Randolph, MA 02368, (781) 961-2583, or Walter Tothero, 106 N. Tranquil Trl., Crawfordsville, IN 47933, (765) 362-6937, [email protected] plus.net.
• U.S. Naval School, Underwater Swimmers (Marine divers trained from recon and force recon), May 14-17, Panama City, Fla. Contact Aaron Farrior, (850) 240-7417, [email protected].