RFT 549: Marine Corps Birthday/Veteran's Day

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By George Nolly and Captain George Nolly. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

In the battle for Iwo Jima, 7000 marines were killed and 20,000 wounded.

From az central:

It's an image seared into the American consciousness.

After four days of fierce fighting on the tiny Pacific island of Iwo Jima during World War II, part of the United States' “island hopping” strategy to defeat the Japanese after retaking the Philippines, six U.S. Marines climb the highest peak of the 8-square-mile outpost and plant an American flag.

One helmet-clad Marine holds the post in place amid the rubble, while the others thrust the stars and stripes toward the smoke- and cloud-pocked sky; a triumphant moment captured by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal.

The photo would publish nationwide to great fanfare two days later on Sunday, Feb. 25, 1945, and prove that, yes, we can win the war.

Rosenthal would later win a Pulitzer Prize for Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, and the U.S. Postal Service would affix the image on a 3-cent stamp.

From my author website:

November 10, 1969

I was sitting in the Doom Club with a couple of the other Covey FACs. The weather had been especially lousy, with squall line thunderstorms over the mountains between DaNang and Laos. Because of the weather either over the target area or over our route to the AO, we hadn’t flown any missions in several days. We were getting antsy, and spent most of our time bitching. And drinking.

We were about to order another round of drinks, when in walked a Marine Lieutenant. It was Lieutenant Royce!

“Who wants to help celebrate the Marine Corps birthday?” he bellowed. I got the impression he’d already started celebrating a bit earlier.

When he saw me, his eyes lit up.

“Lieutenant! Great to see you. I have a jeep outside, and I can take five of you.”

“I’m ready!” I answered, “Let’s go.”

Three other guys joined me in piling into the jeep for a quick, albeit dangerous, drive to Camp DaNang, the Marine outpost. When we arrived we spilled out and went into the Marine Officer’s Club.

The Marines didn’t know how to live in luxury, but they sure knew how to throw a party. All the booze we could drink. All the food, great food, we could eat. Steak, lobster, shrimp. We had a ball.

Like every other time I got shit-faced drunk, I blacked out. I think I had a good time. Next thing I knew, someone was shaking me.

“Lieutenant. Wake up.” It was Royce.

I felt like crap. I lifted my head and looked around. I was on a canvas cot.

“It’s 0500 hours,” Royce proclaimed, “Let’s go for a run.”

“I, I think I’ll pass,” I responded.

“Okay. If you want to wash up, here’s a basin.” He handed me an empty helmet.

All I could think was, “You gotta be shitting me.”

I thanked Royce and hitched a ride back to DaNang. Damn, those Marines knew how to throw a party!

From Today:

A sacred part of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier usually only visited by presidents and foreign dignitaries is open to the public this week in honor of the 100th anniversary of the memorial dedicated to America's unidentified war casualties.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Plaza on the hallowed ground of Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia is usually reserved for the sentinels who stand guard and presidents and other dignitaries presenting a wreath or flowers.

Ahead of Veterans Day on Thursday, the American public is being given the chance to step forward on the plaza and pay their respects by placing flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The special opportunity is available on Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST by registering online in advance.

TODAY's Craig Melvin traveled to the site of the sacred white marble sarcophagus to speak with a gold star mother who regularly visits Arlington as well as a senior member of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” who keep watch day and night at the tomb.

The memorial was dedicated on Nov. 11, 1921, after the remains of an unidentified soldier from World War I were exhumed from a military cemetery in France, flown to the United States, and buried in a ceremony officiated by President Warren G. Harding.

Remains of unidentified soldiers from World War II and the Korean War were later interred at the tomb in the 1950s. The remains of a Vietnam War veteran were buried there in 1984, but they were exhumed in 1998 and buried at a Missouri military cemetery at the request of the soldier's family after he was positively identified as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, according to the Arlington National Cemetery website.

Cindy Chip, whose son Sgt. Michael Hardegree died while serving in Iraq in 2007, is among the more than 12,000 people who have signed up so far to lay flowers at the tomb on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"We don’t know that soldier’s name," she told Craig on TODAY Tuesday. "We don’t know anything about him except that he was an American soldier and he gave his life for his country. And we will never forget him.

"And every mother in her heart, that is what we want to say. Just don’t forget them. Just don’t forget that he lived. And that’s what that tomb says to me. This country will never forget it."

From my author website:

Saying Goodbye To A Friend

Posted on April 15, 2015

I buried a friend yesterday. At this age, that’s not terribly unusual. What made this different is that Rick Chorlins was killed 45 years ago, and his remains have finally been brought home.

Rick and I were close when we were cadets at the Air Force Academy. Then, in 1967, graduation sent us in different directions, and we didn’t meet up again until late 1969. I was stationed at DaNang Air Base, South Vietnam, and had wangled a good-deal trip to Thailand for a few days. I was going to go for an orientation ride on a C-130 Airborne Command and Control Center (ABCCC), call-sign Moonbeam. It was a chance to get away from the unrelenting nightly rocket attacks, and see locals who were not burdened by war and who knew how to smile.

I arrived at Nakon Phanom Royal Thai Air Base, called NKP, and headed to the Officers Club. And there, standing at the bar, was Rick, along with another classmate I hadn’t seen in over two years, Bob Moore. Meeting up with old friends after a long time is always fun. Running into them unexpectedly on the other side of the world is really special. We hung around together the entire night. After a few drinks, we had dinner, then went back to their hootch and caught up with what had been happening in our lives. We had all gotten married since we last saw each other. Rick had gotten a Master’s Degree. Bob had become a father. We swapped war stories. I told them what it was like to be a Forward Air Controller, and they told me what it was like to fly the A-1 in combat.

Truth be told, I felt like I was the kid and they were the grown-ups. I was flying a dinky little O-2A Skymaster, while they were flying the Skyraider, a gigantic, fire-breathing tail-dragger with a round engine that carried thousands of pounds of bombs under its wings and dueled with enemy gunners for a living. They were real fighter pilots. After hours of shooting down our watches with our hands, we said our good-byes and vowed to get together again, at some unknown time in the future. Great guys.

If you’ve read Hamfist Over The Trail, this story might sound familiar. Chapter 28 is the fictionalized account of my meeting up with Bob and Rick. Dave and Dick in the book are the fictional characters representing the real-life Rick and Bob.

Bob was killed the next week . A few months later, Rick was shot down and he was listed as KIA, but his remains were not recovered.

Until now. After 45 years, Rick came home. His remains had been discovered in Laos in 2003 and sent to Hawaii, where DNA testing finally confirmed it was Rick.

Rick was buried at the Air Force Academy cemetery with full military honors, including a 21-gun salute, a missing-man fly-by, and the solemn playing of Taps. Generals presented flags to his two surviving relatives, his sisters, Cheryl and Toby.

Then we all gathered together at a restaurant to tell Rick stories. And we all had a really great time, reminiscing about Rick’s great sense of humor, his intelligence, and his dedication to duty. It was a great Celebration of Life.

And it was also a solemn reminder of the sacrifices the families of servicemen faced, and continue to face, when they send their loved ones off to war. They wait at home, never knowing if the sound of the closing car door in the street is a neighbor coming home or a military staff car with a Colonel and a Chaplain coming to bring news that will change their lives forever. That happened 58,286 times during the Vietnam War.

Eighteen on my classmates were lost in Southeast Asia. Five have still not been found.

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