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  • 3 weeks later...

Ed Freeman... A True Hero'


You're an 18 or 19 year old kid. You're critically wounded and dying in the jungle in the Ia Drang Valley, Vietnam 11-14-1965.


Your infantry unit is outnumbered 8-1, and the enemy fire is so intense from 100 or 200 yards away, that your own Infantry Commander has ordered the MediVac helicopters to stop coming in.


You're lying there, listening to the enemy machine guns, and you know you're not getting out. Your family is 1/2 way around the world, 12,000 miles away, and you'll never see them again. As the world starts to fade in and out, you know this is the day.


Then, over the machine gun noise, you faintly hear that sound of a

helicopter, and you look up to see an un-armed Huey, but it doesn't

seem real, because no Medi-Vac markings are on it.


Ed Freeman is coming for you. He's not Medi-Vac, so it's not his job, but he's flying his Huey down into the machine gun fire, after the Medi-Vacs were ordered not to come.


He's coming anyway.


And he drops it in, and sits there in the machine gun fire, as they load 2 or 3 of you on board.


Then he flies you up and out through the gunfire, to the Doctors and Nurses.


And, he kept coming back...... 13 more times..... and took about 30 of you and your buddies out, who would never have gotten out.


Medal of Honor Recipient Ed Freeman died last Wednesday at the age of 80, in Boise , ID ......May God rest his soul.....


(Oh yeah, Paul Newman died that day too. I guess you knew that -- He got a lot more press than Ed Freeman.)


Ed Freeman... "A True Hero'

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 4 weeks later...

Thanks for that link Ivanhoe ... I'll be reading through the stories.

What a great site! Reading how and what others write is something

I'm doing to try and sort out how to write some things up myself

so I love reading about peoples/soldiers experiences and thoughts

about what they lived through, one to know them, and two, to get

ideas about "how to" for my Uncles.


Lest We Forget ;)

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  • 4 weeks later...

A "friend" of mine passed away recently and his funeral was on the weekend. I hear

he had a wonderful sendoff and that makes me glad to know. Some time back he sent me

a little 4 page Bio about his service, Canadian) in WW2 (along with other stuff over the

last few years) and he gave me his blessings to use and post anything he ever sent me.

Am posting in here to introduce you to him and his service so you folks can know of him and appreciate him too ... which I know you folks in here do. He was a vital force til the end

and a lot of people thought very highly of him and all he did and was. He's with his beautiful

(gorgeous) wife now who he lost a few years back and missed deeply and no more major aches and pains and surgeries. At peace.


So here are some glimpses into WW2 through his eyes and life. Lest We Forget ;)








As a Self Propelled Artillery Regiment giving close artillery support to the infantry and armoured regiments of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division we landed in Normandie in July 1944. We were to relieve a sister artillery field regiment of the 7th British Armoured Division (the Desert Rats )just south of Caen. Being a member of our Battery’s (36th Field Battery – Cobourg Ontario) recce (reconnaissance) party. - we were sent in as part of the advance party to arrange the transfer. Now this particular gun position that my Party was assigned to was overlooked by the enemy in high enemy held territory – they (the enemy) had to know we were there to take over because they gave us a tremendous welcome with a very heavy artillery barrage. Our only spot of safety (such as it was) happened to be underneath our half track recce vehicle. We must have looked a trifle foolish trying to dig a big enough hole by clawing away at the earth and my thoughts flashed back to the soothing words of our Divisional Commander, Major General George Kitching, who, when we were still in England, promised to “ease us into battle”. (George should have buttoned up his lip). Even the battle hardened Desert rats admitted that they had never encountered such a fierce barrage before. Even when receiving hostile fire for the first time one of the “wits” in our party remarked “Geez this is one time when I wished my old man had worn a French Safe ( a.k.a condom) So, when we returned to our Regiment which was still back in the concentration area we were to say the least, all shaken up and a little punchy but after a few drams of the “elixir of the Gods” we settled down and actually began to feel proud that we had been the first ones in the Regiment to have received “our baptism of fire”.




The next “flash back” of memory occurs during the breakout of Caen (Normandie) by the 21st Army Group made up of British, Canadian, Polish and other sundry units under the overall command of General Bernard Montgomery. Our 4th Armoured Division which was one of the spearheads of this exercise (Operation Totalize) was to “leap frog” with the 2nd and 3rd Canadian Infantry Divisions and the Polish Armoured Division down this Caen to Falaise Highway (Route Nationale 158) a.k.a. “the corridor of death” with the




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Herb’s memoires of WW II continued




intent of meeting up with General George Patton’s American army coming up from the south in the hope of trapping the bulk of the 14th German Army in this pocket. The enemy trying to escape down this highway was mercilessly pounded day and night by our airforce and artillery. The scene was one out of Hades – the road was choked with the decaying bodies of both men and horses which the Germans used quite extensively as transport. In those hot days of August (the hottest summer in Europe in 25 years) it didn’t take long before the stench of death became apparent. It was so bad that even the pilots in low flying planes remarked on the awful stench of putrefaction that drifted up skywards when they flew over. That and the dysentery that everyone had together with stinging and swollen eyes and burnt skin on our faces from the alkaline dust of Normandie made life almost unbearable, every unit ran out of medicine to combat dysentery so you see the comforts of home were sadly lacking. If you could still stand up even with the cramps and nausea. you had to continue with the attack.




In this operation our rear lines were bombed by heavy bombers of the U.S. Airforce on 9 August 1944 resulting in heavy casualties to our medium artillery and other Units such as headquarters groups and infantry units that were sent back for rest and refitting. This attack left 259 killed and 504 wounded and on the following 14 August 1944 this same error was duplicated by the RAF & RCAF heavy bombers when their bombs killed another 150 and wounded 250. Now this was considered an official count because things were in such a turmoil that an accurate count could not be made, we were choked with clouds of dust and we still had to continue the attack – no matter what.


Here is rather an amusing incident in this dark drama – we were issued long yellow strips of celanese which we were to place on top of our vehicles as aircraft recognition signals so when the Yanks started to bomb us we all called for these yellow markers. In the ensuing maelstrom caused by exploding bombs our poor old quartermaster was running around in this dust storm which engulfed us trying to hand out these markers when someone screamed for Gawd’s sake give me something yellow to wave and one of our group screamed back “Wave me I’m yellow” – humour hath no bounds.


But in this operation I can remember the oppressive heat, the choking dust which also blinded you and gave you sunburnt skin and especially the stench of rotting bodies of both men and horses .No one who was there and came through this horror will ever forget the Caen to Falaise Road in Normandie circa August 1944.and it is still officially known as Route Nationale 158.


The mad dash chasing the remnants of the German 14th Army ( and it turned out that they were powerful remnants) through the rest of France and into Belgium came to a halt when we reached the Leopold Canal and it became static warfare in late September 1944.


During this time and behind a smoke screen which shielded us from the enemy, plans were made for another attack across this “ditch” to start on the nights of 5 & 6 October. with a terrific artillery barrage.






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Herb’s memoirs of WW II continued




Since I was trained in plotting barrages etc I was called back to our gun position from our recce post one dark and moonless night to help plot a barrage at our Troop Command Post. So off I start on a lonely nervous journey down this gravel path. It was eerie – the only sound was made by me walking on the gravel, otherwise it was dead quiet and pitch black. I would stop every other minute to listen for any movement because I had been forewarned of heavy patrol activity on both sides – now here is where one starts to sweat albeit the night was damp and chilly ( nevertheless I was sweating). It seemed like an eternity out there by myself – I thought I heard several times rustling in the undergrowth that lined both sides of this path and here and there I heard a twig snap or I thought I did. I feel a little comfort from it being so dark out because if I couldn’t see anyone then I reasoned that they couldn’t see me although they would have heard my foot steps and let’s face it no matter if I had bumped into anyone of our patrols or an enemy patrol I don’t think I would have had time to say anything.it would have “boom” who was that? All of a sudden the lane ends with its crunchy gravel. I had come to a field so where to from here? I’m completely lost when suddenly I see a crack of light for an instant and by this time I couldn’t care less what this light was – then I came upon a huge tarp covering a mound of earth and then I heard the sound of voices, Hurrah! It was Canadian voices and I bounded into this safe haven and Praise The Lord it was my Troop Command Post although it was too dark to see any of the guns deployed out in front. I was “well received” by a casual glad you’re here because we’re going to be at this all night and by the way what the hell took you so long in getting here? Anyhow, to make a long story short they gave me a few rations (compo – ugh) and a couple of swigs from a bottle full of the “nectar of the Gods” after which I settled down enough to help out with this huge fire plan. In retrospect I was mighty thankful that I even had a crunchy path to follow on such a dark night otherwise I probably would have been going around in circles until daybreak.




The last incident that I will comment on at this time happened in Germany in early April 1945 while we were slugging it out in the mud and cold rain of early Spring and into the final stages of the European War.


Everything by this time was in a fluid state and by this I mean we were quite often ahead of the infantry with our self propelled guns and we were firing at targets anywhere from 500 yards and up. This particular event that I refer to happened on the morning of 8 April 1945 while my Battery (36th from Cobourg Ontario) was having breakfast prior to another move, of course they had to wait for us on the Recce Party to get moving and survey in another gun position. The location that I refer to was on the edge of a small forest (wald) on the outskirts of a village called Sogel (in the Hochwald area). The fog was thick and we lingered around waiting for this to dissipate before we moved off. I was in our Recce vehicle studying our route for the day and when the fog lifted all hell broke loose. Apparently a squad of Nazi paratroopers landed and hid in the woods and Village just off our gun postion during the night. As soon a the fog lifted they started their


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Herb’s memoires fo WW II continued




attack. Our S.P. guns saved the day for us – the gun detachments took on the roll of tanks and they advanced into the woods firing the 25 pdr’s point blank and at the same time raking the woods with machine gun fire My officer instructed me to stand by the vehicle and hold the “fort:, He had heard that some of the Chaps were killed and wounded so he takes off down the road to investigate and he was cut down by machine gun fire.


We held the paratroopers off until late afternoon when one of our Infantry Regiments in our Division (Lake Superior motorized Infantry) finally showed up and flushed out the remaining pockets of enemy .




Sadly we suffered many casualties and it must have been very hard for our Padre to communicate with the families of those killed in action since the ceasefire was only a few weeks away.




Finally our Recce Party got away after we grabbed another Officer to replace our slain Officer who had been with us since Normandie.






Here he is, photo taken not so long ago:


Edited by VenerableDamePW
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  • 2 weeks later...

Another WW2 Veteran passes.


The difference between this one and the thousands of nameless veterans who are now passing every year is that this one - as was Herb Danter - was a personal friend of mine.


Arthur Bell, formerly Tpr Bell of the 1st Canadian Armoured Carrier Regiment (called 'Kangaroos' for short) died late last evening of just plain old age. Art did nothing special in the war, was "just" a jeep driver for 1CACR HQ Sqdn, albeit he had a few close calls which did land him in hospital at the end of 1944. He recovered and went on to stay with the Regiment until it was disbanded on 21 June 1945 in Holland. He spent the rest of his life in a variety of occupations and was simultaneously very active in community affairs and with his local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. Amongst his many activities he represented the Regiment by dedicating the permanent Kangaroo memorial at Mill, Holland in 1995 ( http://www.mapleleafup.org/histories/1cacr/index.html ).


I first met Art when he called me after seeing the website I had created to honour he and his mates back in 1998 ( http://www.1cacr.org ). We shared a lot of beers and tears together. I last saw him at the Regimental reunion last November, where he was moving more slowly (closing on 90) but as full of life as ever. And now he's gone.


He was a good man. Typical in the same sort of way as was Herb Danter. Both were quiet, unassuming men with no pretentions who while reluctant to talk about a lot of what they had seen were willing to open up once they trusted you. They served honourably, came home and somehow resumed their lives. But they never forgot.


We will never forget them either. Requiesat in Pace, Art and Herb. This is but a small tribute you and and the thousands like you who stood for us when we needed it the most.


This first picture is of Herb Danter, taken in 1945 in Holland:




This pic is Art Bell, taken shortly after the war (credit to H. Spoelstra):




This last is Herb and Art sitting in a WW2 MB jeep outside Toronto in November 2007, Art in the driver's seat (credit to H. Spoelstra):




These men were my friends.

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My old boss' (and my dad's current boss) father passed away at the age of 90. Walter James Rudick was wounded six times in World War II serving in a small unit that never numbered more than about 2,000. This unit, the 1st Special Service Force, fought in the Aleutians, Italy, and southern France.


Mr. Rudick was one heck of a man, and I was honoured to read a short eulogy documenting his accomplishments in uniform at his memorial service. It's the proudest thing I've ever done. Even if Mr. Rudick wouldn't have had any of it, as he always said he was just doing his job. :)

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My old boss' (and my dad's current boss) father passed away at the age of 90. Walter James Rudick was wounded six times in World War II serving in a small unit that never numbered more than about 2,000. This unit, the 1st Special Service Force, fought in the Aleutians, Italy, and southern France.


Mr. Rudick was one heck of a man, and I was honoured to read a short eulogy documenting his accomplishments in uniform at his memorial service. It's the proudest thing I've ever done. Even if Mr. Rudick wouldn't have had any of it, as he always said he was just doing his job. :)


FCO, the 1st SSF was a unique unit in the annals of both our countries. The movie Devil's Brigade was pretty much crap but surprisingly did capture the spirit of this unique formation... they accomplished much but at tremendous cost. They were brave and bold beyond belief and have mostly been forgotten.


Some of us, however, will never forget. I'm glad you're one of us. :)

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  • 1 month later...



'Paying the price for mateship'15:30 AEST Wed Jun 3 2009

5 images in this story

Mourners have paid tribute at the funeral of a Melbourne man who was stabbed to death after breaking up a fight outside a Brunswick nightclub on May 24.


The tragic death of 29-year-old Luke Mitchell was the ultimate example of his selflessness, his brother Shane told 700 mourners.


"The world needs more Lukes and we should take whatever steps we can to make sure my baby brother didn't die in vain," Shane said.


The group responsible for the attack fled and have not been found. Investigations are continuing.

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  • 1 month later...

Someone sent me this today ......... it belongs in here, and belonged in the news!!!!!


edit ... oops, was already posted. Sorry I missed that.

Edited by VenerableDamePW
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RIP Mr. Allingham... I had to laugh at his statement attributing his longevity... one hell of a man! I know it's old, but I can't help repeating the phrase "we may never see his like again" ... probably too true now, despite the valour of those who serve in all capacities - it's a different world now.



July 18, 2009

World’s oldest man, WWI veteran, dies



LONDON - Only death could silence Henry Allingham.


He went to war as a teenager, helped keep flimsy aircraft flying, survived his wounds and came home from World War I to a long — very long — and fruitful life.


But only in his last years did he discover his true mission: to remind new generations of the sacrifices of the millions slaughtered in the trenches, killed in the air, or lost at sea in what Britons call the Great War.


Allingham, who was the world’s oldest man when he died Saturday at 113, attributed his remarkable longevity to “cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women.”


Jokes aside, he was a modest man who served as Britain’s conscience, reminding young people time and time again about the true cost of war.


“I want everyone to know,” he told The Associated Press during an interview in November. “They died for us.”


He was the last surviving original member of the Royal Air Force, which was formed in 1918. He made it a personal crusade to talk about a conflict that wiped out much of a generation. Though nearly blind, he would take the outstretched hands of visitors in both of his, gaze into the eyes of children, veterans and journalists and deliver a message he wanted them all to remember about those left on the battlefield.


“I don’t want to see them forgotten,” he would say quietly. “We were pals.”


Only a handful of World War I veterans remain of the estimated 68 million mobilized. There are no French veterans left alive; just one left now in Britain; and the last living American-born veteran is Frank Woodruff Buckles of Charles Town, West Virginia. The man believed to have been Germany’s last surviving soldier has also died.


“It’s the end of a era— a very special and unique generation,” said Allingham’s friend, Dennis Goodwin. “The British people owe them a great deal of gratitude.”


Born June 6, 1896, during the reign of Queen Victoria, Allingham would later recall sitting on his grandfather’s shoulders waving a flag for King Edward VII’s coronation in 1902. Transportation was horse drawn, coal was the primary fuel, street lighting was gas and in the financial heart of London, there was same-day mail delivery.


But the world was changing fast. In 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright flew an airplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and in 1913, Henry Ford began making Model Ts on an assembly line in Michigan.


Allingham left school at 15 and was working in a car factory in east London when war broke out in 1914.


He spent the war’s first months refitting trucks for military use, but when his mother died in June 1915, he decided to join up after seeing a plane circling a reservoir in Essex, east of London.


“It was a captivating sight,” he wrote in his memoir. “Fascinated, I sat down on the grass verge to watch the aircraft. I decided that was for me.”


That chance encounter with an early flying machine was to change his life.


It was only a dozen years after the Wright brothers first put up their plane, and Britain’s air resources were primitive. Allingham and other valiant airmen set out from eastern England on motorized kites made with wood, linen and wire. They piled on clothes and smeared their faces in Vaseline, whale oil or engine grease to try to block the cold.


“To be honest, all the planes were so flimsy and unpredictable — as well as incapable of carrying large fuel loads — at the start of the war that both British and German pilots would immediately turn back rather than face each other in the skies if they did not enjoy height supremacy,” Allingham would later write. “But I remember getting back on the ground and just itching to take off again.”


As a mechanic, Allingham’s job was to maintain the rickety craft. He also flew as an observer on a biplane. At first, his weaponry consisted of a standard issue Lee Enfield .303 rifle — sometimes two. Parachutes weren’t issued.


He fought in the Battle of Jutland, the largest naval battle of World War I. He served on the Western Front, by now armed with a machine gun. He was wounded in the arm by shrapnel during an attack on an aircraft depot, but survived.


After the war he worked at the Ford motor factory and raised two children with his wife, Dorothy. She died in 1970, and when his daughter Jean died in 2001, friends say he waited to die, too. His will to live was waning; his life seemed without a larger purpose.


That’s about the time he met Goodwin, a nursing home inspector who realized that veterans of Allingham’s generation were not getting the care they needed to address the trauma they had experienced at the Somme, Gallipoli and Ypres and the other blood-drenched World War I battlefields. Some veterans ached to return to the battlefields to pay their respects to their slain friends, and Goodwin found himself organizing trips to France for that purpose.


He encouraged Allingham to share his experiences and the veteran, even though he had passed the century mark, started talking to reporters and school groups, providing the connection to a lost generation some had forgotten. He found himself leading military parades. He was made an Officer of France’s Legion of Honor and received other honors.


He met Queen Elizabeth II and wrote his autobiography with help from Goodwin. It was called “Kitchener’s Last Volunteer,” a reference to Britain’s Minister for War who rallied men to the cause. Prince Charles wrote the introduction.


He grew accustomed to being one of the last ones standing. Last year, he joined Harry Patch, Britain’s last surviving World War I soldier, and the late Bill Stone, the country’s last sailor, in a ceremony at the Cenotaph war memorial near the houses of Parliament in London, to mark the 90th anniversary of the war’s end at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.


As the wreaths were being laid, Allingham pushed himself up out of his wheelchair to place his arrangement at the base of the memorial — refusing the help of an officer deployed at his side. He leaned forward and placed the red poppy wreath beside the others. Tears flowed.


Allingham remained outspoken until his death, pleading for peace and begging anyone who would listen to remember those who died.


“I think we need to make people aware that a few men gave all they had to give so that you could have a better world to live in,” he said. “We have to pray it never happens again.”


Goodwin said Allingham’s funeral will take place in Brighton. He is survived by five grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, 14 great-great grandchildren and one great-great-great grandchild.

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  • 1 month later...

Two Oregon ARNG troops killed, a third wounded, in another IED attack. All were members of the 41st Bde.




May God help comfort their loved ones, and may they rest in peace.

Edited by Michael Eastes
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  • 2 weeks later...

All of the serious casualties don't die. Here's a good article about a survivor.



For those of you who are non-golfers, David Feherty is an irreverent TV Golf Analyst. An Irishman and former touring professional, he has a whimsical and often sarcastic view of the world and of professional golf. This article is particularly good. Enjoy. -

Soldiering On

The Troops First Foundation gives America's injured vets a chance to reclaim their dignity

By David Feherty

Contributing Writer, GOLF Magazine

Published: August 26, 2009

The final round of Tiger's AT&T National at Congressional Country Club in J uly was particularly satisfying for me to witness because I followed the host toward his one shot victory over Hunter Mahan, who had earlier posted an incredible 62. Hunter has supported my Troops First Foundation events since the beginning, and like Tiger, his dad served in the military. Earlier that week, Hunter, Rod Pampling, Jason Gore, Pat Perez, Kelly Tilghman and Tom Watson played with thirty or so seriously injured servicemen and women (most of them amputees) in my 2nd Annual Improvised Explosive Day of Golf at the Chevy Chase Club. This year I had another amazing group of warriors, from Rob Brown — a below-the-knee amputee who may represent the U.S. in both the regular Olympics in kayak and Para-Olympics in track and field — to 22-year-old PFC Brendan Marrocco of the 25th Infantry, who on Easter Sunday in Tikrit was robbed of all four limbs plus his left eye.

It takes a while to figure out how to react to the severely injured members of our armed forces, but after almost three years of being around them, I think I have it figured out. This year's IED of Golf was the first time I'd met Brendan, with whom it is impossible to shake hands, play footsie, chest bump or, for that matter, pull his finger. A stump-to-knuckles thing had to suffice, and after that I embarked on what is now my normal procedure for getting to know a new member of my F-troop, who was being driven around in a cart by his brother Mike. It went something like this:

Me: "You know, you're not20as tall as I thought you'd be."

Brendan: "I used to be taller."

"Yes, I can imagine. So, what would you like to do today?"

"I'd like to kick your ass."

"Well, that seems unlikely. Obviously you can't walk, but you look like you'd bounce pretty well. Are you going to be okay in that cart without a seat belt?

"Yeah, I can hold on with my butt cheeks."

"Excellent! Well, clench on, brother — I'll see you out there."

(Later that morning)

Me: "Hey, Stumpy, how's it going?"

Brendan: "I like this — is there any chance I can go watch Tiger with you this week?"

"I'll get you inside the ropes if I have to wear you like a f-----g hat."

"Man, that's cold."

"Hey, get used to it, kid — you're an F-trooper now."

These exchanges usually horrify first-time witnesses, but after a few moments, everyone gets it. Brendan has lost his limbs, not his mind, but more important for a man who has been trained to be one of the best soldiers on the planet, he has lost his dignity. By his reactions to my seemingly callous assaults on what is left of him, Brendan regains a little of that dignity each time. Brendan, like the rest of my men and women, is more courageous, more inspiring, more complete, and funnier than any able-bodied person I know. His intelligence and his sense of humor are the only weapons he has left to defend himself, and he will use them in a manner that leaves those of us who are lucky enough to have him and others l ike him defending our freedom utterly awestruck and humbled.

Tiger had a one-shot lead after the 17th hole, and as he stood waiting for Anthony Kim to putt out, I put my hand on his shoulder and told him that Brendan, who had followed him all day in a cart inside the ropes, was now in his wheelchair where Tiger would turn the corner to go to the 18th tee. Tiger smiled at me and nodded. Before heading to the last tee, Tiger hunkered down and knuckle-stumped one of his heroes, PFC Brendan Marrocco. Brendan, who before that day had been ashamed and frightened to go out in public, was wheeled by his father, Alex, and his brother Mike down the center of the 18th fairway to an overwhelming, roaring, standing ovation. He lifted what is left of one of his arms in a salute, and this announcer wept like Gary McCord at a Barry Manilow concert as Tiger looked on in the background, smiling.

It's hard to know which boy the old Green Beret Earl Woods would have been prouder of at that moment, but I do know this: Because of Tiger Woods, Hunter Mahan and the Troops First Foundation, PFC Brendan Marrocco is no longer ashamed to go out in public. And by this winter, he will be hunting birds with us and pulling his own damn trigger, or I'll make the little swine drop and give me twenty. Only a fool would bet against him being able to do both. Like they say, there's strong, and then there's Army Strong.

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  • 3 months later...

Most decorated US soldier dies:




I would have missed it, except a friend passed it on. The death of a young actress has been making headlines, but the loss of this man barely was mentioned. Our society continues to show skewed priorities.

Edited by Michael Eastes
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Most decorated US soldier dies:




I would have missed it, except a friend passed it on. The death of a young actress has been making headlines, but the loss of this man barely was mentioned. Our society continues to show skewed priorities.

Already mentioned. >

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To only those who would and could appreciate it. This account is one of a kind. A powerful one that touches your heart. Tough duty then as it is now.



Burial at Sea



by LtCol 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 Montangards 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 Officer.


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-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 Store owner 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 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! Jmac






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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  • 5 weeks later...

Charles King Sargent, lost 11 Apr 2010.


RIP, Sir.

Edited by Michael Eastes
Mild confusion
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