Orange is not always a pretty color

An article by Dennis Marek
A friend who I knew had served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War left a book at my office entitled “When We Came Home,’’ by author Jack McCabe.

It wasn’t fiction, and it wasn’t an author composing a piece of literature. It was a group of recollections of American soldiers and sailors about what they experienced not so much in Southeast Asia, but what they encountered on their arrival back home. The book is based on over 150 interviews and accounts. I just couldn’t finish reading it. It was just too hard and brought back some unwanted memories.

I remember those years and not wanting to fly in my uniform for reduced fares on airlines because of the harassment by American civilians. I often paid more and wore civvies. I was tired of the taunts of “baby killer’ and similar derisive challenges we military persons faced in the American public.

As I read many of these pieces, I was struck with another pain of those years. Many of the contributors wrote of their battle with illnesses. Many of these men and some women had severe cases of PTSD, but what was equally saddening was the number who suffered the effects of being exposed to Agent Orange.

Agent Orange is an herbicide and defoliant chemical. It was sprayed over Vietnam and Laos from 1961-71 as part of an herbicidal warfare program called Ranch Hand. Used to eliminate vegetation that hid the enemy, it became even more damaging to our own troops. Up to four million people in Vietnam were exposed to these poisons, and perhaps as many as 3 million have suffered diseases from its contact.

Our veterans have suffered a higher number of cases of leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and various other cancers than the general population. Yet, our own government has challenged these numbers as “unreliable,” in spite of the fact that records show 20 million gallons of various chemicals were sprayed in Vietnam during that time.

Exactly eight years ago, I wrote of the horrific experiences of a local man in his tour in Vietnam. Arlen Bertrand, of Clifton, was one of the few survivors of a battle known as the Slopes of Dak To. I wrote it as a salute to a brave man who still then suffered from PTSD and disease. While the Army claims Bertrand was never “near” the spraying of Agent Orange, his life of diseases stood as a testament to the chemical warfare used around him.

Bertrand, in later years, suffered from cancer of his prostate. He developed a tumor behind one eye. He lost all his teeth because of the needed radiation. He lost his hearing and, at the age of 55, was walking with a cane. Yet, Agent Orange benefits were denied, as the government would not admit he was near enough to show a relationship between the poison and his diseases.

The number of dead in Vietnam is expressed with names carved on the Wall in Washington, D.C. It lists all those men and women who died in Southeast Asia during the conflict. Since then, a few names have been added where the conditions surrounding their deaths were closely tied to that war, though they died later at home. I have written of one named Alan Brudno who was the first suicide upon his release as a POW. Through the tireless efforts of his brother, Bill, his name was added to the Wall decades later.

But not all the names of those who later died as a result of that war are carved there. Those men who died later as a result of their poisoning have not been added. Yet, they died fighting our fight just as much as those who were killed in the field.

The stories in “When We Came Home” illustrate the results of those chemicals in case after case. Cancer, tumors, skin diseases, and even brain deterioration are almost common in these returnees. In spite of massive legal consequences demanding compensation, most cases against the government and the VA were lost.

These chemical combinations actually were started during WWII, and Britain was heavily involved. Soon, it was known their use had devastating health effects. Resolutions to ban such use were presented in the U.N. as early as 1966 stating the United States was violating the Geneva Protocol, which regulated the use of chemicals in warfare. The U.S. vote defeated these resolutions each time with their vote.

In November of last year, Bertrand and his long-time companion, Lynn Luehrs, were crossing a street in Clifton to have dinner. Bert’s pace was slow, and he lagged behind as Lynn reached the other curb. On his cane, he needed more time to cross and waited in the middle of the road for a truck that had come to pass by. The truck’s extended rear view side mirror struck Bert as it passed, and Bert was killed. Another casualty of the war in Vietnam? Was he on that cane because of Agent Orange? Does it matter to our government?

As I read more about Agent Orange, I discovered Rockford now has a memorial for victims of Agent Orange. At this point, there are 47 names on that wall. Forty-one died of various cancers, and six lost their lives to heart disease. The committee professes, “It does not matter what branch of service you were in or what your job was. If you were there, you were exposed.” To qualify for the wall, the deceased must have been military with an honorable discharge and a paper from the Veterans Administration showing the veteran was being treated or had a disability because of Agent Orange.

For years, it was not fashionable to talk about what these soldiers did and saw in Vietnam. The war was just ugly and ended with our withdrawal, perhaps better called “defeat.” But on this Veterans Day, perhaps we and, most importantly, our government should own up and treat these soldiers as they should be, with respect, admiration and, most of all, with the medical and financial support they need in their later years. Let’s not decide the case on whether the veteran was 40 miles or 4 miles from this barbaric defoliant. To our veterans, it is finally your day, and may the newly elected improve your care.

Dennis Marek can be reached at

“The first thing I saw was the Marine Corps car”

The doorbell rang on Thursday morning, May 16, 1968, at the Fitzmaurice home. It was 6 AM, but Michael was already awake. He was always up very early sitting in his favorite chair. he was always up very early and his favorite chair. He was spending a lot of time in that chair because sitting up was the only way he could partially relieve his labored breathing. On oxygen, and in the advanced stages of emphysema, Michael wasn’t able to stray too far from his chair. Lubitza too, was up early preparing breakfast for husband daughter, Ellen, who busy typing lesson plans for her student teaching sessions that she had scheduled for the day. Despite a busy morning household, visit at this time of day we’re certainly a rarity.

Ellen got up to answer the doorbell. “The first thing I saw was the Marine Corps car through the window and my heart sank. I opened the door to see a Marine standing there in his Class A uniform. He announced himself as Lieutenant Dial and asked to speak to my father. I pointed him over to Dad’s chair.” The Marine turned sharply and headed over to where Michael Fitzmaurice was seated. He stared at Michael for a brief moment before a deep breath to deliver the words, “On behalf of the Commandant of the Marine Corps I, deeply regret to inform you that your son has been killed in combat operations public of South Vietnam.

The words seemed to hang in the air for an eternity, as Michael turned and gazed at his wife, the silence only broken when Lubitza began to weep bitterly at the loss of her son. When Ellen began to cry the rest of the house awoke. “Timmy was killed,” Ellen sobbed to Jack as he came into the living room. The words stopped Jack and he fell to the floor. He had fainted upon hearing that his brother was dead. Ten-year-old Maureen came out from her room to see her family in complete despair and began to cry as well when told that her big brother was gone from her life. Jack was able to gather himself long enough to crawl back to his bed to dissolve in tears. Grandma and grandpa had heard the commotion upstairs and open their door to see the Marine Corps vehicle parked in front of the house. At the same time, their daughter, Lubitza, was collapsing down the stairs to tell them that her Timmy was gone. “You had to know Grandpa, Ellen recalled. He was very gregarious and demonstrative man. When he heard that Timmy had been killed, he let out a cry that our neighbors would have had to have heard. When I saw him in that much pain I began to cry even harder. Lieutenant Dial offered to go and help Grandma and Grandpa deal with their grief after he had listened to Grandpa’s loud cry.”

Although chaos reigned all around him, Lieutenant Dial stood steadfast in his resolve to inform Michael and Lubitza about the coming arrangements to get their son’s body back to Chicago and ready for burial. Ellen Fitzmaurice held her young sister, Maureen closely to her, rigid, listening while the Marine continued his anguished duty. Maureen Fitzmaurice’s childhood was dissolving with every word uttered by the young Marine officer. “Lieutenant Dial took very good care of our family,” Ellen said. He previewed the details of the funeral service; he gave us his home phone number; he warned us that a telegram would be arriving shortly confirming Timmy’s death. I remember Dad saying that he hoped that this was all a big mistake — until that telegram arrived later in the day.” The family’s devastation only deepened when they were informed that Tim had been dead for a week.

Excerpt from the book SMILE ON YOUR BROTHER – A FAMILY STILL HEARS THE ECHOES OF VIETNAM by Austin J. Nicholl with permission of the author, available on Amazon.


September 11 awoke us to the threat of terrorism. It was forever bookmarked in our history as the day when life as Americans knew it, changed forever.

The Eleventh Of September
Written by Roger J. Robicheau
We mourn their loss this day this year
Those now with God, no danger near

So many loved ones left do stand
Confronting loss throughout our land

My heart goes out to those who do
No one can fathom what they view

I firmly pray for peace of mind
Dear God please help each one to find

And to our soldiers now at war
God guide above, at sea, on shore

They are the best, I have no doubt
Our country’s pride, complete, devout

The finest force you’ll ever see
All freedom grown through liberty

One final thought comes clear to me
For what must live in infamy

Absolutely – We’ll Remember
The Eleventh – Of September

We’re Still Standing
by Hannah Schoechert, 7th grade student
Those twin towers
Standing tall with pride,
Fell with grieving hearts.
Stunned, America cried.

But we’re still standing.

Bin Laden tried
To crush our land,
But we stood our ground
With our flag in hand.

And we’re still standing.

Red for valor
And the blood that fell.
White for purity
Our heroes tell.
Blue for the justice
That will be done,
Proving once more
These colors don’t run.
And we’re still standing.


By Bud Alley

The GHOSTS OF THE GREEN GRASS tells the story of the ambush near LZ Albany, the second and largely forgotten half of the Vietnam War battle of the Ia Drang Valley in 1965. I was familiar with the battle at LZ Albany prior to reading this book. One of the kids who lived near my grandmother, in Chicago was killed there.

The battle at LZ X-Ray was immortalized in the book WE WERE SOLDIERS ONCE…AND YOUNG by Hal Moore and Joe Galloway and was dramatized in the 2002 movie “We Were Soldiers” which shows the U.S. troops’ heroic stand at LZ X-Ray. But the far bloodier engagement at LZ Albany followed, when the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry was nearly annihilated. Of the roughly 400 soldiers in the battalion, about 70 percent were killed or wounded.

At first glance, this book seemed very interesting to me as it told the story of LZ Albany and the story of Custer and the 7th Cavalry’s defeat at the Little Big Horn. So, I obtained a copy and started to read. And it did not disappoint. He tells both stories expertly. Once I began reading it I was captivated.

“What happened out there was just a shootout in the grass, and man oh man, the enemy was ready for that fight, we were not,” said Joe Galloway.

On the day of the ambush, the battalion was strung out in a long column snaking its way through the jungle and tall grass, Galloway said. When a platoon captured two prisoners, the battalion commander decided to personally interrogate them, and he called all the company commanders and their first sergeants to converge on his position at the head of the column, Galloway said.

That left most of the rest of the soldiers leaderless when the enemy struck, racing through the column, killing anyone they saw. The result was chaos, said Bud Alley, a second lieutenant in the battalion at the time.

“There were no maps, no water; we had not slept for three days,” Alley wrote. “Everywhere one turned, you either stepped on a dead GI or dead NVA. Grenades going off, mortars and artillery coming in, and then jets and napalm.” When asked what memories from the battle are still with him 46 years later, Alley replied,” All of them: The noise, the screams, the confusion, the helplessness, the chaos.”

In all, it is a fascinating book and I recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about the battles in the Ia Drang in 1965.

The book can be purchased for $29.99 by visiting the website

Speaking Engagement

I have the honor of speaking at the Gastonia Rotary Club meeting on 19 July 2018 about my book WHEN WE CAME HOME, How the Vietnam War Changed Those Who Served.

It is a special honor because July 19th is the 47th anniversary of my friend Rick Page’s death during a rocket attack on Phu Loi.

Feel free to join me. The meeting begins with a buffet lunch at 12:00 followed by the general meeting. I will speak at 1:00 for 30 minutes.

145 Martin Luther King St., 3rd Floor
Gastonia, NC

“I never told you girls thank you”

Larry Young Hines
Red Cross Donut Dollie, 1968-1969

I went to a big reunion in Houston in 1987. I was out walking in Hermann Park by myself with my “Donut Dollie” T-shirt on when I saw a man coming toward me. A lot of the veterans at reunions wear fatigue jackets and hats, but this one was nicely dressed in khaki pants and a polo shirt. He had on big sunglasses that prevented me from seeing his eyes, but the closer he got to me, the more aware I became that he was crying. He was so choked up he could hardly say more than “Excuse me, excuse me.” He stopped me and stood there and cried, tears just rolling down his face and onto his shirt.

“I just feel so bad,” he said. I told him that one of the reasons we were together was to get our feelings out, to talk about them.

“What is it you want to say?” I asked him.

“I never told you girls thank you,” he sobbed. “I never said thank you:· He had been at Lai Khe with the Big Red One. He remembered the Red Cross girls in those bright blue dresses jumping off the resupply chopper.

“God,” he said, “I can’t tell you how it felt. You smelled good and you were laughing. We’d been out there for weeks and were really down. You made us feel so good when you left us a calendar or a paperback book, or maybe just a pencil. It just felt great because we had to be gentlemen when you were there. We weren’t animals, we weren’t killers, we were people again. When you got on the chopper to leave, we all said out loud or to ourselves, ‘That’s what I’m going home for. That’s who’s waiting for me when I get home.’”

Perfect strangers come up to me at reunions and just talk and talk and talk. It doesn’t matter if I was in Vietnam at the same time or place they were. What matters is that I was there at all. They’ll say, “You came to my bedside and you held my hand and you wrote my mother, or you came out to visit my unit.” They don’t mean me specifically. They mean the collective me. Me, the Red Cross girl.

I still get letters from veterans who had really bad experiences in Vietnam. One, in particular, an Americal Division company commander from Louisiana, writes and calls me now and then. He lost sixty-eight people in his company in one night. He’s been divorced three times and just can’t seem to get it together, but he knows I understand his pain and he trusts me with his feelings and memories.

Was the war worth it? In a personal sense, it was for me. I learned a lot about myself and about life and commitment to others, but it was different for the nation. If we ever get ourselves into anything that stupid again. Vietnam was worth nothing. I would not ever want my sons to be in such a futile situation. Vietnam truly drained the youth out of so many people whose lives are never going to be the same. A lot of veterans lost their friends and part of themselves there, and I think they know they will never recapture what was left behind.

Burial at Sea by Lt. Col. 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 the hell’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 minutes 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 into 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 hell 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 airtight. 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 worse 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 Chaplain 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!