Tag Archives: Marine Corps

A Belated Independence Day Tribute

This morning, I arose thinking about the triangular folded flag that I keep on my dresser, the flag from my father’s honor burial at Arlington National Cemetery last August. As I started to write something about it, I wondered if there was a term for it. So I did what all smart writers do and Googled “triangular folded flag.” I stumbled across this excerpt from a flag folding ceremony, something that may be read on special days like Memorial Day and Flag Day:

“The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.

The second fold is a symbol of our belief in the eternal life.

The third fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veteran departing our ranks who gave a portion of life for the defense of our country to attain a peace throughout the world.

The fourth fold represents our weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in times of war for His divine guidance.

The fifth fold is a tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, ‘Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong.’

The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

The seventh fold is a tribute to our Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that we protect our country and our flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of our republic.

The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered in to the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor mother, for whom it flies on mother’s day.

The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood; for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great have been molded.

The tenth fold is a tribute to father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since they were first born.

The eleventh fold, in the eyes of a Hebrew citizen, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon, and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The twelfth fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost.

When the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, ‘In God we Trust.'”

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A Wish and a Dream Fulfilled

Fiftieth anniversary, 1991

In 1953, when my then-three-year-old sister died of leukemia, my mother and father buried her at Arlington National Cemetery, promising to join her after the two of them had seen their lives through.

Sixty years later, my family and I have now fulfilled that wish.

I don’t know quite how to explain the power of the past two days. It’s 1:15 in the morning, here in the nation’s capital, but I can’t sleep. Not yet. Not without telling a little bit of this story.

On Thursday, we gathered in the family greeting area in the Administration building at Arlington and were met by two representatives of the Marines, part of my parents’ honor burial. “Your father was a national treasure,” Colonel Steve Neary told us. He went on to recognize not only my father’s service, but my mother’s sacrifice as well.

The beautiful companion urn crafted by my brother Scott gleamed in the sunlight that cascaded through the windows, the grain dancing when you looked at it from different angles. The plaque read, “In our hearts and minds always, Scott, Bruce, Midge, Dean, Betsy.”

companion urn for Eileen and Henry

Arlington’s representative, Mr. Dixon, led us to the transfer point where a company of Marines, a contingent from the USMC Band, and a caisson awaited, drawn by six horses.

Two Marines moved toward the cemetery vehicle in such slow motion that time felt suspended. Fluid step by fluid step, they approached the drawer in the flag-draped coffin, and gently placed the urn inside. Because we created a companion urn for them, Mom joined Dad on the stately march to to grave site.

Drums led the way, followed by a company of Marines in lock step. Then the caisson, and then those family members who chose to follow the caisson on foot. We sat within view of Midge’s grave stone while the urn was placed on the pedestal. To our left, Col. Cabaniss, Commanding Officer of Marine Barracks, commanded the Marines.

The Chaplain’s remarks reflected his understanding of my parents’ story. He spoke of Dad’s valor in Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima. He acknowledged Mom’s sacrifices, and the value of their service to their country. In his prayers, he spoke of them being joined with Midge for eternity.

Seven rifles fired three shots each, a 21 gun salute. Taps played. I lost it.

Agonizingly slowly in the glaring mid-day sun, the Marines folded the flag, and presented it to my brother, who passed it to me. I held the perfectly folded triangle against my stomach, like a child.

One by one, the officers dropped a knee and extended their condolences to we four siblings, we adult children who carried through the wishes of our parents.

That night, the family gathered at Siroc Restaurant on McPherson Square. Food, family and wine: all the ingredients we needed to honor my parents’ legacy.

If yesterday was the fulfillment of a wish, then tonight was the fulfillment of a dream – a chance to viscerally demonstrate my parent’s legacy of love and service by attending the Marine Baracks’ evening parade as guests of its executive officer, LtC. Tom Garnett.

“It’s not a Disney parade,” I told the grandchildren and great grandchildren in attendance. “It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen.”

Two hours of riveting ritual, unfolding at a stately pace, performed perfectly under the watch of Major Sarah Armstrong, Parade Commander, and directed by Sgt. Major Angie Maness. Dad and Mom, I’m sure, were smiling, to see two such accomplished women in these roles.

The graciousness of the Barracks, in inviting us – all of us – to attend the parade as their guests, moves me  beyond words.

And if that weren’t enough, we happened to attend the annual parade hosted by the Commandant and honoring the chiefs of all of the armed forces, and were introduced by Col. Cabaniss to the Commandant, Gen. James Amos.

Though I would do anything to change the reality of losing Mom and Dad, I know that celebrating their lives has brought us together. Some branches of the family had never met before this week. We experienced something rare, together. A dream fulfilled.

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Family Life with the Marine Corps

(Fourth in a family legacy series. Subject to revisions by my brothers!)

After defeating monstrous evil in the world, modern America breathed into being in the last gasps of 1945. As Life magazine noted in its special edition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the war’s end, Bogie married Bacall, Jackie Robinson was hired by the Brooklyn Dodgers and Bess Myerson became the first Jewish Miss America. Detroit wasted no time gearing up, producing 2.1 million cars, a 2,500% increase, in 1946. With a half million people living in quonset huts and many more bunking with relatives, the GI Bill’s mortgage program sent people flocking to newly created suburbs.

Eileen settled in with Hank, Scotty and her mother in Alexandria, VA.

Eileen Campbell and Scott

Eileen – and most likely it was Eileen who set the schedule – gave the couple 18 months before saying “oh what the hell” and conceiving Bruce, who was born June 29, 1947. (An alternative explanation was a miscarriage, which she mentioned she had somewhere along the line.) Although he was a healthy, happy boy, Eileen and Hank must have been concerned for the surgeries he would have to undergo to repair a cleft lip.

Bruce Campbell

Eileen, Madeline, Scotty (now five) and baby Bruce settled in to life as a normal post-war married couple.

Eileen’s photo albums from the late 40s seem to be lost, but she undoubtedly enjoyed the freedom from the many wartime restrictions on the purchase of food, stockings and fabric for dresses.

Hank took up his post in the G-1 Division at Marine Corps Headquarters in March 1946, the group that included the Commandant and various staff functions. He landed at HQ just as a lively discussion began about the possible unification of the four Armed Forces. Perhaps that’s why Henry always corrected someone when they suggested he was in the “military”; as far as Henry was concerned, he was a Marine. In 1945, Adm. William Halsey was quoted as saying, “One might just as well as a committee composed of a Protestant, a Catholic and a Jew to save our national souls by recommending a national church and creed.” The discussion about unification continued into the late 1950s as the cold war raged.

In 1949, the family moved to Worthington, Ohio for just over a year when the Marines sent Henry to the Navy Post Graduate School at Ohio State University in Columbus. By then, Eileen was pregnant, and their daughter Madeline, known as Midge, was born on January 18, 1950.

Madeline Elizabeth Campbell - first year photos

After completing his course work in Ohio in 1950 (personnel administration and training), Henry was assigned to the Office of Manpower Utilization at the Department of Defense, with offices at the Pentagon. Eileen packed up again, and moved the family into 4213 Matthews Lane in Kensington, MD, which had become a commuter suburb for Washington, DC. They jumped back into the fray, getting Scott established in school and signed up for Cub Scouts.  As Den Mother, Eileen led a summer project making “Indian” outfits and war shields (cotton muslin stretched over hoops). Meanwhile, Bruce played cowboy, refusing to take his boots off, even at night.

Bruce's 4th birthday

Bruce’s 4th birthday

It was during Henry’s duty at Department of Defense that the couple suspected something was wrong with little Midge. Henry’s brother, Ed Campbell, a hematologist-oncologist in Boston, diagnosed her as having leukemia. At the time, nearly all children with leukemia died (compared to the current survival rate in excess of 80%). Uncle Ed treated Midge with an experimental regimen of corticosteroids, supervising her care and that of other children at Walter Reed Hospital. Her pictures show her growing progressively heavier as a side effect of the medication.

Uncle Ed with Midge

Uncle Ed with Midge

As Midge became sicker, the family spent as much time together as possible, including treasured days on vacation in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware during the summer of 1953.

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Henry’s most painful memory wasn’t the war. It was Midge’s final days. After being in remission for a period, she sickened and was in an oxygen tent in the hospital. He remembered her calling out to him, “Daddy, help me.” He could do nothing, he said, and pounded his head against the wall in the hallway in frustration. She died on October 22, 1953, months before her fourth birthday.

In February 1954, having delayed his departure as long as possible, the Marines sent Henry on a solo tour to Gifu, Japan, where he assigned to serve as Division Assistant G-2 for the 3rd Marines. In rapid succession, he became Executive Officer of the 9th Marines and then Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines.

Eileen had learned she was pregnant about the time that Midge’s health deteriorated. Medical officers advised her to abort the baby, suggesting that the stress would be too great for her. She would have none of it.

Henry’s letter to Eileen from Gifu, lost during his move to California, spoke of his agony in not being able to be with her in the period of mourning following Midge’s death. When Dean was born on April 20, 1954, “it was as if the sun came up,” Henry would say later. Within weeks, Dean needed a haircut.

Dean's christening

dean's first haircut

Scan

Henry’s pictures and stories suggest he did have some light moments in Gifu. He and Cliff Atkins shared a small cottage and had a housemaid named Musemei. “Around that time,” Henry said, “there was a political movement afoot in the Pentagon to try to fashion the Marines, Navy, Army and Air Force into a single armed force.  This led to us receiving a message from the Commandant which read, ‘No longer shine your leather with cordovan polish.  Polish it tan like the Army.’  We handed our shoes and belts to Musemei and asked her to shine them with tan polish instead.  ‘Hai, hai,’ she said.  About a week later, we received another message from the Commandant.  This one said, ‘Disregard former message.  Shine your leather cordovan.’  Henry called Musemei in and told her to change all of the belts and shoes back to cordovan colored polish.  Her response:  ‘Goddam Marine Corps.  All time changie changie.'”

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By this time, Henry had been promoted to Major. He acknowledged that he had benefited from rapid transfers during his career and noted that that there were 37,500 men in the Marine Corps before WWII, and well over 500,000 by the end of the war.

With two children, a baby, her mother and Buffy the dog, Eileen was relieved when he returned from Japan in April 1955. She wrote on a picture, “The plane that brought him home.” Soon, however, it was time to pack up again and move the family to Kingston, Ontario, where Henry began a two year assignment as instructor at Canadian Army Staff College.

Eileen and Henry loved being back together and reveled in the camaraderie of the Canadians who were notorious for party games like passing the orange (without the use of hands) and curling (a form of shuffleboard played on an ice rink involving brooms and granite stones).

1956mom

Scott, at 13, made friends with the locals and skated with them on the St. Lawrence River. Bruce took his turn as a Cub Scout. Dean, meanwhile, bravely set off in the neighborhood at two years old, going door to door. When a nice lady opened the door, he would announce, “I’ve come for my milk and cookies.” “How could I say no,” neighbors would tell Eileen. Henry later said that he used to worry about Dean the most because he was so trusting.

That open-eyed naïveté led to an incident that became family lore. When Dean was about three, Eileen realized that he wasn’t at the house. She immediately began canvassing the neighborhood, learning that another small boy was missing. Eventually their search took them down to the nearby St. Lawrence River, where the ice was begin to break up and ice floes float out into the river. There was Dean and his little friend. Eileen took a two by four and paddled his fanny all the way home.

1955

1955bruce

Dean Campbell

Weeks before returning for Henry’s assignment as Executive Officer, Marine Barracks, Betsy was born (Elizabeth Harrison) on June 15, 1957. The family packed up and settled back in Kensington again, this time at 9916 Old Spring Road.

This would have been the sixth move that Eileen managed. Each time they arrived at a new post, she paid a social visit to the Commanding Officer’s wife, calling card in hand, as expected. She joined the Officers’ Wives Club, and did an exemplary job of supporting their activities. She loved Washington, D.C. and the social whirl that went with an officer’s life in those days.

Henry and the Commanding Officer of Marine Barracks, then-Col. Leonard Chapman, innovated the evening parade a Marine Barracks, a proud tradition that continues today. Within a year, Col. Chapman – who Eileen called “Chappie” – was promoted to Brigadier General. He became the 24th Commandant of the nation’s oldest armed force in 1967.

1959chappie copy 2

Welcoming the Secretary of Defense

Welcoming the Secretary of Defense

In July 1959, Henry received his Colonel’s eagles and was assigned to Headquarters Marine Corps as Head of the Officer Detail Section. In an interview in 2000, he shared this explanation of his role:

“I spent two years as head of officer detail, a high visibility job. I had some very good junior officers and had read all of their fitness reports.  I said, “I have great respect for you, or you wouldn’t be here.  On your integrity relies the efficiency of the Marine Corps.  I will not permit anyone to play favorites or I’ll skin you alive.

“Not long after I joined the Officer of Manpower Utilization, Gen. Jim Masters, head of the intelligence section of Headquarters Marine Corps, called me to his office.  Had a young infantry man with him, a Captain, and told me he felt he was being mis-assigned to a staff job.  I pulled his record – he was a good man.  He’d been in Fleet Marine Force for 7 years, a great job, but he needed to let others have that opportunity.

“I called in Andy Hedish. We agreed the best thing we could do was order him to Marine Corps HQ and get his feet wet. I talked to Gen. Masters and said, ‘His transfer is strictly according to policy.  He needs staff experience.’  He just sat there and looked at me.   I said, ‘I have no doubt that the way to advancement is not by saying no to superior officers.  But I told my men if I caught them playing footsie, I’d skin them alive.  I can do no less.  If you have a problem with that, you should talk to my superior officer.’  I walked out.  The junior officer went to the staff job.  I heard no more about it.  There’s no power involved.  The policies are very carefully thought out.

“There was one exception and it was me.  I’d been in grad school at Ohio State in personnel administration and training.  I’d been assigned to the Military Occupational Project.   The joint staff at the end of WWII recognized there are people with very highly placed skills who end up being misplaced during the war.  They needed more info about what jobs  require people with high level skills and who the people are with those skills.

“They had 300 people working on it, led by Col. Dunn.  Because I’d been to this advanced schooling, I was assigned as the Marine Corps’ representative.  The joker is that I had Marine Corps HQ looking over my shoulder.

“The thing got bent around so that they decided to divide people by intelligence, based on their score on a test.  Navy said, ‘We have all the ships, we should have all of the brightest people.’  Air Force said the same thing.  Army said, ‘Bullshit!’  That’s what pulled the thing apart; they couldn’t agree.

“I convened a meeting with one representative of each force.  The Army guy was completely out of his depth.  Rubens asked, ‘Can we agree to this (I forget the details)?’  The proposal was a ringer.  If we agreed to the principles to take all the bright guys and give them to Navy or Army, what would the consequences be?  It was apparent this was a trap.  I said, ‘I’d like to say a few words.  Recognize that if we agree to this, we have agreed to everything else.’  All realized they needed to confer.  Rubens offered me a job!

“Gen. (David) Shoup (who later was Commandant) wanted to have a presentation made on all of the non-availables.  When you did a plan, you set aside a certain number of people for the “Jesus factor” – on leave, sick, etc.  That number runs about 80% for planning figures.  The meeting was to be a formal briefing in Gen. Larson’s office. ‘Who wants to do it, Gen. Larson asked. I said, ‘General, I’ll do it.’  I was assigned a planning officer to do the legwork.  He and I did our skull practice.  We took three slices of the entire Marine Corps on a given day and looked at where they were, using the latest records.  We counted every one of ‘em.  Not long before, we had instituted a transplacement battalion, which replaced an entire battalion at one shot.  It represented an enormous advance in a battle situation backfilling a battalion with individual replacements, where they don’t know their officers.  Transplacements are intact teams that remain together, and they can fight.  After Iwo Jima, the teams were broken. When a transplacement battalion was placed, you had a big flow of non-availables that week.  We made our presentation to the Commandant.  Then I stood by to take questions.  Gen. Shoup said, ‘Col., that’s an excellent presentation.’  He greeted me by name after that.  You can see why I hated to leave the Marine Corps.  I had an absolute ball.”

The Marines sent Henry for advanced education again in 1961, this time to the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington, D.C., after which he was assigned to Headquarters, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific in Honolulu.

Dean on Old Spring Road

Dean on Old Spring Road

Three months before the family was due to travel to Honolulu, Eileen’s mother died. Betsy remembers being unable to wake her Nana from her nap. At 76 years of age, she had had a heart attack.

nana1961

19613women

Buffy, the family’s beloved cocker spaniel, was deemed too old to make the 5,000 mile trip or survive the required quarantine upon arriving in the islands. Off the family of six headed across the country toward San Francisco with Bruce and Scott driving one, while Henry, Eileen, Dean and Betsy rode in the other.

Driving cross country

Driving cross-country

Although airliners became popular as a model of travel from the mainland to Hawaii in the early 1960s, the Campbell family cruised to Honolulu on the luxury ocean liner, the SS Lurline. As the top-ranking officer on board, the family enjoyed the Admiral’s quarters. The family arrived deeply tanned after their ocean crossing (except for Betsy, who remembered being dosed liberally with Dramamine to prevent seasickness).

Screen Shot 2013-06-06 at 10.03.24 PM

July 24, 1962 - Arriving in Hawaii

As Henry assumed his duties, the family settled into Pearl Harbor’s housing community, Makalapa. In the fall, Bruce attended Punahou, a private high school, Dean entered 3rd grade and Betsy started kindergarden.

Scott and Bruce took surfing lessons from a guy named Rabbit Kekai, a native Hawaiian who was a well-known surfer on Oahu, who worked at the Outrigger Canoe Club on Waikiki. Scott said, “Dad was really great about turning us loose with the family Chevy Corvair, and we’d load our surf boards on the roof and head off to whatever beach had good waves.”

Eileen grew her hair longer and pinned it up in a French twist, donning island muumuus for comfort. With help at home in the form of a Japanese maid, she had time for hobbies and took courses in Japanese flower arranging. Her spare, elegant creations were set in low bowls held by “frogs” that were camouflaged with pastel sea glass she found washed up on the beach. She collected Japanese “mud men” statuettes and sometimes added them to her designs. The family’s furnishings were adapted for the islands, too, with rataan furniture and electrified white ginger jars lamps with illuminated bases. The house smelled of plumeria, Brownie Surfrider suntan lotion and the pungent salt-and-grass smell of tatami mats.

1962mom

For social events, Eileen learned to make Asian- and Hawaiian-influenced “heavy pupus,” appetizers such as tempura, won tons and teriyaki-marinated chicken mock drumsticks. She even purchased some heavy, red silk brocade with the intention of having a cheongsam dress made for her. While demure at the neckline and buttoned to the throat with frog closures, they often have a dramatic slit in the side seam. While being fitted, Eileen reported that she tried to get the seamstress to make a slit to just above the knee. The seamstress kept pointing to a spot lower on Eileen’s calf, repeating, “Not Chinese lady.”

In his last years, Henry often remembered jumping up and down in the waves at Barber’s Point with Betsy on his shoulders (which they learned later had a notorious riptide). Looking back, it may have been days before the event that changed the family’s life.

Dad near Barber's Point, 1962

1962betsy copy

Henry felt a crushing pain in his chest and asked Scott to take him to the base clinic, where they quickly recognized he was having a heart attack and directed him to go to the hospital. In the 1960s, the chance of dying immediately after a heart attack was 30 to 40%. Even survivors might never be able to work again. For that reason, having a heart attack was cause for automatic and full retirement. Henry’s career in the Marine Corps abruptly ended.

As Henry was recovering, Eileen was hospitalized for emergency gall bladder surgery. Before she came home, Betsy was mauled in the throat and face by a neighbor’s German Shepherd. The family moved off base, to a house on the east side of Diamond Head, several blocks from the beach. The family was walking wounded by the time they sailed to the West Coast to begin a new life in the cooler climes of Western Washington, as suggested by Henry’s physicians.

Next: Civilian life in the Pacific Northwest

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Oohrah for Strong Women

The Major Marches

Not familiar with “ooh-rah”? It’s that explosive sound that Marines use to express enthusiastic approval. I heard it at Friday’s evening parade at Marine Barracks in Washington DC and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

Among the precision marchers on the parade ground and ceremonial hosters were a few women in uniforms identical to their male counterparts. And they looked sharp.

I was saddened, then, when I saw the trolls out on Marine Barracks’ Facebook page commenting on the photo that appears up top:

Thank God I got out of the corps before I witnessed this political crap take place!

It seems that several of the Barracks’ Facebook followers were dismayed to learn that women had invaded the Corps, and in this case, were wearing the male uniform.

A woman Facebooker responded far more courteously than I might have (but knowing online trolls, I like to stay out of their line of fire):

Gentlemen, it’s the prescribed parade uniform for designated personnel at the Barracks. Pls keep your personal attacks/feelings against this Marine to yourselves.

The Major also received support from two men who follow the Marine Barracks page:

I look at it like this. I dont care which uniform of the Marines she is wearing. She a Major and by the looks of it, has had a pretty good career. Semper Fi Major!

I prefer that she wear this one as she carriers herself, the Ladies of the Corps and the Marine Corps well. Semper Fi

I had the honor and pleasure of meeting the Marine they were writing about. And she’s not just any Marine. Major Sarah Armstrong is the first female parade commander of a Friday Evening Parade, a tradition that started back in my Dad’s time as Executive Officer of Marine Barracks.

Those shiny medals on her jacket? They’re campaign and achievement medals. She earned ’em the hard way. At least one of those ribbons denotes her tour in Afghanistan.

My mother was a strong woman. My friends are strong women. My daughter is a strong woman.

In the place where my father served 56 years ago, at a time when only men achieved positions of leadership in the Marine Corps, I’m thrilled to see Major Armstrong doing her thing, and doing it so competently.

As one of the Facebookers concluded:

Ooorah ma’am!

Update:

Per the comment I received from my second cousin John, turns out I’ve got a strong woman in my extended family in the form of Col. Marne Sutten, US Army. She’s married to John’s son, Col. Grant Fawcett. Between the two of them they served five tours in Iraq. They’re busy raising their two children in Tampa, FL. Photos provided by John Fawcett:

Just after Col. Megan Sutten's promotion ceremony, watched happily by her husband Grant via video

Just after Col. Megan Sutten’s promotion ceremony, watched happily by her husband Grant via video

Col. Megan Sutten and Col. Grant Fawcett

Col. Megan Sutten and Col. Grant Fawcett

Col. Grant Fawcett as the last convoys pull out of Iraq

Col. Grant Fawcett as the last convoys pull out of Iraq

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Tracing My Father’s Footsteps

marineband

The whole time that I was getting ready to leave for my meeting this morning, I was rehearsing what I would say in my mind. Everything sounded wrong. Then I put on my just-ironed white blouse. Too sheer. Put a tank underneath it. Tied a colorful scarf around my shoulders. Untied it. Did it a different way.

I was representing my Dad to his contemporary counterpart and I had to get it right to meet the Executive Officer of the Corps’ oldest post.

Having allowed for traffic, I arrived at 8th and I about a half hour early and pulled into one of the diagonal parking spots. Turned off the car.

I heard a trumpet fanfare. Sounded like the Marine Corps band. I thought perhaps one of the restaurants across the street was piping it outside to appeal to the tourists. Then the music stopped. Started again. Stopped again. The same musical phrase was repeated several times in a row.

I got out of the car and looked behind me. Between the two-story brick buildings, past the tidy painted iron fence, I could see the edge of reviewing stands. That’s the parade ground, I realized, the one in Dad’s black and white pictures of the evening parade.

The Marine Corps band was practicing outside at the very moment I arrived.

Entering the gate on 8th, I parked as directed alongside the parade ground, next to the building marked “Center House,” and “Bachelor’s Quarters.” Immediately, a precisely-pressed Marine approached me. It was LtC. Garnett, the current Exec Officer of Marine Barracks.

We entered Center House, which functions – as it did in my Dad’s day – as the reception area for visitors and Marine officers. LtC. Garnett stowed his tan cap in the slots provided for that purpose in the entry. He ushered me into a room with two large leather couches that faced each other. He asked if I had memories of my Dad’s service there, and I explained that I was born while Dad and Mom were stationed in Canada, just a few months before my Dad assumed his role as XO. I said that Dad had some wonderful experiences, experiences I was sure he was having, too, as one wasn’t asked to serve as XO unless someone wanted you there.

He explained that he had served in Afghanistan as Executive Officer of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Division. When his Commanding Officer of the 8th was appointed Commanding Officer of Marine Barracks, he asked LtC. Garnett to come with him.

I pulled out my book of photos, worried that I would bore him – the equivalent of inflicting your home movies on a stranger.

He pointed out that the grass on the parade ground, which doubled as a baseball field in my Dad’s time, now had to be maintained perfectly. The evening parade, now a tradition for more than 50 years, was started while Gen. Leonard Chapman was Commanding Officer of the Barracks, and the same format and traditions persist today. In some of the photos, there is a tree, which the Lt. Colonel explained was the ceremonial tree. It had died of a virus, and a post and sign about it still serve as the dividing line between the south and north viewing stands. Guests of the post are seated just to its south.

“This is like royalty,” he said, looking at the officers in Dad’s photos, many of whom had legendary careers in the Marines.

When we got to photos of men holding silver mugs, standing in front of a wall of mugs, he said, “That’s here. That’s the drum room.”

LtC GarnettOn a brief tour of Center House, he explained that it’s still the gathering place on Friday nights. The drum room has an ample number of beer taps. Each of the officers assigned to the Barracks have a mug associated with their position, and on the far side of the mug is engraved the names of those who have held it in recent years. When room for names is exhausted, the mug is retired. He explained that, when the building was renovated in the 70s, the mugs were sent to Quantico with the intent of returning them following the renovation. Unfortunately, they were lost and never restored to the Barracks.

My father served under Gen. Leonard Chapman, then CO of Marine Barracks

My father served under Gen. Leonard Chapman, then CO of Marine Barracks

I said several times that I didn’t want to take too much of his time. He explained, smiling, “This is part of what we do. This is the legacy of the Marines.”

He said that he hoped that some day his son would be interested in learning more about his father’s experience at Marine Barracks. His son, now three, was born while he was in Afghanistan.

I noted that it was my mother’s decision to come east to marry Dad, and that she sent him a telegram to that effect not long after Pearl Harbor.

“She was a pretty strong woman,” I commented. He smiled. “I guess we attract strong women,” he said, smiling. He had asked his wife to follow him on one of his deployments prior to Afghanistan. “She said she’d go… with a ring on her finger,” he noted.

After covering a few logistics, he walked me out to the car.

“I bet your Dad is up there organizing things in heaven,” he said. I replied, “Mom got there first and I’m sure she had it all under control.”

As I approached the car, the Marine Corps Band had just come to the finale of the song that always reduced Dad to tears: “Glory, glory, hallelujah, His Truth is marching on.” Dad said he cried because it reminded him of all of the good men he knew, men that died in the War. We ended Dad’s memorial with the Mormon Tabernacle choir version.

The way the Marines play it, it ends with what seems to be the final chord,  but after a pause, it crescendos in slow pulses, a half step higher, and another half step, and another half – again and again, until finally the trumpets blare in a massive, perfect chord. The air vibrates as the echo dies away.

It felt like Dad had arranged it, just for me.

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A Man of Action Lives On

scream/photo by YnR under CC license

It happened in an instant. I had just picked up my brother at the airport and we were cruising in the center lane of I-80 headed east, just past Norwood. Explosion. Dust. To our right, a white pickup truck was suddenly 10 feet up the embankment of the overpass, tipping precariously, almost flipping. Then back down, bouncing twice. Landed, disabled, jutting into the far right hand lane. In those two? three? seconds we passed the woman in the truck, screaming so loudly that we could hear her through my nearly sound-proof car windows.

“Pull over!” Dean said, pulling out his phone and starting to dial 9-1-1. Then he opened the car door and prepared to walk back to see if the woman was safe,

My brother is the kind of guy you want next to you in the crunch. He didn’t hesitate.

This morning, the moment is still vivid in my mind. This morning, it occurs to my Dad must have been like that, the kind of man who would instantly be there for his Marine Corps brothers in a dicey situation. I am reminded daily that Dad isn’t really gone. He lives on. In us. We are his legacy.

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Scott speaks to Dad’s exemplification of Marine values

scottdad

My eldest brother, Scott, 15 years senior, kicked off the family remarks at my father’s memorial on Saturday. He spoke from notes rather than full text, so I’ve done the best I can to recreate them here:

My Dad was, quite simply, the finest man I’ve ever known. He was always a rock for everyone in the family, and his passing has left a void that will never be filled. The family was very fortunate that he was a major part of our lives for so long.

If I were to describe my Dad’s character, I would say that he exemplified the core values of the USMC:

Honor,which means to display the highest ethical and moral behavior; of abiding by an uncompromising code of integrity; and of respecting others. The quality of maturity, dedication, trust and dependability commit Marines to be responsible and be accountable for their actions; to fulfill their obligations; and to hold others accountable for their actions.

Courage, which entails the mental, moral and physical strength expected of all Marines. It carries them through the challenges of combat and helps them overcome fear. It is the inner strength that enables a Marine to do what is right; to adhere to a higher standard of personal conduct; and to make tough decisions under stress and pressure.

Commitment is the spirit of determination and dedication found in Marines, it leads to the highest order of discipline for individuals and units, and it inspires a driving determination to achieve a standard of excellence in every endeavor.

Dad displayed an abundance of all these qualities throughout his life.

But Dad’s most important achievement was of a more personal nature. Dad did not have a particularly happy relationship with his father, although he did not talk about it much until the latter years of his life. He made a deliberate decision to break that cycle and to be the best father he could be. Several pivotal events in his life may have influenced that decision: marrying our mother, Eileen; combat in WWII, the death of Midge, their first daughter; and his heart attack in 1962, which forced his retirement from the Marine Corps.

He was a romantic in the complete sense of the word, with a deep love for his wife and family. There were almost certainly times during WWII when he wondered if he would come home alive. If he had not, I’d be his only child, and I would not have the same brothers and sister.

After Ken Burns’ series about the Civil War aired Maj. Sullivan Ballou’s letter to his wife, I shared it with Dad. He told me that, had he been writing in the 19th century, he might have written a letter very much like this one:

July 14, 1861

My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days — perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.

Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure — and it may be one of some conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine O God, be done.

If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter.

I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing — perfectly willing — to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.

But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows — when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children — is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my forefathers floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?

I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last hours, perhaps, before that of death — and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us.

I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me — perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar — that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been!

How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night — amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours — always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.

Sullivan

Major Ballou perished at the first battle of Bull Run.

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