Tuesday, December 21, 2010
We are approaching 10,000 visitors to this blog. That is success beyond my wildest imagination.I have connected with many from 2/4 and other units.Some say that I have helped them, but the truth is that each one I helped also helped me.To each of these (you know who you are) and to all my visitors, THANK YOU!
I now dedicate this blog to my friend, Richard Janigian and all the others we lost on 9/21/67 and the Battle of Bastards Bridge in Oct. 67. Named after 2nd Bn. 4th Marines, "The Magnificent Bastards".
God Bless You All,
And Happy New Year.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
We are all brothers and today is a very good day to remember that.
I wrote this email to a fellow Marine in October of 1998. I have sent it out on every Veterans Day since then. I thought you may like to read it and reflect a bit on the sacrifices made by our veterans in order to preserve our way of life.
I was at Camp Lejeune, N.C. on Thursday for business. Every time I go down there I stop at the Beirut Memorial to pay my respects to the Marines who were killed in Lebanon. I always go there very early in the morning so I am sure to be alone as I visit the Memorial.
The Beirut operation was and still is largely a mystery to most people. It was simply not discussed among Marines like previous or subsequent Marine Corps operations were. Most folks believe that only the 241 Marines and sailors who were killed in the BLT HQ blast are listed on the wall. Not true, there are a few dozen more that were killed in firefights and by shelling both before and after the BLT tragedy. Many more Marines survived to wear Purple Hearts for gunshot and shrapnel wounds received in Beirut. This fact is relatively unknown by most people, Marines included.
There is a friend and TBS/IOC classmate of mine, 2nd Lt. George Losey, listed on the wall. George and his platoon sergeant were both killed during a mortar and artillery attack at the Beirut airport in August of 1983. I went to his funeral and was greatly affected by it. It was especially heartbreaking to see George's grandfather grieve at the sight of his grandson as he lay dead at such a tender age. One can only imagine what he was thinking. It was one of the saddest scenes I have ever witnessed.
Also listed is Sgt Manuel Cox, a squad leader in Golf Co., 2/8. Sgt Cox was an immigrant from somewhere in South America. He came to the battalion from what is now the School of Infantry where he was a very popular instructor. All of the young Marines in the battalion knew him from the school and were simply in awe of him.
Sgt Cox and his squad were put on an isolated Observation Post west of the Beirut airport. Our battalion’s (2/8) first big scrap in Beirut took place in early December of 1983. It lasted about three hours, on and off. The local Shiite militia apparently decided it was time to see what the new Marine unit had in the way of testosterone. They found out rather quickly that the rules had changed. The battalion shot everything; small arms, artillery, mortars, tank main gun rounds, and even TOW and Dragon missiles (normally used against armored vehicles, they proved to be very effective when shot at enemy gunners in distant buildings!).
I received a radio message from the airport informing me that they were engaged in a pitched fire-fight and warning me to be alert for attacks on my position, which was isolated several miles away in a very bad sector of West Beirut. I tuned a couple of spare radios to the frequencies used by Sgt Cox’s company and the Battalion Command Posts. For the next few hours, I sat in the dark on the roof of a building and listened to Marines I knew fight for their lives. It was evident from the radio traffic that Sgt Cox's position was really catching hell. Judging by the ferocity of the attack on his observation post, I believe the Shiites wanted to kill everyone there and take the weapons, ammo, etc., for their own use.
During the entire fire-fight Sgt Cox conducted himself in a manner that was simply awesome. The entire airport could hear him on the radio talking back to his Company CP. He called for and adjusted artillery fire, mortars, gave fire commands to his gunners; the whole deal. Sgt Cox and his Marines fought like hell that night. I have no doubt that they inflicted heavy casualties among their attackers. Someone had about an hour of the radio traffic on a tape recording. I always thought that they should have sent the tape to Squad Leader School and The Basic School, where the instructors could tell the students, "OK, listen to this. Here's how Marines should be led while in combat!”
As luck would have it, the last enemy mortar round of the night hit the roof of the building that Sgt Cox was on. It killed him and seven other Marines. Some of the M-203 gunners were wearing grenade vests and their extra rounds detonated. The rooftop position had been turned into a scene of utter carnage. The Company CP sent a lone, incredibly brave Marine, L/CPL Clayburn, down to Sgt. Cox’s position to assess the situation. He crawled about 300 meters on his belly as the Shiites attempted to shoot him. They actually shot through one of the canteens on his cartridge belt; he was very lucky not to take a round in his body. He got to Sgt Cox’s position, saw the gore and left in a panic for the Company Command Post. When he arrived back at the Company CP his Lieutenant asked, "Clayburn, did you remember to bring back the crypto gear?” He had not and the look on his face said it all. There was no way he wanted to have to make another trip to Sgt Cox’s position. The Lieutenant said, "Let's go back and get it". They both departed for Sgt. Cox’s position and it was the same shooting gallery as L/CPL Clayburn’s first trip.
When they reached Sgt Cox’s position, the Lieutenant, by his own admission, was badly shaken by what he saw. The dead Marines were in really bad shape; none remained in one entire piece. The Lieutenant found Sgt Cox’s body. The last time he had seen Sgt Cox two days prior he was passing out cigars celebrating the birth of his child. He respected and admired Sgt Cox and the loss of this fine Marine greatly affected him.
Whenever I look at Sgt Cox’s name on the wall of the Beirut Memorial I always think about the devastated family he left behind. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Valor. Throughout the remainder of my career, whenever I heard the term NCO or Squad Leader or Marine Sergeant, I always thought of Sgt Cox as the standard to measure everyone else by. What a Marine. What a loss.
The hardest name to look at is that of Edward J. Gargano. He was a Corporal assigned to the Dragons platoon. He had been assigned to support my company in the Grenada operation and had moved with my platoon at times.
In January of 1984, Corporal Gargano was told to bring up a squad of Marines from the airport to the temporary U.S. Embassy site where my platoon was. The helicopter landing zone was a large parking lot on the Mediterranean coast. Though it was not an ideal landing zone, we used it on and off because we had no other alternatives. It was located in a very dangerous West Beirut neighborhood, so we went loaded for bear every time we went down there.
The first helo landed on that fateful day and the Marines ran out and took cover behind a stone wall at the edge of the LZ. As the second helo touched down all hell broke loose. I was on top of a building and saw several RPG's streaking by the helicopters, heard the sound of automatic weapons fire and saw green and red tracers zipping around in every direction. Most of my positions were under small arms fire and I could tell that the Marines were returning the same.
A Marine next to me pointed at the LZ and said, “Sir, look!” I saw a Marine laid out in the open. I could see that bullets were hitting all around him. I then saw a Marine run about 75 yards to the wounded man. As he ran the enemy fire increased in volume and I saw bullets hitting the ground inches behind him. I could see tracers flying all around him. It was exactly like those war movies we watched as kids where the good guy always seems to outrun the bullets. The Marine reached down and scooped up the wounded man in one motion and started back to safety. Once again tracers were zipping around everywhere. I saw shrubbery and tree branches falling next to the LZ as bullets cut them away as the enemy tried to hit the Marines as they returned to a safe position.
Amazingly, PFC Gorham (the rescuer) was not hit during his heroic run to retrieve his wounded buddy, nor was Cpl Gargano. Cpl Gargano, however, had been hit earlier by a bullet (7.62). PFC Gorham was running the show at this point and he called me for a MedEvac helo and remembered to request that it go to another landing zone that was down the road a bit and not in the line of fire. His presence of mind and coolness under fire will remain with me for as long as I live. He was just a kid, maybe a year out of high school. But on that day, his actions were those from which legends are made!
I would estimate that the entire rescue of the Cpl Gargano took perhaps less than two minutes, but I remember it like a slow motion NFL highlight film. No matter how many times I recall this event, it always plays in my mind in the same exact slow motion manner.
By the time I linked up with Cpl Gargano he was unconscious and was probably already dead. As we worked on him trying to get him breathing via CPR, massive amounts of blood came out of his mouth and nose with each thrust of the Doc’s hands; it was obvious that the bullet had hit his heart or aorta. I think we all knew what the deal was, but the Doc and other Marines continued to at least try to do something.
The tactical situation faded quickly and quiet returned to the area. The radios were booming with traffic as we tried to assess if there were any other casualties. The Doc came over and told me that Corporal Gargano was dead. I had the radio-man call the Battalion CP and change the MedEvac from priority to routine, as I did not want to cause the MedEvac helo to risk flying into a hot LZ now that there was no chance of saving his life.
Evidently the MEU staff was getting micro-managed from Washington and they wanted specifics about where Corporal Gargano had been hit. I went back to Cpl Gargano to verify the specific location of his wound. I was alone at this point with his body and I lifted his shirt up and had to roll him over to get to the wound. Sure enough, just below his right armpit there was a jagged hole about as big as a dime, with no exit wound. As I moved him I could hear blood sloshing around inside his lungs and stomach; the bullet must have really torn things up inside of him.
To this day I remember how young and fresh faced he looked. He looked so peaceful, as if he was asleep. I had done a lot of thinking since the October 23rd suicide truck bombing of the BLT Headquarters and had read the stories about all of the shattered families back home. I thought of Corporal Gargano’s parents back in the states and could only imagine what this was going to do to them.
The only thing that I could think of to do was to reach down and give his face the caress that his mother would never be able to. I said a prayer, returned to my Marines and did my best to look composed and give them the direction they desperately needed. I don't know how well I pulled it off, but inside, my heart was aching with sadness.
A week later Newsweek magazine ran a short story on Cpl Gargano's death. The article contained a recruit picture of him in his Dress Blue uniform. I saved that article and for the rest of my career I kept it in my office. I would put it in a spot that caused me to look at it at least once a day. It always helped me keep things in perspective and to remember just how ugly our profession can be. Occasionally, other Marines would see me looking at the picture and they would ask me about it. I used to tell them that the picture reminded me of why I was a Marine and of the great responsibility I had to the parents and families of the Marines entrusted to me.
Rarely does a day go by that I do not think of that event. For better or worse, it shaped a great deal of who I was as a Marine and how I approached my role as a leader of the finest men I have ever known. Sorry to ramble so, Tom. The month of October always brings back memories of those days.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Date: Thursday, November 19, 2009, 8:01 PM
A Thank You to Vietnam Vets from a Marine in Iraq
A guy gets time to think over here and I was thinking about all the support we get from home. Sometimes it's overwhelming. We get at times faster than we can use them. There are boxes and boxes of toiletries and snacks lining the center of every tent; the generosity has been amazing. So, I was pondering the question: "Why do we have so much support?"
In my opinion, it came down to one thing: Vietnam. I think we learned a lesson, as a nation, that no matter what, you have to support the troops who are on the line, who are risking everything. We treated them so poorly back then. When they returned was even worse. The stories are nightmarish of what our returning warriors were subjected to. It is a national scar, a blemish on our country, an embarrassment to all of us
After , it had time to sink in. The guilt in our collective consciousness grew. It shamed us. However, we learned from our mistake.
Somewhere during the late 1970's and into the 80's, we realized that we can't treat our warriors that way. So, starting during the Gulf War, when the first real opportunity arose to stand up and support the troops, we did. We did it to support our friends and family going off to war. But we also did it to right the wrongs from the Vietnam era. We treated our troops like the heroes they were, acknowledged and celebrated their sacrifice, and rejoiced at their homecoming instead of spitting on them.
And that support continues today for those of us in Iraq. Our country knows that it must support us and it does. The lesson was learned in Vietnam and we are better because of it.
Everyone who has gone before is a hero. They are celebrated in my heart. I think admirably of all those who have gone before me. From those who fought to establish this country in the late 1770's to those I serve with here in Iraq. They have all sacrificed to ensure our freedom.
But when I get back, I'm going to make it a personal mission to specifically thank every Vietnam Vet I encounter for their sacrifice. Because if nothing else good came from that terrible war, one thing did. It was the lesson learned on how we treat our warriors. We as a country learned from our mistake and now treat our warriors as heroes, as we should.
I am the beneficiary of their sacrifice. Not only for the freedom they, like veterans from other wars, ensured, but for how well our country now treats my fellow Marines and I. We are the beneficiaries of their sacrifice.
Major Brian P. Bresnahan
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
by Bob Hamer
Earlier this year as I was filling up at the gas station I noticed a faded bumper sticker- vintage Bush 43-on the car next to me: “Dissent is Patriotic.” When I pointed to the bumper and asked the driver if she still believed that, she suggested I do something to myself which I am certain is physically impossible. I just laughed and said, “I’ll take that as a no.”
At the time, our Marine son and his men were deployed to a remote Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan. As I reflected on my experience at the Shell station, I wondered if this woman had any idea the sacrifices so many had made so she could exercise her 1stAmendment rights during the previous administration or this one.
I wondered if she knew about Fallujah, or the Helmand Province? Was she aware that at Tarawa, 1,020 Marines were killed in the seventy-six hour battle? She may have seen the photo but did she know at Iwo Jima, the thirty-six day assault left more than 26,000 Americans wounded and 6,800 Marines dead? Did she have any clue as to the sacrifices others have made throughout this nation’s history so she could live free?, the , Hue City,
My wife and I recently spent a week on the Marine Corps base where our son is stationed. As we walked up and down the residential street where he and his family live we realized almost half of the homes had husbands deployed to a combat zone. The other half had spouses who recently returned or were about to leave. It was humbling to see parking lots with so many cars displaying Purple Heart license plates or seeing the injured frequenting the PX. Did the woman know about these recent sacrifices?
Last week while I was working out at the gym and wearing a Marine Corps t-shirt, a young man approached. I could tell he had sustained recent injuries. This twenty-five year old medically retired Marine Corps Staff Sergeant was wounded in Iraq and only recently was able to abandon the wheel chair. His knee was still so full of shrapnel he needed a total knee replacement. He will forever live with the scars on his face but his sacrifice was even more personal. His brother, a Marine, was killed five miles from where my new friend was injured. His younger brother just enlisted. I can’t imagine what his family has been through. Yet he was so proud of his brother who died and the one about to carry the title “Marine.” Did the woman at the gas station know my friend and his family?
In AMERICAN PATRIOT by Robert Coram, Colonel Bud Day is quoted as saying “It is not a widely known fact, but military people are weepers. They weep when they watch a parade and the flag goes by. They weep when they hear the National Anthem. They weep at tales of valor and sacrifice.” When I read that, a sense of relief washed over me. If maybe the most valiant man I ever met can weep then I guess it’s okay for me to admit shedding a tear. I’ve shot guys and never flinched but tales of valor and the sacrifices I have seen by my military heroes and their families choke me up every time. I wonder if the woman at Shell ever cries and if so, for whom or for what?
My vehicle has only one decal…a scarlet and gold U.S.M.C. on the rear window. I’ll often have someone pull up next to me at a light and nod knowingly. I only spent four years on active duty as a somewhat marginal Marine yet after a twenty-six year career in the FBI, many of those years undercover, I’m prouder to say I was a Marine than to say I was an FBI agent. Although only a small portion of my life was in the Corps, I am forever part of a brotherhood of warriors.
Today, November 10th, a date known by every Marine, marks the 234th birthday of the Veteran’s Day, a chance to remember all who served. Maybe you can say thanks in a tangible way this year by supporting the . Tomorrow is USO,Freedom Alliance, Iraq Star, Operation Gratitude, Hope for the Warriors, or any number of charities serving our servicemen and women who have earned our respect and admiration with their shed blood.
“When I give you the word, together we will cross the Line of Departure, close with those forces that choose to fight, and destroy them. You are part of the world’s most feared and trusted force. Engage your brain before you engage your weapon. Share your courage with each other as we enter the uncertain terrain north of the Line of Departure. Keep faith in your comrades on your left and right and Marine Air overhead. Fight with a happy heart and strong spirit. For the Mission’s sake, 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 U.S. Marine.”
– James N. Mattis. Commander, , March 30, 2003, on the eve of crossing into Iraq
Happy Birthday Marines and Semper Fi!
Inthe poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
- Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872 - 1918)
Friday, October 23, 2009
Used by permission of Alvin L. Simpson, from his book "Distant Shore: A Memoir".
Monday, May 25, 2009
Fortunately, I received a memorial day message that says it better than I can and I would like to share it with everyone. Have a blessed Memorial Day!
We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.
P H Hauser
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Wes Hammond, a 1951 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1975. In addition to a B.S. from the Naval Academy, he has a M.A. (International Law) from the Catholic University of America and M.A. (Journalism) from the University of Nevada.
During more than a quarter of a century of active duty, he served in a wide variety of command and staff billets around the globe. He was wounded in action as an infantry platoon leader in Korea (1st Bn, 5th Mar). He was twice a tactics instructor at the Marine Corps School in Quantico, VA; commanded a company in an infantry battalion afloat in the Mediterranean (B Co, 1st Bn, 6th Mar); served as the S-3 of 1st Battalion, 5th Marines at Camp Pendleton during initial experimentation with vertical envelopment operations; and was aide-de-camp to MajGen D.M. Shoup (later 22nd Commandant of the Marine Corps) on Okinawa, where he met and married Miss Donna M. Selby of Brighton, Colorado. He deployed with the 10th Marines, 2nd Marine Division of the Cuban Missile Crisis (as the regimental communications officers). While with the artillery, he also served as a battery commander and the battalion XO (4th Bn, 10th Mar). He commanded the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines (“The Magnificent Bastards”) in Vietnam until wounded in action and evacuated. He returned to duty as Plans Officer of the 3rd Marine Division until wounded again, finishing his tour as the division liaison officer, Provisional Corps Vietnam. Upon return to the United States, he was Head, Command Department, Marine Corps Command & Staff College in Quantico. There he taught Research and Writing, Command & Staff Organization, and a future concept of amphibious operations called “Sea Base.” He was transferred to Hawaii, promoted to colonel and assigned as Protocol Officer and Aide to Commander-in-Chief, Pacific, Admiral John S. McCain, Jr. USN. He retired from Camp Pendleton, California and returned to Reno, Nevada.
While on active duty he was Editor & Publisher (1964-67) of the Marine Corps Gazette, the professional journal of the Marine Corps Association. Eight years after retiring from the Marine Corps, he moved to Annapolis, Md., to be editor of Shipmate, the monthly magazine of the U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association. After a dozen years there, he retired and returned to Reno.
He is the author of more than 50 articles in professional military journals as well as popular publications and newspapers. His Poison Gas – The Myths Versus Reality (Greenwood Press, Westport, Conn., 1999) is a plea for common sense lest we be held hostage to fear of the unknown. His The Treaty Navy – The Story of the U.S. Naval Service Between the World Wars, (Wesley Press, Reno, Nevada, 2001) describes how the innovative thinking and the developments in the 1920s and 1930s spawned the victory in the Pacific in the 1940s. His first venture into fiction was A Few Marines (Wesley Press, Reno, Nevada, 2005). It is collection of short “sea stories” that could have happened and maybe did. The second in this series, A Few More Marines (Wesley Press, Reno, Nevada) was published in 2008.
The Hammonds make their home in Reno but travel extensively including an annual trip to Annapolis during football season. They have three children and seven grandchildren.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.
The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.
"What are you doing?" I asked without fear,
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..
To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
Then he sighed and he said "Its really all right,
I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night."
"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at ' Pearl on a day in December,"
Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers."
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ' Nam ',
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue... an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall."
" So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."
"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
"Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
and looked across the table where the bills were piled too high.
The laundry wasn't finished and the car I had to fix,
My stocks were down another point,
the Dolphins lost by six.
And so with only minutes till my son got home from school,
I gave up on the drudgery and grabbed a wooden stool.
The burdens that I carried were about all I could take,
and so I flipped the TV on to catch a little break.
I came upon a desert scene in shades of tan and rust,
No snowflakes hung upon the wind, just clouds of swirling dust.
And where the reindeer should have stood before a laden sleigh,
eight hummers ran a column right behind an M1A.
A group of boys walked past the tank, not one was past his teens,
Their eyes were hard as polished flint, their faces drawn and lean.
They walked the street in armor with their rifles shouldered tight, their dearest wish for Christmas, just to have a silent night.
Other soldiers gathered, hunkered down against the wind,
To share a scrap of mail and dreams of going home again.
There wasn't much at all to put their lonely hearts at ease,
They had noChristmas turkey, just a pack of MRE's.
They didn't have a garland or a stocking I could see,
They didn't need an ornament-- they lacked a Christmas Tree.
They didn't have a present even though it was tradition,
The only boxes I could see were labeled "ammunition".
I felt a little tug and found my son now by my side,
He asked me what it was I feared, and why it was I cried.
I swept him up into my arms and held him oh so near
and kissed him on the forehead as I whispered in his ear.
There's nothing wrong, my little son, for safe we sleep tonight,
our heroes stand on foreign land to give us all the right,
to worry about the things in life that really mean nothing at all,
instead of wondering each day if we will be the next to fall.
He looked at me as children do and said it's always right,
to thank the ones who help us and perhaps that we should write.
And so we pushed aside the bills and sat to draft a note,
to thank the many far from home, and this is what we wrote,
God bless you all and keep you safe, and speed your way back home. Remember that we love you so, and that you're not alone.
The gift you give, you share with all, a present every day,
You give the gift of liberty and that we can't repay.