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.)
Memorial Day and Veterans Day
Many people confuse Memorial Day with Veterans Day. Memorial Day is about veterans but it’s to remember our fallen veterans of this nation’s wars, not the living. The day means more to the living veterans than it does to most people. The ones lying in graveyards all across this great land, in foreign cemeteries and at sea were their comrades, the ones that shared the same miseries, felt the same terror, witnessed the same cruelty and horror of war and paid the ultimate price.
Many of them carry the same scars, both visible and invisible, of those conflicts. To them, the memories come rushing back like a tidal wave as they pass row upon row of long absent friends. Some will stand and weep unabashed at the sight of a familiar name, silently wipe at a tear, remembering a face, a voice, a personality. Most of these men, and yes, a few women, that lie there were young and will be 18 or 19 forever to the ones that knew them. In some places there will be tiny American flags placed on their graves, perhaps flowers if a loved one has visited. Many are forgotten indeed, some are unmarked or simply unknown.
A town in New York claims to be the first to have observed this holiday. But it’s also said that the Yankee general, W.T. Sherman, observed young widows placing flowers on the graves of the Confederate dead while touring the South during reconstruction and wrote a letter to his brother, a Northern congressman, wondering why he never witnessed this in the North. The congressman spread the idea and like always, the victors get to write the history.
When I was a kid, my father, a World War II veteran, would drag us out to the local cemetery and, in his words, make us pay our respects. At the time I didn’t understand his lingering silences and melancholy looks. Not until I returned home from Vietnam did I get it. I’m sure my son didn’t understand either until he returned from Desert Storm. One of the Marines he served with was among the first casualties in the episode and is buried in Whitehouse, Texas, just south of Tyler.
I pray to a merciful God that most of our society never fully knows what Memorial Day means to veterans. It’s enough just to appreciate the fact that the freedoms they blithely take for granted were paid for by a few. As I read on the war memorial in England years ago, “For Your Tomorrow We Gave Our Today.” And so it is and always will be. I also pray that their sacrifices will never be in vain, that the ideals they died for will not be given away, squandered to political correctness, or some other false god.
As I sit here writing this missive, I see their faces, smiling, forever 18, and raise a glass in their memory and murmur unspoken thanks.
Cpl Jim Jones
Once a Marine, Always a Marine
After serving four years in the Marine Corps from 1964 to 1968, including a tour in Vietnam, 1966-1967, I left active duty. Since then, I have maintained my closeness to the Corps through friendships with other Marines, the local Marine Corps League and, of course, my subscription to Leatherneck which I look forward to getting each month.
Like most Marines, I read it from cover to cover and especially enjoy the articles on Vietnam and reading about all the new things that are taking place in our Corps. I’m sure every Marine has heard the phrase, “Once a Marine, Always a Marine.” This brings me to the question of why is it that every month in the “In Memoriam” section that the term “was a Marine” is used to describe many of those listed as having passed on? For Marines of distinction, particularly officers or famous Marines, or where they cite a rank it is obvious that they were all Marines. I believe a more appropriate description of any Marine listed should be “John Doe, a Marine” instead of “John Doe, who was a Marine.”
Another common phrase states, “Marines don’t die, they go to heaven and regroup,” so why not use “A Marine” so we can continue our legacy with St. Peter? I don’t think any Marine even those who have gone to the pearly gates would enjoy being described as, “Was a Marine.” Just a thought.
Sgt Jack J. Maiz
The Villages, Fla.
>While we thank you for your suggestion, the use of the word “was” is no reflection on a person’s status as a Marine. It acknowledges the fact that a person is no longer living.—Editor
Thank You Leatherneck
Thank you for including my mother in the June issue of Leatherneck’s “In Memoriam” section. Since my mother’s death I have been sorting through things. I located a packet of letters my dad wrote to his parents from boot camp. He arrived on Parris Island on Sept. 23, 1935, for his first tour of duty. In one of his brief and not often written letters, he tells his parents he bought them a yearly subscription to Leatherneck for $2.20. He adds, “Please save the issue for me to read.” That is how long the Marines and Leatherneck are woven into the fabric of the Heim family.
Silver Spring, Md.
>Diane’s parents were featured in the November 2015 article, “Bring Your Lads Here. We Will Show You and Your Men Every Hospitality” by Major Allan C. Bevilacqua about the 1st Marine Division in Australia in 1943. Mrs. Heim was a dear friend of Leatherneck and a lovely lady. She is sorely missed.—Editor
Letters Home: Priceless Treasures
Major surprise today! A mysterious box appeared on my porch from the Marine Corps Association & Foundation. I opened it and found I have had a letter published in a feature article in Leatherneck magazine. It was a letter I wrote to Bill Swango after two weeks of boot camp on Sept. 30, 1970.
Melissa Swango Lumpp returned it to me a few years ago when she found a bundle of letters that her Dad kept from me. The box came with five extra magazines and a big red Leatherneck coffee mug. Pretty neat!
I really enjoyed the other letters in the article. Mine was rather frivolous in comparison. I was impressed that Leatherneck printed the letter as it was written. I assure you that I was accurately reporting boot camp as I experienced it.
Sgt David Drury
I just received my online issue of the June Leatherneck and am waiting for the paper magazine to arrive. I was deeply touched reading my husband’s letter in “Letters Home: Priceless Treasures.” Hank was the youngest of 16 children and one of five boys in World War II. I can imagine the joy his parents felt when they received his letter knowing he survived Iwo Jima.
Hank and I were married in 1948 and he passed away two years ago. My grief is still very deep and it really is emotionally difficult for me to read his letters. These are priceless treasures, and I thank you for including his letter in the magazine. I am happy to share his words with others.
Winter Park, Fla.
It was indeed a shock to find the June issue of Leatherneck magazine in my mailbox today displaying on the cover the bundle of letters I sent. Thank you very much, and please pass on my gratitude to everyone involved with the “Letters Home” cover and article, especially Abigail Wilson for her beautiful photo.
Mom never got the book she thought I should write, but I believe she would be pleased with what became of all the old letters she saved.
MGySgt Richard L. Houghton Jr.
As a former hospice counselor, we always reinforced the importance of keeping memories alive, not just for the immediate family, but all family members that come thereafter. Mementos, pictures and letters tell the story of a family’s heritage and may be the only connection to their loved one who has gone before the living. Thank you for preserving memories.
New Smyrna Beach, Fla.
>Our “Letters Home” article was the idea of Patty Everett, Leatherneck’s editorial/production coordinator, long time Marine Corps Association employee (37 years!), and the heart of Leatherneck. Patty did a wonderful job collecting the letters, planning the cover, and ensuring the layout evoked the sentiment inherent in each letter. The response to the feature has been outstanding and the Leatherneck staff is grateful to all who contributed to this feature.—Editor
Constraints—A Great Article
I am sitting here in my office bawling like a baby. I just happened to start reading “Constraints: That Which We Must Do,” in the June edition. What a wonderful story. Before I finished the article I had to tell several co-workers that I had a real bad cold as I was continuously wiping my eyes. Thanks again for bringing back many good and not so good memories with Leatherneck—Magazine of the Marines.
Notes of 1958
In December 1957, I was promoted to sergeant (E-4) permanent. In 1958 pay grades changed from seven pay grades to nine pay grades and I went from permanent sergeant to acting sergeant. My DD-214 states my release as corporal (E-4). During that time we were committed to eight years of obligation. Mine was four active and four inactive. In 1963 my honorable discharge states I was discharged as sergeant (E-4).
Also, in 1958, obligatory service time went from eight years to six years and reservists could do six months active duty and 5½ years active reserve.
It appears that some veterans like to note they were Marines for eight years such as 1955 to 1963, but only four were active.
From 1955 to 1957, I served in 81 Mortars in a Weapons Company but I believe Weapons Co was dissolved and 81s became part of H&S Co. Later Weapons Co was brought back.
As part of Guard Co at Parris Island, S.C., I often folded the flag, always with 48 stars; I did not do a 50-star flag folding.
Cpl Ed Grenke
Two MOH for Same Action
I was doing some research and came upon the name Corporal John Pruitt. He was a World War I Marine who was awarded two Medals of Honor. Two very interesting facts emerged during the research. It appears that both medals were awarded for the same action and one medal was awarded by the U.S. Army and the other by the U.S. Navy. This is highly unusual. Is there any explanation as to why Cpl Pruitt received both? I find this piece of Marine Corps history very interesting.
Army Medal of Honor: Rank and Organization: Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps, 78th Company, 6th Regiment (Marines), 2d Division, American Expeditionary Forces. Place and Date: At Blanc Mont Ridge, France; Oct. 3, 1918. Entered Service at: Phoenix, Arizona. Born: October 4, 1896, Fayetteville, Arkansas. General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 62 (May 10, 1919).
Citation: “Pruitt single-handedly attacked two machine guns, capturing them and killing two of the enemy. He then captured 40 prisoners in a dugout nearby. This gallant Marine was killed soon afterward by shellfire while he was sniping at the enemy.”
Navy Medal of Honor: Pruitt, John Henry, Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps, 78th Company, 6th Regiment.
Citation: “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy at Blanc Mont Ridge, France, October 3, 1918. Corporal Pruitt single-handedly attacked two machine guns, capturing them and killing two of the enemy. He then captured 40 prisoners in a dugout nearby. This gallant soldier was killed soon afterward by shellfire while he was sniping the enemy.”
>Cpl Pruitt was one of five enlisted Marines who initially received the Army’s Medal of Honor and were subsequently approved for the Navy MOH by a special board of awards convened by Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels on March 6, 1919.—Editor
The article “Chosin Twins: The Service and Sacrifice of the Thosath Family,” in the June edition of Leatherneck was the most emotional article I have ever read in my 40-plus years as a subscriber to the magazine. It had me in tears.
Sgt Lloyd Stimson
Fort Washington, Md.
In reference to the article “Chosin Twins,” in the June issue and the photo of Platoon 1208 with drill instructors Corporal E.C. Harkins and Private First Class C.R. Watson. They were also in charge of my platoon, Platoon 982, which graduated on Dec. 24, 1943.
It is possible that Platoon 1208 started training on Monday, Dec. 26.
Some time during boot camp the DI told us if we volunteered for the Marine Raiders we would stay together. There were eight of us from Massachusetts who had been in the V-12 program at Dartmouth so we did just that.
On Christmas day, along with quite a few others, we arrived at Raider camp on the northern end of Camp Pendleton. In early 1944, the Raiders were disbanded, and we became members of the 5th Marine Division. One man from our group went to the 28th Regiment, another to Headquarters Bn, and six of us went into 2nd Battalion, 27th Regiment.
One man was killed on Iwo Jima, and the other seven were wounded, four of whom were medically discharged. The other three of us went to Japan, landing in Kyushu on Sept. 22, 1945. We all had the same number of points and were discharged March 28, 1946 in Bainbridge, Md. We three stayed in contact with each other and sometimes attended the Division reunions. My two friends passed away three or four years ago. Our next reunion is in Illinois in October and I hope to be there.
More than likely most of Plt 1208 was assigned to the 5th Div, possibly one or two in my E Company, 2nd Bn, 27th Marines.
Walter P. O’Malley
National Defense Service Medal
I responded to Mr. Rinchich’s first letter [August 2015], complaining about the requirements for the award of the National Defense Medal. That response was published in the following issue of Leatherneck. I thought the gunny’s [R.R. Keene] comments on Mr. Rinchich’s complaints were right on, and mine also by the way. So, to resolve this issue I would suggest he complete the following two tasks.
Task One: Watch the movies listed below.
“Pride of the Marines,” starring John Garfield. The story of Pvt Al Schmid who was awarded the Navy Cross for actions on Guadalcanal.
“Sands of Iwo Jima,” starring John Wayne. This movie features numerous classic one liners. Two of the best, in my opinion, are, “Into each life a little rain must fall,” and “It started getting tough when you put on that uniform.” Quotes to live by.
“Full Metal Jacket,” enough said.
“We Were Soldiers,” starring Mel Gibson.
“Forrest Gump,” starring Tom Hanks. I’m talking about Lt Dan. Enough said.
Task Two: Read the books listed below.
“Wake Island: The Heroic Gallant Fight,” by Duane Schultz.
“The Thin Red Line,” by James Jones.
“Valhalla,” by Jere Peacock.
“Matterhorn,” by Karl Marlantes.
“Fields of Fire,” by James Webb.
Upon completion of these two tasks, I would hope the issue of not being awarded the National Defense Medal would be resolved and left alone.
Medals or no medals, serving in peace or fighting in war, the most important thing to remember is, we are proud to claim the title of United States Marines.
Flag on the Ground
I was always told that when a flag hits the ground it was not to be flown again but retired. This is in reference to the “Sound Off” letter, “Iwo Flag Raising, March 2005,” in the May 2018 edition. It states that the flag hit the ground and then was raised again after new rope was put in place.
Las Vegas, Nev.
>According to the Flag Code, there is no requirement to dispose of the American flag if it hits the ground.—Editor
Ranks Entitled to Carry the Saber
In my time in the Corps (Korean War era), only staff noncommissioned officers (NCO), E-5 and above, were entitled to carry the sword during special ceremonies. I recently saw a picture of a regular sergeant carrying a sword.
I know that the enlisted rank structure was changed in the late 1950s and a regular sergeant is now E-5 but not a staff NCO. Is he, under the new rank structure, entitled to carry the sword?
Thanks for assisting this 82-year-old Marine.
Frederick A. McGuire
>Per the Drill and Ceremonies Manual, “The Marine noncommissioned officer’s sword is authorized for use by all enlisted Marines in the grade of corporal through sergeant major for parades, reviews, and other ceremonies. Marines in the grade of lance corporal through private may be trained in the use of the sword for motivational purposes. However, the use of the noncommissioned officer sword by Marines in the grade of lance corporal and below for parades, reviews or other ceremonies is expressly forbidden.”—Editor
Remembrance to the Fallen
I want you to know how much it meant to myself and my family to open the May issue and on the first page [From the Editor’s Desk] see my brother’s picture and the moving remembrance of all the fallen Marines.
>Mr. Bayes’ persistence in honoring the memory of his brother was the catalyst for the May 2018 “From the Editor’s Desk.” His devotion to his brother Thomas who was killed in action in Vietnam in 1968 serves as an example for all of us.—Editor
An Ode to the Marines
It was a clear and sunny day.
The ships were on their way.
We were young and ready men.
We knew where we belonged.
It was all so long ago.
Your thoughts will never let it go.
Hell is burnt into your living soul.
You did what you were told.
A voice rang out, “Let’s go!”
You never wavered or flinched.
You moved forward inch by inch.
It was a time to live and a time to die.
We never questioned why.
They shot us down round by round.
We knew where we belonged.
We stood tall and held our ground.
We lived, we died, and even cried.
It was all so long ago.
SSgt George E. Berger