With The Old Breed

The HBO Series The Pacific, based on E. B. Sledge’s book With The Old Breed, was very educational and I enjoyed the stories and lessons. After watching it, I purchased the book right away.

With The Old Breed, one Marine’s detailed story about fighting the Japanese at Peleliu and Okinawa during World War Two. “Sledgehammer” (K/3/5) does a superb job of describing the war as experienced by a combat Marine. His stories are so detailed, he really paints the scene, holding nothing back for his readers.

You’ll be amazed at the heroic deeds and sacrifices the Marines (and Corpsmen) made during these campaigns.

I highly recommend picking up a copy. If you’ve already read it, feel free to comment with your thoughts.

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Essays on War: Mattis

by Stan Coerr November 28, 2016

America knows General James Mattis as a character, Mad Dog Mattis, fount of funny quotes and Chuck Norris-caliber memes.

Those of us who served with him know that he is a caring, erudite, warfighting general. And we know that there is a reason he uses the callsign Chaos: he is a lifelong student of his profession, a devotee of maneuver warfare and Sun Tzu, the sort of guy who wants to win without fighting—to cause chaos among those he would oppose.

image source: https://wn.com/james_mattis

To Marines, he is the finest of our tribal elders. The rest of the world, very soon, will know how truly gifted he is. Our friends and allies will be happy he is our new Secretary of War; our enemies will soon wish he weren’t.

I worked for General James Mattis three times: when he was a Colonel, a Major General, and a Lieutenant General.

Read the entire story here

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General Mattis Quotes

“You are part of the world’s most feared and trusted force. Engage your brain before you engage your weapon.”

“You cannot allow any of your people to avoid the brutal facts. If they start living in a dream world, it’s going to be bad.”

“The most important 6 inches on the battlefield is between your ears.”

“If in order to kill the enemy you have to kill an innocent, don’t take the shot. Don’t create more enemies than you take out by some immoral act.”

“I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you f— with me, I’ll kill you all.”

“Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

“We’ve backed off in good faith to try and give you a chance to straighten this problem out. But I am going to beg with you for a minute. I’m going to plead with you, do not cross us. Because if you do, the survivors will write about what we do here for 10,000 years.”

“I don’t lose any sleep at night over the potential for failure. I cannot even spell the word.”

“A country that armed Stalin to defeat Hitler can certainly work alongside enemies of Al Qaeda to defeat Al Qaeda.”

“The first time you blow someone away is not an insignificant event. That said, there are some a–holes in the world that just need to be shot. There are hunters and there are victims. By your discipline, you will decide if you are a hunter or a victim.”

“You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually it’s quite fun to fight them, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling.”

“There are some people who think you have to hate them in order to shoot them. I don’t think you do. It’s just business.”

“Marines don’t know how to spell the word defeat.”

“PowerPoint makes us stupid.”

“In this age, I don’t care how tactically or operationally brilliant you are, if you cannot create harmony — even vicious harmony — on the battlefield based on trust across service lines, across coalition and national lines, and across civilian/military lines, you need to go home, because your leadership is obsolete. We have got to have officers who can create harmony across all those lines.”

“Find the enemy that wants to end this experiment (in American democracy) and kill every one of them until they’re so sick of the killing that they leave us and our freedoms intact.”

“Treachery has existed as long as there’s been warfare, and there’s always been a few people that you couldn’t trust.”

“Fight with a happy heart.”

“For the mission’s sake, for our country’s sake, and the sake of the men who carried the Division’s colors in past battles — ‘who fought for life and never lost their nerve’ — carry out your mission and keep your honor clean. Demonstrate to the world there is ‘No Better Friend — No Worse Enemy’ than a US Marine.”

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Parris Island: Making Marines for 100 years

A special report on the past and present of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island on its 100th anniversary.


Read more here: http://www.islandpacket.com/news/local/community/beaufort-news/bg-military/article39395994.html#storylink=cpy

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Kentucky Marine

Kentucky Marine – Major General Logan Feland and the Making of the Modern USMC by David J. Bettez, Winner, Marine Corps Heritage Foundation’s Colonel Joseph Alexander Award

Always Faithful, but Forgotten to History

New book examines the life career of one of the most influential figures

BettezCompF.inddLexington, KY—Soldiers of the Sea serve with a quiet dignity that belies the extraordinary feats they accomplish. Major General Logan Feland, an influential and significant figure in the history of the United States Marine Corps, served his country and his Corps in a career that spanned the Spanish-American War, World War I, and the Nicaraguan Revolution, and which nearly concluded with an appointment as Commandant of the Marine Corps.

In Kentucky Marine: Major General Logan Feland and the Making of the Modern USMC, by David J. Bettez, now available in paperback, Feland has finally received the long-overdue biography brings this quiet, intelligent, acerbic, and brave strategist and technician to the attention of a new generation. Drawing on personal letters, contemporary news articles, official communications, and confidential correspondence, Bettez captures Feland as a transitional figure in Marine Corps history, reflecting its changing nature during the early twentieth century.

A native of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, Feland led a momentous life. His service coincided with the United States’ expansion as a global power, with territories and responsibilities around the world. In an expanding Marine Corps, which was often the tip of the spear in times of crisis, Feland became one of the USMC’s most highly ranked and regarded officers.

Decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroic actions during the battle of Belleau Wood in World War I, Feland was specially selected to command the hunt for rebel leader Augusto César Sandino during the Nicaraguan revolution from 1927 to 1929—an operation that helped to establish the Marines’ reputation in guerrilla warfare and search-and- capture missions. He was one of the first instructors in the USMC’s Advanced Base Force, which was the forerunner of the amphibious assault force mission the Marines adopted in World War II, and during his tenure as an officer, the Corps expanded exponentially in manpower, influence, and prestige. Yet, despite Feland’s role in the development of the modern Marine Corps, he has been largely ignored in the Despite failing to achieve the ultimate goal of Commandant, Major General Logan Feland could be proud of his service to the Corps and to his country. He had proved his bravery and his willingness to step into and succeed in leadership positions in the Corps. Had Feland been named Commandant of the Marine Corps in 1930 in place of Brigadier General Ben Fuller, Feland’s place in the storied history of the Marine Corps would have been assured. Kentucky Marine was named the winner of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation’s 2015 Colonel Joseph Alexander Award.

David J. Bettez served as director of the Office of International Affairs at the University of Kentucky and is the author of Kentucky and the Great War: World War I on the Home Front.

Available at kentuckypress.com.

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Brief History of MCRD San Diego, 1914-1962

By Elmore A. Champie

The Marine Corps Base at San Diego is surrounded by evidences of the Spanish heritage of southern California. Among the more conspicuous are the euphonious place names found everywhere , including the name San Diego itself, and the picturesque architecture that may be seen, not only in the city, but also in the permanent buildings of the Marine Corps post. This is a natural consequence of the fact that California was a Spanish possession for nearly three centuries. The region was claimed for Spain in 1542 by Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo, a Portuguese navigator in the services of Charles V and the first white man to see San Diego Bay. It remained under Spanish control until 1821, when Mexico won her independence from Spain. Thereafter, for about a quarter of a century, California was claimed by Mexico.

Cpl. Beddoe flying over MCRD San Diego in a restored USMC Sikorsky UH-34D Helicopter
Cpl. Beddoe flying over MCRD San Diego in a restored USMC Sikorsky UH-34D Helicopter

Geography and the westward expansion of the United States now brought the Marines into their first contact with San Diego. The town was seized by a landing party of seamen and Marines from the USS Cyane on 29 July 1846, shortly after war had broken out between the United States and Mexico. It was in this operation that the Stars and Stripes was first raised in southern California. Marines were also among the reinforcements sent early the following December to assist Brigadier General Stephen W. Kearny, USA, and his dragoons in completing the final portion of their march from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to San Diego/ Despite the harassment of Andres Pico’s lancers, Kearny succeeded in reaching San Diego on 12 December 1846. Hostilities in the California theater of operations ceased about a month later; and when the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo formally ended the war in 1848, Mexico ceded to the United States a large block of territory that included California.

Geography – an important element, as we have noted, in the foregoing events – has been a constant factor in the working out of San Diego’s destiny with respect to the Marine Corps. Only 12 miles north of the Mexican border and possessed of an excellent harbor, the city readily recommended itself to the strategic eye as an expeditionary base on the west coast when the need for such a base became evident in the early twentieth century. San Diego was not only convenient to the Pacific approaches of Latin America, where it was apparent that trouble could be expected at intervals, but it could also serve advantageously as a port of embarkation for Hawaii and the Par East* Concrete action toward establishing a base there, however, awaited some precipitating event. Mexican political Instability was to provide the catalyst that returned the Marines to San Diego for the first time since the Mexican War and subsequently caused a permanent Marine Corps post to be established there.

CLICK PDF to read the entire history:


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Take a Virtual Tour of the Marine Corps Museum

Welcome to the National Museum of the Marine Corps Virtual Experience! This rich, interactive virtual environment will serve as the gateway for Marines and visitors from all around the world to see the museum regardless of their location. Explore the U.S. Marine Corps’ proud heritage from your desktop…marvel at the Marine aircraft suspended throughout the Leatherneck Gallery; experience bootcamp as a new recruit; watch historic footage of Marines landing on Iwo Jima; and much, much more.


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Navy SEALs: Pressure on standards?

San Diego Union-Tribune Online, Sept. 27 | Jeanette Steele

As SEAL leader recommends opening to women, former SEALs discuss issues facing elite branch

In the Navy SEAL world, “standards” is the word of the hour.

As momentum builds for the elite Navy branch to open its doors to women, former SEALs are concerned there will be pressure to subtly change the training process that molded them — even as some agree that the time has come for gender equality.

On Friday, news broke that Rear Adm. Brian Losey, commander of the Coronado-based SEALs, has recommended that the elite branch open to women.

The top SEAL wrote that there are “no insurmountable obstacles” to integrating women.

But, he added, they may be more prone to injuries and probably won’t enhance the fighting effectiveness of SEAL teams, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press.

Losey’s memo was to the head of the U.S. Special Operations Command, Gen. Joseph Votel, who is expected to soon make his own recommendation about admitting women to the special-operations brotherhood, which includes Army Rangers and Green Berets.

All of this is precursor to an upcoming decision by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter about whether any part of the U.S. military will remain closed to women.

Losey’s leaked recommendation is particularly noteworthy because it differs from the Marine Corps, whose then-commandant recently asked to continue excluding women from some direct-combat jobs.

Former SEALs point to various possible pitfalls ahead — all related to what they predict will be an inherent pressure to see a woman pass SEAL training.

Ed Hiner was training officer at the Coronado Naval Special Warfare Command before retiring in 2012.

He said SEALs probably won’t touch the written standards, such as timed swims and runs throughout basic training conducted in Coronado.

That training is a 21-week ordeal known as Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL, or BUD/S. At least 70 percent of the men who try out fail.

It’s the stuff not on paper that might yield to pressure, said Hiner, who lives in La Jolla.

For instance, BUD/S candidates run a mile each way to meals. That’s six miles a day that aren’t part of the official standard.

He said SEAL leaders might be coaxed into cutting those runs to lessen stress fractures among women, for example.

“Those type of in between the standards, as I call it, those type of things have been such a part of training for so long … those things are part of what has produced probably the best fighting force in the world,” Hiner said. “At the end of the grinding process, we came out with what we wanted. If you undo the grinding, it’s not going to be the same training — not even close to the same.”

If there’s a perception that the rigor has lessened, the SEALs will no longer attract the best of the best, he added.

Another former SEAL, Brandon Webb, said he hopes there won’t be spoken or unspoken quotas to fill.

He pointed to missteps when women first became Navy fighter pilots in the 1990s.

Famously, Lt. Kara Hultgreen fatally crashed her F-14 Tomcat while trying to land on the aircraft carrier Lincoln in 1994. Later, an inspector general probe determined that the Navy botched the initial placement of female combat pilots aboard the carrier.

The investigation found that women weren’t given preferential treatment. However, it concluded that instructors didn’t give the female pilots the help they deserved and that enormous media attention on the issue stigmatized the women and made it hard for them to be accepted in squadrons.

The report admonished the Navy not to “accelerate” the training of female aviators but to put them in the fleet after adequate and complete instruction.

Webb, who served from 1993 to 2006, said he hope the SEALs learn from aviation’s mistakes.

“Lives were lost as a result of ‘push through,’” Webb said. “This ultimately defeats unit morale, gets people killed and diminishes the accomplishment of those women who actually meet the standard.”

Losey, the Naval Special Warfare boss, addressed this issue in his memo, acknowledging there may be “external” pressure.

“With the recent female graduates from the Ranger course, there may be an expectation that there will soon be female graduates from BUD/S,” he wrote. “We will welcome any candidate who meets standards.”

Despite their concerns, both former SEALs said it’s right for women to get a shot.

Hiner said that he has personal reservations, which he admits are based in notions such as chivalry. But, he added, “Intellectually, as a leader who says ‘let’s be fair to every human being in this society,’ we have to open it up.”

Webb said women have earned the chance to try.

This echoes Losey’s memo, which noted that about 500 women already serve alongside SEALs in support jobs. They have been deploying with units for more than a decade, in wars where the “frontline” is blurred by guerilla-style fighting.

“We live in the 21st century where women have proven they can compete on the same level as men,” Webb said.

Still, in the tight-knit circles of former SEALs, people said the chief emotion in the active-duty ranks is dread.

That mirrors a recent RAND Corp. survey of special-operations troops that reflected doubts about whether women could meet the overall job demands. It also found concerns that sexual harassment or assault could increase, and cited worries about “unequal treatment” of special-operations candidates and personnel.

SEAL teams are known to be a rough-and-tumble environment full of high-octane personalities. One retired SEAL officer said heated arguments and even fistfights occur. Will SEALs feel compelled to treat women with a lighter touch, he wondered?

Losey addressed some of these issues in his five-page memo, which has not been released publicly.

He downplayed the risk of women wrecking team cohesion, saying that while some may not want women serving alongside them, “acceptance is expected to increase over time.”

The Coronado SEAL command has spent the past year examining its standards.

Currently, just to enter BUD/S, candidates must be able to do 10 pull-ups in two minutes and 50 push-ups in the same amount of time, among other swimming and running tests.

The people who survive training usually score well above the minimum, according to people familiar with the process.

In addition, the SEAL command looked at how both genders might be accommodated in regards to living conditions and how women might be incorporated into training command staffs.

Unlike the Marine Corps — which released the results of its study earlier this month — the SEALs have done this quietly, without sharing their conclusions.

Until now.

In his memo, Losey said officials expect higher injury rates for women during training. He called for more education and study on the issue, according to the Associated Press.

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Compass and a Camera, A Year in Vietnam

With a compass to direct him in his job as a forward observer and a personal camera to document his experiences and keep him connected to his creative side, Vietnam veteran Steven Burchik was lucky enough to make it home and years later decided to write about the most challenging year of his life.

compass-cameraLike any experience, his year spent with the First Infantry Division stationed in the rice paddies near Saigon included good times as well as bad. He candidly recalls how, although he believed communism to be a serious threat in the world, he soon learned that a guerrilla war is a difficult one to fight, and survival rather than victory quickly became his focus. But he also remembers the exhilaration of helicopter rides over serpentine rivers and the time he introduced village kids to a gumball machine.

A unique memoir of the war, Compass and a Camera pulls not only from Burchik’s memories, but also from the daily letters he wrote to his fiancée and includes numerous photographs from his collection of over four thousand. The images alone make this book a must-have for any history buff or fellow veteran.

Available on Amazon.com

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The Making of a Navy SEAL by Brandon Webb

The Making of a Navy SEAL: My Story of Surviving the Toughest Challenge and Training the Best Hardcover – August 25, 2015
by Brandon Webb (Author), John David Mann (Author), Marcus Luttrell (Foreword)

Brandon Webb is a former U.S. Navy SEAL; his last assignment with the SEALs was Course Manager for the elite SEAL Sniper Course, where he trained some of the most accomplished snipers of the twenty-first century including Marcus Luttrell and Chris Kyle.

The Making of a Navy SEAL is a guts and glory tale of an American boy pursuing an American dream. Having literally grown up at sea, Brandon was an experienced boatsman and rescue diver by the age of sixteen. Searching for a purpose and path in life, Brandon learns about the SEALs one day by some fellow divers and from that moment on, he knew what he wanted to do.

Overcoming one obstacle after another, Brandon’s grit and perserverance kept him on point with his goal of becoming a SEAL. Brandon does a fantastic job of describing the struggles and challenges of SEAL training, fleet operations, and mission deployments.

This book is as much about leadership as it is a window into the life of military special operations. I was particularly interested in his experiences with the implementation of mental management with his students and continuous improvement with his courses. Brandon raised the bar and made significant contributions to America’s strategies, preparedness, and fighting men and women.

The challenges, stories and insights are of value to any audience, whether military, business, or other. Once again, character and competence surface as the two most important ingredients in the excellence recipe.

Grab this book, read it, and pay it forward.

The Making of a Navy SEAL will be released on August 25, 2015.

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The Navy SEAL Art of War

Successful military leaders who transition into business like gangbusters, have a wealth of knowledge to pass on to the aspiring and even experienced business leader. “The Navy SEAL Art Of War” by Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer (Ret.), Rob Roy is full of what I call “gold nuggets”; proven modi operandi and wisdom to supplement leadership competence.

Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer (Ret.), Rob Roy
Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer (Ret.), Rob Roy

It was reinforcing to read many familiar references to some favorite sources in Rob’s book such as “Good To Great” by Jim Collins, “The Art Of War” by Sun Tzu, and familiar phrases like “Semper Gumby” (Marine speak for always flexible), the OODA Loop, “Commander’s Intent”, “No Better Friend – No Worse Enemy” and a General Mattis Christmas story.

While the book is littered with meaningful, situational stories and material, here’s my top five leadership gold nuggets from “The Navy SEAL Art Of War”

1. Competence & Character
In short, Know your job extremely well (competence) and be someone others want on the team by being trustworthy, respectful, empathetic, honorable, and humble (character).

2. Have a Servant’s Heart
“The best leaders I know not only provide a tremendous service, but they also serve. They subordinate their own individual needs and desires to some greater good. They have, in short, a servant’s heart. Referencing Jim Collins’ “Good To Great”, Rob reminds us of “level five” CEOs are servant-type leaders who possess characteristics like humility and self-awareness. The type to shun personal glory and who glean greater satisfaction from solving problems and helping others than they do in heaping praise and honors onto themselves.

3. Have a Vision
Rob’s vision is “To continually provide value, and to serve”. A short but meaningful vision. I like that.

4. Everyone on a Team is important
“There’s a good chance that someone out there might be better than me at a given task, but better than my SEAL team? Not likely.”

5. Crystal-clear communication is critical
“The more direct and precise you can be in your language, the better the result.”

More notable highlights:
“It is better to have one person with passion than forty who are merely interested”.
“In the absence of leadership, LEAD! SEALs expect to lead, but they are also willing to be led by someone with a better plan. In the absence of orders, we take charge.”
“humility is the bedrock of any high-speed team”.
“Well, at least it’s not raining.” In essence, things could always be worse.
“Think in terms of possibilities, not limitations.”
“A well-aimed shot will always hit the target. Stay in the zone.”
“It’s all about the teams.”

When I go through a good leadership book, I like to dog-ear pages, underline, and highlight key takeaways so that I can review and summarize after I finish reading. I’m not sure I’ve ever marked up a book as much as I did this one. “The Navy SEAL Art Of War”, has found its place as a permanent fixture on my bookshelf of leadership references.

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Burial At Sea

by Lt Col George Goodson, USMC (Ret)

In my 76th year, the events of my life appear to me, from time to time, as a series of vignettes. Some were significant; most were trivial.

War is the seminal event in the life of everyone that has endured it. Though I fought in Korea and the Dominican Republic and was wounded there, Vietnam was my war.

Now 42 years have passed and, thankfully, I rarely think of those days in Cambodia, Laos, and the panhandle of North Vietnam where small teams of Americans and Montagnards fought much larger elements of the North Vietnamese Army.

Instead I see vignettes: some exotic, some mundane:
*The smell of Nuc Mam.
*The heat, dust, and humidity.
*The blue exhaust of cycles clogging the streets.
*Elephants moving silently through the tall grass.
*Hard eyes behind the servile smiles of the villagers.
*Standing on a mountain in Laos and hearing a tiger roar.
*A young girl squeezing my hand as my medic delivered her baby.
*The flowing Ao Dais of the young women biking down Tran Hung Dao.
*My two years as Casualty Notification Officer in North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland.

It was late 1967. I had just returned after 18 months in Vietnam. Casualties were increasing. I moved my family from Indianapolis to Norfolk, rented a house, enrolled my children in their fifth or sixth new school, and bought a second car. A week later, I put on my uniform and drove 10 miles to Little Creek, Virginia. I hesitated before entering my new office. Appearance is important to career Marines. I was no longer, if ever, a poster Marine. I had returned from my third tour in Vietnam only 30 days before. At 5’9″, I now weighed 128 pounds – 37 pounds below my normal weight. My uniforms fit ludicrously, my skin was yellow from malaria medication, and I think I had a twitch or two.

I straightened my shoulders, walked into the office, looked at the nameplate on a Staff Sergeant’s desk and said, “Sergeant Jolly, I’m Lieutenant Colonel Goodson. Here are my orders and my Qualification Jacket.”

Sergeant Jolly stood, looked carefully at me, took my orders, stuck out his hand; we shook and he asked, “How long were you there, Colonel?” I replied “18 months this time.” Jolly breathed, “ you must be a slow learner Colonel.” I smiled.

Jolly said, “Colonel, I’ll show you to your office and bring in the Sergeant Major. I said, “No, let’s just go straight to his office.” Jolly nodded, hesitated, and lowered his voice, “Colonel, the Sergeant Major. He’s been in this job two years. He’s packed pretty tight. I’m worried about him.” I nodded.

Jolly escorted me into the Sergeant Major’s office. “Sergeant Major, this is Colonel Goodson, the new Commanding Office. The Sergeant Major stood, extended his hand and said, “Good to see you again, Colonel.” I responded, “Hello Walt, how are you?” Jolly looked at me, raised an eyebrow, walked out, and closed the door.

I sat down with the Sergeant Major. We had the obligatory cup of coffee and talked about mutual acquaintances. Walt’s stress was palpable. Finally, I said, “Walt, what’s the h e ll’s wrong?” He turned his chair, looked out the window and said, “George, you’re going to wish you were back in Nam before you leave here. I’ve been in the Marine Corps since 1939. I was in the Pacific 36 months, Korea for 14 months, and Vietnam for 12 months. Now I come here to bury these kids. I’m putting my letter in. I can’t take it anymore.” I said, “OK Walt. If that’s what you want, I’ll endorse your request for retirement and do what I can to push it through Headquarters Marine Corps.”

Sergeant Major Walt Xxxxx retired 12 weeks later. He had been a good Marine for 28 years, but he had seen too much death and too much suffering. He was used up.

Over the next 16 months, I made 28 death notifications, conducted 28 military funerals, and made 30 notifications to the families of Marines that were severely wounded or missing in action. Most of the details of those casualty notifications have now, thankfully, faded from memory. Four, however, remain.

My third or fourth day in Norfolk, I was notified of the death of a 19 year old Marine. This notification came by telephone from Headquarters Marine Corps. The information detailed:
*Name, rank, and serial number.
*Name, address, and phone number of next of kin.
*Date of and limited details about the Marine’s death.
*Approximate date the body would arrive at the Norfolk Naval Air Station.
*A strong recommendation on whether the casket should be opened or closed.
The boy’s family lived over the border in North Carolina, about 60 miles away. I drove there in a Marine Corps staff car. Crossing the state line into North Carolina, I stopped at a small country store / service station / Post Office. I went in to ask directions. Three people were in the store. A man and woman approached the small Post Office window. The man held a package. The Storeowner walked up and addressed them by name, “Hello John. Good morning Mrs. Cooper.”

I was stunned. My casualty’s next-of-kin’s name was John Cooper! I hesitated, then stepped forward and said, “I beg your pardon. Are you Mr. and Mrs. John Cooper of (address)?”

The father looked at me-I was in uniform – and then, shaking, bent at the waist, he vomited. His wife looked horrified at him and then at me. Understanding came into her eyes and she collapsed in slow motion. I think I caught her before she hit the floor.

The owner took a bottle of whiskey out of a drawer and handed it to Mr. Cooper who drank. I answered their questions for a few minutes. Then I drove them home in my staff car. The store owner locked the store and followed in their truck. We stayed an hour or so until the family began arriving.

I returned the store owner to his business. He thanked me and said, “Mister, I wouldn’t have your job for a million dollars.” I shook his hand and said; “Neither would I.”

I vaguely remember the drive back to Norfolk. Violating about five Marine Corps regulations, I drove the staff car straight to my house. I sat with my family while they ate dinner, went into the den, closed the door, and sat there all night, alone. My Marines steered clear of me for days. I had made my first death notification.

Weeks passed with more notifications and more funerals. I borrowed Marines from the local Marine Corps Reserve and taught them to conduct a military funeral: how to carry a casket, how to fire the volleys and how to fold the flag. When I presented the flag to the mother, wife, or father, I always said, “All Marines share in your grief.” I had been instructed to say, “On behalf of a grateful nation….” I didn’t think the nation was grateful, so I didn’t say that.

Sometimes, my emotions got the best of me and I couldn’t speak. When that happened, I just handed them the flag and touched a shoulder. They would look at me and nod. Once a mother said to me, “I’m so sorry you have this terrible job.” My eyes filled with tears and I leaned over and kissed her.

Six weeks after my first notification, I had another. This was a young PFC. I drove to his mother’s house. As always, I was in uniform and driving a Marine Corps staff car. I parked in front of the house, took a deep breath, and walked towards the house. Suddenly the door flew open, a middle-aged woman rushed out. She looked at me and ran across the yard, screaming “NO! NO! NO! NO!”

I hesitated. Neighbors came out. I ran to her, grabbed her, and whispered stupid things to reassure her. She collapsed. I picked her up and carried her into the house. Eight or nine neighbors followed. Ten or fifteen later, the father came in followed by ambulance personnel. I have no recollection of leaving.

The funeral took place about two weeks later. We went through the drill. The mother never looked at me. The father looked at me once and shook his head sadly.

One morning, as I walked in the office, the phone was ringing. Sergeant Jolly held the phone up and said, “You’ve got another one, Colonel.” I nodded, walked into my office, picked up the phone, took notes, thanked the officer making the call, I have no idea why, and hung up. Jolly, who had listened, came in with a special Telephone Directory that translates telephone numbers into the person’s address and place of employment.

The father of this casualty was a Longshoreman. He lived a mile from my office. I called the Longshoreman’s Union Office and asked for the Business Manager. He answered the phone, I told him who I was, and asked for the father’s schedule. The Business Manager asked, “Is it his son?” I said nothing. After a moment, he said, in a low voice, “Tom is at home today.” I said, “Don’t call him. I’ll take care of that.” The Business Manager said, “Aye, Aye Sir,” and then explained, “Tom and I were Marines in WWII.”

I got in my staff car and drove to the house. I was in uniform. I knocked and a woman in her early forties answered the door. I saw instantly that she was clueless. I asked, “Is Mr. Smith home?” She smiled pleasantly and responded, “Yes, but he’s eating breakfast now. Can you come back later?” I said, “I’m sorry. It’s important. I need to see him now.” She nodded, stepped back into the beach house and said, “Tom, it’s for you.”

A moment later, a ruddy man in his late forties, appeared at the door. He looked at me, turned absolutely pale, steadied himself, and said, “Jesus Christ man, he’s only been there three weeks!”

Months passed. More notifications and more funerals. Then one day while I was running, Sergeant Jolly stepped outside the building and gave a loud whistle, two fingers in his mouth…… I never could do that….. and held an imaginary phone to his ear.

Another call from Headquarters Marine Corps. I took notes, said, “Got it.” and hung up. I had stopped saying “Thank You” long ago.

Jolly, “Where?”

Me, “Eastern Shore of Maryland. The father is a retired Chief Petty Officer. His brother will accompany the body back from Vietnam….”

Jolly shook his head slowly, straightened, and then said, “This time of day, it’ll take three hours to get there and back. I’ll call the Naval Air Station and borrow a helicopter. And I’ll have Captain Tolliver get one of his men to meet you and drive you to the Chief’s home.”

He did, and 40 minutes later, I was knocking on the father’s door. He opened the door, looked at me, then looked at the Marine standing at parade rest beside the car, and asked, “Which one of my boys was it, Colonel?”

I stayed a couple of hours, gave him all the information, my office and home phone number and told him to call me, anytime. He called me that evening about 2300 (11:00PM). “I’ve gone through my boy’s papers and found his will. He asked to be buried at sea. Can you make that happen?” I said, “Yes I can, Chief. I can and I will.”

My wife who had been listening said, “Can you do that?” I told her, “I have no idea. But I’m going to break my ass trying.” I called Lieutenant General Alpha Bowser, Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force Atlantic, at home about 2330, explained the situation, and asked, “General, can you get me a quick appointment with the Admiral at Atlantic Fleet Headquarters?” General Bowser said,” George, you be there tomorrow at 0900. He will see you.

I was and the Admiral did. He said coldly, “How can the Navy help the Marine Corps, Colonel.” I told him the story. He turned to his Chief of Staff and said, “Which is the sharpest destroyer in port?” The Chief of Staff responded with a name.

The Admiral called the ship, “Captain, you’re going to do a burial at sea. You’ll report to a Marine Lieutenant Colonel Goodson until this mission is completed… ”

He hung up, looked at me, and said, “The next time you need a ship, Colonel, call me. You don’t have to sic Al Bowser on my ass.” I responded, “Aye Aye, Sir” and got the h-ll out of his office.

I went to the ship and met with the Captain, Executive Officer, and the Senior Chief. Sergeant Jolly and I trained the ship’s crew for four days. Then Jolly raised a question none of us had thought of. He said, “These government caskets are air tight. How do we keep it from floating?”

All the high priced help including me sat there looking dumb. Then the Senior Chief stood and said, “Come on Jolly. I know a bar where the retired guys from World War II hang out.”

They returned a couple of hours later, slightly the worst for wear, and said, “It’s simple; we cut four 12″ holes in the outer shell of the casket on each side and insert 300 lbs of lead in the foot end of the casket. We can handle that, no sweat.”

The day arrived. The ship and the sailors looked razor sharp. General Bowser, the Admiral, a US Senator, and a Navy Band were on board. The sealed casket was brought aboard and taken below for modification. The ship got underway to the 12-fathom depth. The sun was hot. The ocean flat. The casket was brought aft and placed on a catafalque. The Chaplin spoke. The volleys were fired. The flag was removed, folded, and I gave it to the father. The band played “Eternal Father Strong to Save.” The casket was raised slightly at the head and it slid into the sea.

The heavy casket plunged straight down about six feet. The incoming water collided with the air pockets in the outer shell. The casket stopped abruptly, rose straight out of the water about three feet, stopped, and slowly slipped back into the sea. The air bubbles rising from the sinking casket sparkled in the in the sunlight as the casket disappeared from sight forever….

The next morning I called a personal friend, Lieutenant General Oscar Peatross, at Headquarters Marine Corps and said, “General, get me out of here. I can’t take this anymore.” I was transferred two weeks later.

I was a good Marine but, after 17 years, I had seen too much death and too much suffering. I was used up.

Vacating the house, my family and I drove to the office in a two-car convoy. I said my goodbyes. Sergeant Jolly walked out with me. He waved at my family, looked at me with tears in his eyes, came to attention, saluted, and said, “Well Done, Colonel. Well Done.” I felt as if I had received the Medal of Honor!

A veteran is someone who, at one point, wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America for an amount of up to and including their life.’

That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.’

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