The Marine I was Supposed to Shake Hands With

May 17th, 2010 by xformed

Map of Peleliu Island, Palau
Image via Wikipedia

Dropped by the Post Office a few days ago to send off a box. In the parking lot was a car with a Disabled Vet and the USMC logo. The Post Office is small, so it was easy to pick him out, over at the counter with the slips for insurance and the like.

I stepped up and commented “So, you’re the Marine I’m supposed to shake the hand of!” He smiled under his 1st MARDIV ballcap and gave me a nice firm hands shake.

I asked “When were you in?” and it was the beginning of a 1.5 hour mostly listening session.

His name was Joe and he joined up in 1943 to fight for his country. He was trained as a relief tank driver, but went ashore at Peleliu as an infantry man, since all the tanks had been knocked out on landing.

He lost a lung, and was out of the war. He came home to begin work at the post office, bad had a hard time working in the back rooms due to the dust generated. Will 1/2 your lung capacity, that’s a problem. He was put at the windows, and the Union guys objected…enough they moved him around the area until the heat on the supervisors became too much. He next worked at Squibb Corporation while working on his degree at night school.

While there, one of his supervisors asked if he wanted a wooden chest out of a storeroom that had to be cleaned out. His wife talked him out of bringing it home. He did look at it and in it. It had a brass plate engraved “Capt E.R. Squibb.” It was full of medicine canisters and surgical tools from a time long past. Turns out it was burned because no one wanted it. Capt Squibb had been a US Navy Medical Officer during the Mexican-American War.

After getting his degree, he found it was time to move along, and ended up at Bulova as the Marketing Manager. He worked for General Omar Bradley, who was the Chairman of the Board. Much of the time we spent talking was about that phase of his life. He was regularly in General Bradley’s office and worked closely with him. Joe said he never called him by name, always as “Young Man.” The stories of the offer to sell Joe the old limo (Joe had 5 children) (once more, his practical Irish wife said no), to the making of the watch presentation cases for the Pope’s visit were but a few of those he shared with me.

It was an enjoyable hour and a half, and hearing little bits of history from a first person reporting viewpoint.

I hope to get more time with Joe one day soon.

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Category: "Sea Stories", History, Marines, Military, Military History | 1 Comment »

RIP: CPL Jonathon Proto, USMC

March 24th, 2010 by xformed

Monday a local hero returned home from Afghanistan, not with his unit, to happy families, but to be placed at final rest.

Cpl Jonathon Porto, USMC

Cpl Porto Arrives 3/22/2010. Photo credit: 10 Connects

Today was perfect weather for such a fitting ceremony – high 60s and mostly clear, bright skies.

At the Bay Pines National Cemetery, St Petersburg, FL, his family, friends, the Patriot Guard, othrs who came a show of community support, an Air Force Chaplain, and a reasonable number of Marines in Full Dress Blues, CPL Porto’s life was eulogized.

The Patriot Guard surrounded the area with flags.  The St Petersburg Police guided traffic.  Marines from LCol to PFC were there, some to the side, 8 in a rifle squad, 6 as pall bearers and two of them the CACOs (Casualty Assistance Call Officer) to the Porto Family since the death on 3/14/2010.

The hearse arrived in the motorcade, with large Marine Corps emblems on it’s side.  After the family had gathered near the rear of the hearse, the 6 Marines carried their fallen brother to the center of a small gazebo in the portion of the grave site for the ceremony.  It was the same place my friend, Jim Sr, had his final good byes from those of us who knew him.

The Chaplain delivered a strong message about a man, who, like Christ, had lived and died and had risen, a man who served his fellow mankind.

The eulogies began with one of Jonathon’s older sisters.  She told of a man in diapers, who was one to stand up to the system, to be himself, in a humorous way.  She described a man who grew and was loved, and loved and had a love of cars, rock music and girls.  One who, when he met his wife, told his sister that she was “the one.”

The family and friends came forward to speak.  The Best Man at Jonathon and Rachel’s Wedding talked of a great friend, an inseparable buddy, who loved his blue Porsche.  Younger and older sisters spoke of a “protector,” long before he was a Marine.  One sister read a poem she had written about her brother and his service and his death.  His mother said she always said “I love you” at the end of each phone call, but lamented she had not talked to him more.  Brothers spoke of a brother who had found his passion in the Marine Corps, and how they admired how he had served a greater purpose than himself.

Jonathon’s wife, came to speak.  She allowed us to know of a short romance before the wedding, but a wonderful relationship, and how proud she was of her husband.  Standing strong in the circumstances, she ended saying she would not say “Goodbye” as that was forever, but she would one day, be with him again.

Jonathon’s father spoke.  He marveled at how his son grew into a man, and into a Marine.  How proud he was of someone, and he being admittedly biased, that he thought of as the best man he had ever met.  A man who loved and sacrificed for the justice of others.  In addition to speaking of his fine son, he also talked of an in credible outpouring of support and love from an entire community, and how he vowed to do something with that show of support, settling, as prompted by one of his sons to turn it into service.  He invited us all, even those who he had no clue who we were, just that we were there, to come to a reception after the funeral.

The wife of a Marine Sargent, who knew CPL Porto, talked of how Marines are all brothers, and how Jonathon’s wife is now and will be part of the “family.”  The Marine Sargent is stationed in Okinawa, and his wife said for the next 30 days, morning formation in Jonathon’s honor would be held.

The rifle squad was commanded to attention by the Staff Sargent and 21 volleys filled the air, and “Taps” played as the last 7 rounds echoed in our ears.  The flag from Jonathon’s coffin was folded with dignity and honor, and three flags were presented to the family by kneeling Marines.

We were excused.  I asked the LCOL to point out the two CACOs, which had been mentioned by several of the speakers as preforming their duties in a superior manner, and I went and thanked them.  I received the training many years ago, but never was called upon for that difficult and extremely important duty.  Off to the car and the rest of my day, considering my privledge to have heard of a fine man, who served the country well.

One very sad note:  Jonathon, who was not only a friend, son, brother, and husband before departing life, was also a father, yet he had never held his daughter, since she was born after he deployed.  A trust fund has been set up in her name and the details are listed at the end of the post here.

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Category: Military | 1 Comment »

Today in History: Linebacker II Begins

December 18th, 2009 by xformed

When the enemy thinks they can stall peace talks, how do you respond?  With a diplomatic tools that “communicates” beyond the Paris meeting room.

On this day in 1972, Linebacker II, the largest air campaign since WWII began, with Air force and Navy planes filling the skies over North Vietnam.

For 11 days, the fury of America was unleashed over their capital and sea ports. On this day, 189 bombers (B-52D/Gs) and 39 support aircraft from the 7th Air force, and Navy and Marine Corps assets (EB-66/EA-6B/KC-135s/F-4/A-6/A-7/F-111/F-105), as well as SAR (Search and Rescue) aircraft took to the skies for a night attack. This mission targeted airfields and warehouses.

3 B-52s were shot down, and three more heavily damaged. One F-111 was also shot down, as the North Vietnamese put and estimated 220 SAMs in the air.

This afternoon, I attended an MOAA lunch and one of the men there reminded the MC to mention the history of today. It turns out that gentlemen had spent time in a B-17 over Schweinfurt, B-29s over Korea and B-52s over Vietnam. I suspect he was in the cockpit for this operation, but I did not have the opportunity to speak with him, as the room was full of living history.

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Category: Air Force, History, INternational Relations, Marines, Military, Military History, Navy | Comments Off on Today in History: Linebacker II Begins

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