Friday, September 21, 2007

Forty Years Ago


I have tried to come up with a few words in honor of the Marines and Corpsmen who walked into hell on a sunny morning, 40 years ago today. I will do my best to say a few words to you, my brothers, who share so much with me.

On September 21, 1967, we were, for the most part, teenagers just out of high school. Young guys who decided they should do something for their country, just as our fathers and their fathers before had done, and down through our American history. We were proud United States Marines and eager to do our duty. The Marine Corps was in Vietnam and that was where I wanted to be. Like me, I know many of you volunteered to go too. In Vietnam, our NCO's were the greatest asset to us young Marines, and they made sure we learned the ropes in a hostile land. In some ways, they were like big brothers to us. We admired and looked up to them in all things. Most importantly, they taught us how to survive.

40 years ago today, my Platoon Sgt., Sergeant Nelson, told those of us in 1st Platoon, Golf Company, to turn to the right and fix bayonets. He said "Remember who you are ... remember your training..I'll be with you. At that point we walked off online, and into history.

But it is not the history we would have wanted to tell to our children and our grandchildren. No. Certain aspects of the battle, and especially the end of it, went very bad. Things you wouldn't want to talk about. Oh yes, we did fight like Marines are supposed to fight. Yes, we did what we were trained to do. We fought hard, despite the confusion, the noise and the inescapable horror of it all. most of us witnessed acts of incredible courage and kindness. some of those gave everything they had. At dusk the angels came down off the hill and blessed them so God would know them.

But the thing that saddens us survivors about that battle in that far away land is so very hard to mention, even after 40 years. But it must be said, because we need, above all things, to HONOR THOSE MEN WE LEFT BEHIND. Even though Marines NEVER LEAVE THEIR DEAD BEHIND. Is this not true? Were we not told this time and time again by our officers? Then why did those brave Marines lay out there on the field to rot for 20 days? Why!? We may never know why. Because no one will take responsibility. Our buddies should have been brought in as soon as possible. if not that day, supposedly due to the large concentrations of NVA soldiers, then the next day, or the third day. But never over two weeks.
Some of us survivors have discussed this, and we want to know why a joint operation of military personnel was not sent to recovery the remains of those brave men. What the families went through later trying to identify remains of their loved ones is not to be believed. To this day, there are questions of misidentification.

I am saddened to be associated with the fact that some officer, or officers, or someone up the chain of command, made the decision to leave our brother Marines behind. I feel guilty and sad beyond belief, even 40 years later. But most of all, I am Mad as hell that after all these years we are still asking ... Why? We owe it to those we left behind, and to ourselves, the survivors, and to the families to continue looking for those answers. We must know.

So 40 years ago today, I am not proud of what our country did to their sons, and I am not proud of the Marine Corps for violating its sacred oath.
But I am proud to have served with you, my fellows, my brother Marines and Corpsmen, who 40 years ago reached out to me with many loving hands and carried me to safety. You saved my life. And you saved many others.

I will always love you guys.

And so to you, all of you filthy dirty, bloody, 2/4 grunts who shared that day with me, I say,
live well and remember..."Those gentle heroes we left behind."

~Semper Fi~
Bob Bliss
1st Plt. Golf Company
WIA - September 21, 1967

No comments: