The “Memorial” in Memorial Day has been ignored by too many of us who are beneficiaries of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice. Often we do not observe the day as it should be, a day where we actively remember our ancestors, our family members, our loved ones, our neighbors, and our friends who have given the ultimate sacrifice:
“…gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime….let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation’s gratitude,–the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.” –General John Logan, General Order No. 11, 5 May 1868
How to Observe Memorial Day:
by visiting cemeteries and placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes.
by visiting memorials.
by flying the U.S. Flag at half-staff until noon.
by flying the ‘POW/MIA Flag’ as well (Section 1082 of the 1998 Defense Authorization Act).
by participating in a “National Moment of Remembrance”: at 3 p.m. to pause and think upon the true meaning of the day, and for Taps to be played.
by renewing a pledge to aid the widows, widowers, and orphans of our falled dead, and to aid the disabled veterans.
The newspaper carried a short obituary about a young Marine who died recently in the Middle East. It didn’t say where he died. Nor did it mention how he died. Just that he had been serving in a combat zone.
The article mentioned the town he came from and he had graduated from the local high school.
The same high school where he’d lettered in football and track. The coach said he was a good team player. He thought it might be a good idea to see if the town might consider naming the stadium after him. He thought he might have liked that.
It went on to mention how his Mother and Father talked about the future plans their young Marine had. How he wanted to go to the Community college and then on to university to get finish getting his degree. He was going to be the first one in the family to graduate from college.
His younger sister said she was going to miss him terribly. He had been her big brother and always looked after her. She talked about the day before he deployed when he borrowed the family van. Said he wanted to show off his Dress Blues to all his friends.
The notice went on to say there was going to be a service at the church he attended on Main St. starting at 10 A.M. In lieu of flowers the family asked that contributions be made to a scholarship fund being established in his name.
It was at this point I realized I had served with this young Marine. Not this particular Marine. But, Marines that were just like him. In fact, I think we all had served with him. You see he was that young man, like we all once had been, who stood ten feet tall when he was in uniform. You could see his pride of country and service every time he walked into a room. He knew whom he was and what he was being sent to accomplish when he deployed. And if you were to have asked him, he would have told you the same thing others before him would have said, “I’m fighting for freedom. Not just for our country. But for the people we’re being sent to defend.” For that, like so many before him, he had sacrificed his life.
The notice ended up saying he’d be laid to rest in the family plot following the ceremony. Everyone was invited to join the family at their home afterwards. My prayers will be with the family.
You won’t find ‘River City’ on a map in Afghanistan
Northern Helmand Province – U.S. Marines stationed in Now Zad only have one link to home – a small wooden shack in the middle of their base. Inside, they crowd around five or six telephones and around eight computer stations.
This is where troops connect with their families and friends, and find out what’s happening in the world beyond Camp Cafferetta.
While embedded with the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines Alpha Company, it’s also where we go to call back to our desk in Atlanta or reply to emails – only, of course, when there is a free phone or computer that the Marines aren’t using. The tiny room is crowded – Marines literally pushed against each other to wiggle into the small spaces in front of the computer screens. One Marine is on Skype, with a grainy video image of his wife and kids on screen. His wife is telling the very young children to look into their camera back home, and “tell Daddy you love him.” Most of the younger Marines are pouring into their Facebook pages, their primary way to keep up with friends – and most especially girlfriends – back home. A few feet away, you can hear the constant overlapping chatter from four to five Marines on the phones, talking to folks back home.
And then – a gunnery sergeant bursts into the room and says “River City! We’re in River City, let’s go!” And just like that, Marines hang up their phones. Sever their Skype connections. And shut down their Facebook pages. There was maybe time for a very quick goodbye, but it literally takes seconds. Within a minute, the room is empty, and the sergeant takes out the bank of phones and locks the door to the Internet room.
Then I learn why it’s taken so seriously: “River City” means a Marine has been seriously wounded or killed.
But after a call of ‘River City,’ the place clears and the equipment is locked away.
“River City” is a communications status, Reduced Communications. It’s an expression used to cut all contact with the outside world until the dead or wounded Marine’s family can be notified.1st Sgt. Michael Bass explains that there were times when an incident would happen – someone gets shot, or caught in an IED explosion – and his fellow troops would, quite naturally, call home to talk with their own families about what happened. A lot of these communities are very tight-knit, and Bass says there were instances where families back home were being alerted to their loved one’s death by other friends or military spouses.
That’s not the way it’s supposed to work, and the military has a very strict process of family notification, one that involves a personal visit from a military official who is trained in how to deal with grieving families. That official then stays with the family throughout the process of the Marine’s remains coming home, the funeral and burial.
So the communications blackout prevents, for example, a perhaps well-meaning wife back home from calling another wife to offer her condolences, and inadvertently breaking the news of a husband’s death. Another Marine told me on rare occasions the blackout is imposed when no troops have been hurt. That usually happens if Marines are sending out too much sensitive information – perhaps saying too much about how the base is staffed, or describing future missions in too much detail.
Honestly, I thought River City was an actual place. And one Marine on his first deployment says, “Don’t worry – so did my wife.” The first time the base went into the alert, he had been talking with his wife back home in California. When the sergeant yelled “River City!” the Marine quickly told his wife: “Damn honey I gotta go right now – we’re in River City! Don’t know when I can call again!” This apparently made his wife worried sick, and spent hours on the Internet, trying to find where the hell this “River City” was on a map of Afghanistan.
The blackout can last as little as a few hours, or as long as a week. Normally it’s two or three days. During our stay with Alpha Company, River City was sounded four times. And only once, when the Marines were a bit slow getting off their computers, did the sergeant have to say, “Hey, get the hell off. And don’t be mad! Don’t be complaining you can’t call home – that means someone just got hurt!” Now if you ever hear the term “River City,” you’ll know not to look for it on any map. But it probably means a Marine has been hurt or killed, and a family somewhere is grieving.
———- Forwarded message ———- From: Milblogging.com Webmaster Date: Sat, Apr 3, 2010 at 16:51 Subject: Honoring a Fallen Milblogger: Air Force Captain, Jenna Wilcox To: firstname.lastname@example.org
April 3rd, 2010
Air Force Captain, Jenna Wilcox, died from injuries suffered when a tire exploded in her lap. She had recently returned home from Afghanistan. Her husband, who also serves in the military, was with her at the time.
Captain Wilcox ran a military blog from Afghanistan called Jenna’s Blog.
On February 7, 1969, a Marine helicopter crashed in Vietnam, killing six of the seven on board.
On February 7, 2007, a Marine helicopter was shot down in Iraq, killing all seven on board.
Both helicopters belonged to the Purple Foxes of HMM-364, a Marine Corps helicopter squadron.
In 1969, a Corpsman by the name of Gary Young was one of the six killed when the helicopter crashed in Vietnam.
In 2007, a female Marine pilot by the name of Jennifer Harris was flying the helicopter when it was shot down by insurgents.
The irony with these two incidents is, Captain Jennifer Harris while on her mission, was also flying a flag in honor of Gary Young, killed 38 years earlier in Vietnam on the same day. The flag was to be given to my good friend Stephanie Hanson, Gary Young’s daughter.
This story is one of so many in the Marine helicopter community.
Today, February 7, their lives and the lives of their crews are on my mind.
A carry team carries the transfer case containing the remains of Marine Lance Cpl. Donald Hogan off of a transport airplane. Hogan graduated from Tesoro High School (San Clemente) and had wanted to join the Marine Corps to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps. He was killed in a roadside bomb explosion on Wednesday while on foot patrol in southern Afghanistan.
Marine Lance Cpl. Donald J. Hogan, 20, of San Clemente, Calif.; was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died Aug. 26 while supporting combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
CLIFF OWEN, PHOTY BY AP; TEXT BY VIK JOLLY, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
The first Marine to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War, in 2004 Cpl. Jason Dunham threw himself on a grenade in Iraq and sacrificed his life to protect his brother Marines.
I did not know Jason but I know what he represented, the type of character he had, and the pride he had in being American and a Marine. Semper Fi Jason. R.I.P.
Cpl. Jason Dunham is my hero. He will NEVER be forgotten.
On April 14, 2004, 3 days after Easter Sunday, Corporal Dunham was manning a checkpoint in Karabilah, Iraq, when an insurgent leapt from his car and began choking Corporal Dunham. A scuffle ensued as two Marines approached to help. Reportedly, the last words from Corporal Dunham were, “No, No. Watch his hand.” Suddenly, the insurgent dropped a grenade. Corporal Dunham took off his Kevlar helmet, dropped to the ground, and covered the explosive as best he could.
The blast seriously wounded all 3 Marines. Eight days later, Corporal Jason L. Dunham died at Bethesda Naval Hospital from wounds he received in the incident. He was 22.
Corporal Dunham made the ultimate sacrifice, and in doing so saved the lives of his fellow Marines. Due to his actions on that fateful day, Corporal Dunham has been awarded the Medal of Honor.
Many people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. While those who died are also remembered on Veterans Day, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military – in wartime or peacetime.
Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans – the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) – established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers.
Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. The ceremonies centered around the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies. After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.
Local Observances Claim To Be First Local springtime tributes to the Civil War dead already had been held in various places. One of the first occurred in Columbus, Miss., April 25, 1866, when a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. Nearby were the graves of Union soldiers, neglected because they were the enemy.
Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the women placed some of their flowers on those graves, as well. Today, cities in the North and the South claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1866. Both Macon and Columbus, Ga., claim the title, as well as Richmond, Va. The village of Boalsburg, Pa., claims it began there two years earlier. A stone in a Carbondale, Ill., cemetery carries the statement that the first Decoration Day ceremony took place there on April 29, 1866.
Carbondale was the wartime home of Gen. Logan. Approximately 25 places have been named in connection with the origin of Memorial Day, many of them in the South where most of the war dead were buried.
Official Birthplace Declared In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. There, a ceremony on May 5, 1866, honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War.
Businesses closed and residents flew flags at half-staff. Supporters of Waterloo’s claim say earlier observances in other places were either informal, not community-wide or one-time events. By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities. It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars.
In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays.
Some States Have Confederate Observances Many Southern states also have their own days for honoring the Confederate dead. Mississippi celebrates Confederate Memorial Day on the last Monday of April, Alabama on the fourth Monday of April, and Georgia on April 26. North and South Carolina observe it on May 10, Louisiana on June 3 and Tennessee calls that date Confederate Decoration Day.
Texas celebrates Confederate Heroes Day January 19 and Virginia calls the last Monday in May Confederate Memorial Day. Gen. Logan’s order for his posts to decorate graves in 1868 “with the choicest flowers of springtime” urged: “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. … Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”
The crowd attending the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery was approximately the same size as those that attend today’s observance, about 5,000 people. Then, as now, small American flags were placed on each grave – a tradition followed at many national cemeteries today. In recent years, the custom has grown in many families to decorate the graves of all departed loved ones.
The origins of special services to honor those who die in war can be found in antiquity. The Athenian leader Pericles offered a tribute to the fallen heroes of the Peloponnesian War over 24 centuries ago that could be applied today to the 1.1 million Americans who have died in the nation’s wars: “Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men.”
National Moment of Remembrance To ensure the sacrifices of America ‘s fallen heroes are never forgotten, in December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579, creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. The commission’s charter is to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity” by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.
The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. As Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states: “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”
Navy SEAL BUD/S Class: 184 SEAL Service: 10 years Rank: Petty Officer First Class Age: 32 Home: Woodland, CA Assigned: Naval Special Warfare Development Group Died: March 4, 2002 Operation: Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan)
Roberts was killed in combat during a clandestine insertion, when the MH-47 Chinook helicopter he was readying to exit made a rushed take-off from a 10,000 foot mountain after it was hit machine-gun fire.
The Chinook helicopter was about to set down when machine-gun fire ripped into the fuselage, cutting a hydraulic line. The chopper jerked and swayed as the pilot struggled to regain control. Intelligence for Operation Anaconda had indicated that this particular mountain top landing zone was unoccupied. The ambush opened the curtain on the bloodiest fight in the Afghan war, a battle that unfolded in the frigid mountain region of Gardez, Afghanistan, in the dead of the winter. The pilot managed to gain a little altitude, and then veeredoff. Petty Officer First Class Neil Roberts was standing in the rear by the open exit ramp when the first rounds struck. With the severed line spraying hydraulic fluid everywhere and the chopper jerking this way and that, Roberts lost his balance and fell to the snowy ground below. Roberts collected himself, activated his emergency beacon, and then took stock. His only weapons were a pistol and two hand grenades. Unfortunately his light machine gun had not fallen out of the chopper, too. Three al-Qaeda fighters began moving in. Roberts crawled toward better cover, engaging the terrorists with the pistol and grenades. He soon ran out of ammunition. Nobody knows what happened next. Images broadcast by a Predator unmanned aerial vehicle showed three men dragging him away. A rescue team later recovered his body. Roberts had been shot to death.
On 7 October 2001, the United States had embarked on Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan with the deadliest and most technologically advanced armed force the world had yet seen. No other conventional opponent could match it in combat. From the war’s opening day, Navy and Air Force bombs rained down on Taliban and al Qaeda targets with the highest level of accuracy achieved to that time in military history. The enemy, however, behaved like ants. When the bombs started falling on the anthills, many enemy fighters simply scattered, switched sides, or melted away into the mountains to regroup and fight another day. Although the U.S. arsenal boasted the most sophisticated technology in the world, it couldn’t help Neil Roberts. In the end, he fought alone on a frigid snow-covered mountaintop against enemies he could see and hear yards away. Even in the 21st century, war pits man against nature and man against man.
“Although I sacrificed personal freedom and many other things, I got just as much as I gave,” he wrote his wife in an “open in the event of my death” letter. My time in the Teams was special,” Neil Roberts, 32, wrote. “For all the times I was cold, wet, tired, sore, scared, hungry and angry, I had a blast.”
To his last action, Petty Officer Roberts was true to his SEAL ethos and to the unconditional commitment he made to the Navy when he enlisted. His moment of truth came when he was utterly alone, surrounded by a ruthless enemy deep in hostile territory and undoubtedly knew there was no chance of escape or rescue. Never forget that it is Sailors like Petty Officer Roberts and his shipmates currently engaged in the fight who we are serving.
I would share with you a story that took place back in the spring in Iraq. I say that Iraq is better, but Iraq is still a very dangerous place. On the morning of 22 April, outside an entry control point in the city of Ramadi, we had two young Marines standing post at that entry control point. One was from 1st battalion 9th Marines, the other one was from 2nd battalion, 8th Marines, two different battalions because there was a turnover taking place, one battalion to the other. Inside this compound where we were with the Iraqis were about 40 Marines, some of whom were sleeping because they’d had night patrol the night before. Some of who were going about their daily routine.
At about 9:30 that morning a 20-foot tanker truck busted through the outer cordon of Iraqis and headed towards an old flimsy metal gate. At 500 yards, the Marines realized what was taking place and they started putting aimed rifle fire on that cab. There is an escalation process that takes place but, in fact, they didn’t go through that process because they recognized immediately what was occurring. At about 25 yards, the machine gun opened up and the truck then came to a halt about 10 yards the post. The truck exploded, we think there was probably a dead-man switch. They had 2,000 pounds of explosive that was ignited. Young Corporal Yale from Burkeville, Virginia, and Lance Corporal Haerter from Sag Harbor, New York, really never had a chance with the explosives that close. The Iraqis who had been manning the gate when we opened fire ran. And later, an hour or two later when General Kelly and the Iraqi commander came to view this hole that was seven feet deep and 20 feet across, the Iraqi commander said to General Kelly, why didn’t they run? My men ran and they lived. General Kelly said, they couldn’t run. I hope some day you will understand that, but they couldn’t run because there were 40 Marines on the inside of that gate depending on them.
I’ll tell you, folks, if our country continues to provide us with great young Marines like that, we can go anywhere and do anything that this nation asks. God bless you all. Thank you very much.
PFC Paul Melvin Beddoe was a member of Company B, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion. PFC Beddoe died Jan. 21, 1968 in a Da Nang hospital, one day after he received fragment wounds from an explosive device while on patrol in the vicinity of Khe Sanh (Hill 881S). He was my Dad’s 1st cousin. As long as he is remembered, he will never be forgotten! ~Cpl. Beddoe
Bob (PJ) Pagano was with Paul when he was hit. The following is PJ’s first-hand account as written to me.
I didn’t know Paul that long. He was a “new guy” compared to the hand full of us that were left from when the company moved up to Khe Sanh. At the time Paul came to the company I had pulled twenty something patrols and was pretty crazy compared to those who were just coming on board. Crazy in the way you had to be to survive so many missions in the densely jungled and incredibly rough terrain at Khe Sanh which held at least 20,000 fresh NVA solders. All that combined to give Bravo Company the highest casualty rate of any Recon Company in the war for that period – by far. I became, let’s say, “focused” on being in the bush and my social skills kind of dropped away as did all the more refined behavioral features of my personality. I didn’t really get to know the new guys well because they were, well, new and I didn’t like getting to know them and then see them get killed or wounded. If I stayed kind of aloof I wouldn’t get emotionally invested and loosing them would be easier, or so I thought anyway (it didn’t really work but one grabs at anything to try to blunt the blow). The new guys, in turn, were a little stand offish with us older guys (keep in mind that chronological age is irrelevant, it was time in the bush that determined if you were “old” or “new”). They saw us as kind of wild and strange – and we were.
I pulled a couple of patrols with Paul before Barkwood. He had a good sense of humor and was of upright character. New guys were sent out with experienced teams to get “snapped in” as they say. They then either stayed with that team or were assigned to another team as needed. Barkwood was a brand new team having just been formed and consisted mostly of new guys that, like Paul, had already been “snapped in”. The exceptions were Lionel Guerra and Ron Parr both of whom had a fair amount of experience. However, Barkwood didn’t have an experienced radio operator so when I approached the team leader, Corporal “Bill” Bryan, and asked if I could join the team he walked me right over to the XO and got it approved. As you know from having read the stuff on the website about the Warriors of Hill 881S; we (Team Barkwood) choppered up to Hill 881S on January 19th 1968. India Company of 3/26 occupied the hill under the command of Captain William Dabney and he was to take most of India Company the following day and patrol up to Hill 881N where they were to look for the lost radio from Recon Team Dockleaf that had been hit there on the 17th and lost two men. (I had been in the bush on the 17th and remember monitoring the fire fight on my radio and telling our team leader, Julian Kalama, that Cpl. Healy and Lt.Yeary had been killed. I don’t remember the call sign of Kalama’s team at that point but I do remember that when I came in from that patrol I instantly asked to go out with Barkwood because I wanted to get back in the bush.) We were attached to India’s 3rd Platoon who made up the right column and we were to drop off covertly when we neared Hill 881N. (This was a method that was used from time to time to insert Recon teams. I didn’t care for it because you immediately had to worry about the Grunts opening up on you. It only took one of them not to get the word, catch a glimpse of you, mistake you for the NVA and open up whereupon the rest would as well.) Our orders were that if India came under fire before we could drop off we were to return to Hill 881S (because our mission at that point would have been blown). When about half way to Hill 881N the Grunts came under fire. It started with seven shots from a heavy machine gun; first three then four a second later. India took a lot of casualties and our team leader, Cpl. “Bill” Bryan volunteered that the team join the Grunts rather than withdraw as instructed by our operation order. Lt. Brindly, India’s 3rd Platoon Commander, accepted the offer and we added our seven rifles to theirs.
Paul was calm and collected as we took some fire and established a perimeter for evacuation of the Grunt wounded and dead. He required no special attention and did what he was supposed to without hesitation or complaint. That may not sound like much but it is; it really is. A lot of guys, especially new guys, jam up at these times. Helping with dead and wounded Marines, taking fire, smoke, concussion, noise like you’ve never heard before, choppers coming in firing, not knowing what will happen next – all that is really scary stuff. Paul didn’t bat an eye, kept a steady hand and performed like a real pro.
Lt. Brindly asked us to get on line for an assault up the small hill in front of us (the intermediate objective). This was the classic Marine “walking assault”. To put a point on it: We were about to walk, uphill, into the flaming muzzels of an entrenched, numerically superior and determined enemy. By comparison, the scariest thing you’ve ever imagined is kids stuff. Paul got on line, again, without hesitation or complaint.
Lieutenant Brindly gave the command: “Fix bayonets!” We all looked at him at once. Recon guys never hear this command in their line of work. In fact, I doubt that there was a single bayonet among us. But it sure drove the fact home about what we were about to do.
Paul never wavered. The assault stepped off and we moved downhill for a few yards and then started up the intermediate objective. We quickly lost contact with the Grunts on our left (what remained of 3rd Platoon) and were now the extreme right of the Marine line. The elephant grass was high and we had trouble keeping sight of each other. The enemy held fire until we were among them at the top of the hill. Then things got pretty dicey.
The Grunts didn’t know we had made it that far and opened up on us at the same time the NVA did (the Grunts couldn’t see us because of the elephant grass and were shooting at where they knew the NVA were). We were vastly outnumbered and rifle fire was coming from every direction along with enemy grenades and Marine mortar rounds. There was so much fire and so many NVA that each of us was locked in our own little war. It was pretty desperate fighting and we were all hit. I took a bullet right away and was preoccupied with that and getting the Marine fire off of us so I don’t know what happened with Paul – I couldn’t see him. He was taken from the hill along with Lionel Guerra and the others about an hour or so before I was. I know Lionel saw him at the bottom of the hill where they had taken the wounded (Lionel was wounded very badly also).
Eventually, I was taken from the hill (something I had not expected to live to see) through a fantastically courageous rescue by the Marines of India Company (God bless the Grunts). After a short stop at Khe Sanh for blood, morphine and bandages I was flown to the huge Navy Hospital in Da Nang. They had me on a gurney and were wheeling me into a large, dark room that had scores of metal saw horses holding up stretchers on either side of the central isle that they were rolling my gurney down. The room seemed cavernous and had only enough light to barley make out the interior. As we proceeded down the isle there was an island of bright light coming up on my left. As we got loser I could see that there were lights and medical personnel clustered around a stretcher. I.V.’s were running to a Marine on the stretcher; it was Paul.
The Corpsman around him were comforting him in the uniquely tender way military men do. A genuine form of love that exists only in those circumstances. I called out for him not to worry, that everything was OK and that he was going home. He didn’t hear me. He was quite delirious and wasn’t conscious in the real sense of the word. Had he survived he would have had no memory of that time – I’m sure of that. The Corpsman pushing my gurney told me in a subdued voice that Paul had shrapnel wounds throughout his liver and pancreas and wouldn’t survive. “S**t!” I thought (the same thing I thought back on the hill when Cpl. Bryan told me he was going to die and then did so). S**t – what a totally inadequate comment. “Inadequate” applies though; that’s what I felt while I watched my friends die and could do nothing about it.
I don’t know how anyone can say that something positive can come out of a tragedy like Paul’s death. But, for me at least, I’ve tried to off set it to the tiny degree that I can. Over the last 37 years I’ve never passed an accident or failed to render assistance whenever the opportunity presented itself. I’m not a paramedic or anything but I’ve been able to help none the less. I know some basic first aid but I’ve found that holding and comforting an injured person while waiting for the ambulance to arrive helps them a great deal – they’ve told me so. One went through a lot of trouble to track me down two years after the fact, just to say thanks. I do it because of Paul, and he’s with me while I’m doing it.
This is something else you must know: When Lionel and I were at the Khe Sanh reunion last July we were swarmed by the Grunts that were there on January 20th 1968. They told us that Team Barkwood was eternally bonded to their company for having fought beside them on that hellish day. A few years ago Col. Dabney (the C.O. of India Company) told me that when we assaulted up that hill we assaulted into a company sized flanking movement that the NVA were making on the Marine right. He said our aggressiveness stalled the NVA attack (the NVA mistook us for a much larger unit than the seven men we were). Had that flanking movement been successful a lot of marines would have died – a lot. That night hill 861 was hit and almost fell (an incredible battle). It held because of the supporting fire that 881S was able to deliver. Had that NVA flanking movement not been stalled the Marines on 881S probably would not have been able to support hill 861 and without that support 861 certainly would have fallen (indeed, 881S might have fallen as well). There, at the reunion, I looked at all the Marines and Corpsmen from those two hills and I realized that there were hundreds of children and grand children alive today because of Paul’s courage. His death is neither in vain nor hollow. It begot a great deal of life.
I spoke with Lionel Guerra the other day and he told me that before that fateful day he and Paul had been talking and he discovered that Paul had family in Oregon and Washington. After Lionel got home to Washington he tracked down an aunt of Paul’s in the eastern part of the state. He told me that she said Paul’s death had been hard on the family and abruptly brushed him off. Obviously, Lionel didn’t pursue any further contact. So, I leave it to you as to whom you pass this along to. I don’t think it can hurt to know that a loved one’s death was not for naught but I leave it to your good judgment.
Marine PFC. Paul Melvin Beddoe Jr., 19, son of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Melvin Beddoe, Route 4, Box 466A, Phoenix, died Jan. 21 in a Da Nang hospital, one day after he received fragment wounds from an explosive device while on patrol in the vicinity of Quang Tri. The Marine was a member of Company B, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion. He was rushed to the hospital in Da Nang immediately after the injury occurred but treatment failed to save his life.
The message was delivered by a Marine captain and a Navy officer from Eugene to the youth’s mother yesterday afternoon. His father, who is with the Miller Products Division of W. R. Grace Company, was attending a meeting in Sacramento where he was contacted. He returned to Medford last night.
Young Beddoe, an outstanding student throughout his high school career at Phoenix, had been interested in military history throughout his life, listing it as his favorite subject. After attending Walla Walla College in College Place, Wash., for one year he enlisted in the Marines June 1, 1967, and arrived in Da Nang Dec. 4.
He was born in Medford Nov. 13, 1948. While a student at Phoenix High School, he won the first place trophy in the junior men’s division in oratory at the Linfield College Speech Tournament. He was also prominent in track at the high school with the shotput his leading event. He was one of the speakers at his class graduation at Phoenix High School and was a member of the Young Americans for Freedom.
The Beddoe family has lived in the Rogue River Valley since 1945. Surviving in addition to the Marine’s parents are two sisters, Dr. Gladys Beddoe, who is in her first year of residency for surgery in the Riverside County Hospital, Riverside, Calif., Pamela Beddoe, a freshman at Phoenix High School, and one brother, Alex F. Beddoe, in his second year at Loma Linda University School of Dentistry, Loma Linda, Calif.
Siskiyou funeral Service Directors are in charge of arrangements.