On March 2, 2012, members of Company L, 3d Battalion, Third Marine Regiment gathered at Semper Fidelis Memorial Park, National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Va., to dedicate the “CAPTAIN J. W. RIPLEY LIMA CO RVN-1967” Memorial, honor their fallen comrades and remember their commanding officer.
John Ripley, even for a Marine, was a physical fitness animal. He was a “the-more-you-sweat-in-peace, the-less-you-bleed-in-war” believer who’d taken it to heart—and all the other muscles of his body—as an enlisted man and later as a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy. It gave him an edge on his exchange tour with the British Royal Marines on the Malay Peninsula, at the U.S. Army’s Airborne and Ranger schools and with the Navy’s underwater demolition teams. He had become jump-, scuba- and Ranger-qualified.
Ripley said, “Endurance: We confuse this with fitness … but mental endurance is like an extra bandolier. ... You lock-and-load and keep going.”
This is the same Ripley who also is etched into Marine Corps history and remembered by all Marines as “Ripley at the bridge.” On Easter Sunday, April 2, 1972, as the U.S. Marine advisor to the 3d Battalion, Vietnamese Marine Corps, he stood alone with his Vietnamese Marines at the bridge over the Cua Viet River at Dong Ha against an invading tidal wave of well-equipped and well-trained soldiers of the North Vietnamese Army.
Warrior and hero John Ripley was a man who kept his soul in shape. A staunch Catholic, he believed you do best when at peace with your maker. His was a quiet devotion that gave his Marine persona an extra shot of courage when needed. He was a man with deep and unshakable convictions who believed in his God, his country and his Corps—and the men of “Lima” Company.
Ripley was a sterling example of leadership, integrity and honor throughout his Marine career and, indeed, his entire life.
—R. R. Keene
(Read more in the April 2012 Leatherneck magazine article, “Captain John Ripley at the Bridge: ‘Please, God, Don’t Let Me Screw This Up!’ ”)