“Oh beautiful for heroes proved, in liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life.
Oh America, America, may God thy gold refine.
‘Til all success be nobleness, and every gain divine”
-America The Beautiful
July is a week away…so I decided to give my favorite Marine a call (yes…this Rakkasan likes a Marine or ten), my Mother’s brother, my Uncle Bob… I am his namesake (my middle name is Robert). We both joined our respective services in July…so next month marks some self-important anniversaries. And to be crystal clear…he is #1 on the list of SGT P’s favorite Marines.
He was born in March, 1947. I was born in November of 1966…he was somewhere between San Diego and Okinawa preparing for combat in the jungles of Vietnam.
Uncle Bob served in the USMC from July 1966 until 1971…5 years as a Marine. He did one tour in Vietnam, 13 long months with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, 3rd Marine Division in the I Corps AO as a Grunt. His memories and his service records reflect approximately 27 operations and E-5 as his highest achieved rank. He never spoke of the battles…he didn’t need to. He is humble about his awards…just happy to be alive and well as he turned 70 on a small homestead in Oregon with his wife.
I joined the Army in July of 1985 and served as an Infantryman for over 10 years…until September of 1995. As well as serving with the 1/5 Cav in the 1st Cav Division; as an Army Recruiter in Colorado; and in the 2/18 Infantry with the 24th Infantry Division; I spent 3 years (in between those assignments) with the 187th Infantry Regiment (Rakkasans)…and went with them to the Gulf War back in 1990-1991, earning the Combat Infantry Badge and a Bronze Star Medal.
I also left the service as an E-5…as proud as my Uncle…and for that I am grateful.
Two Grunts from different times…serving in different branches of the U.S. Military…but bound by blood, honor, patriotism, and history.
I know much more of his story than I will write about here…the years after the Vietnam War. The political and social injustices towards our brave warriors, the denial of injuries and sicknesses are not what I want to write about; not what he wants to speak about.
I want to share what happened in April of 1991. When I returned from Iraq, we hung out for a few days…just us. My Uncle has always loved his nieces and nephews…there was never ending fun when Uncle Bob was around! But those few days after I returned from my war were different. We talked…we shared…we shouted…we cried…we toasted fallen brothers…we understood.
As a man, I have been shaped and molded by men. My Father, my Grandfather, my Drill Sergeant, my First Sergeant and CO in the Rakkasans…my Uncle Bob. You see, I grew up in the 70’s and Uncle Bob was always my favorite uncle. He was funny, caring, gentle yet strong at the same time, and one of my heroes. I have two more uncles who served in Vietnam, a grandfather in WWII, and uncounted relatives and ancestors who serve or have served. We are a proud warrior family.
O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
-America The Beautiful
-SGT P, Rakkasan and Marine-friend