Sunday, November 10, 2013

Happy Birthday, Marines!

Happy Birthday, Marines

Today is the 238th anniversary of the formation of the United States Marine Corps. Around the world, Marines will slice a cake with an officer’s Mameluke Sword and sing the Marine Corps Hymn. It is a tradition that celebrates the pride and honor of being a member of one of the most effective military fighting organizations in the history of humankind.
Northern I Corps, Khe Sahn, Vietnam

When that song is sung by some of the toughest men you might ever chance to meet, they sing it gruffly and off-key but with immense pride. When I hear it again and again on this day each year, November 10, I can still smell the always-leaking hydraulic fluid of an H-46 helicopter, the cosmoline of a freshly issued rifle, and even the unique odor that accompanies a half-dozen men as they rush up the back ramp after having been on patrol in the bush for a week. It is the smell of the jungle, not men. I can hear the chaos of the radio in my ears as men on the ground, rescue choppers, fighter support, and air traffic control - all on the same frequency - coordinate the pickup of a reconnaissance team in trouble or a wounded Marine in a gunfight. I can remember clearly the smell of burning sandalwood, the fuel of choice for heating and cooking throughout the country, and the rancid pervasiveness of the fish sauce they put on nearly everything they ate - noucnam.
"Yankee Tango"
The "Rock Pile", Northern I Corps, Vietnam

My time in Vietnam was over 45 years ago and while the sensations and images that work their way out of the back recesses of my mind each year are still fresh, the actual memory of the experiences that caused them are, thankfully, no longer as tack sharp as they once were. While normally ignoring the occasional emotional ripples that might catch me by surprise during the rest of the year, on this day I quietly allow them, as many will, in honor of our comrades in arms who shared with us the unique fears and strange exhilarations of war.

Semper Fi, Marines, and Happy Birthday.




  1. Nice note Sonny. I was stationed in Bien Hoa in '72. I worked on A-4 Skyhawks (VMA-211). My daughter pasted a picture of me while in Country on Facebook this year. I had people I had not heard of for many years thanking me for my service. Quite a change from when I first back in 1973. Again, I thank you for your article and your service,
    Semper Fi,
    Ray Miller

  2. (from new follower) I read the Orlando Sentinel interview with you in today's paper. The whole issue of the water district disembowelment has interested me for a long time. You said a lot of truth in a short article; hope a bunch of folks read it and push for change.

    My father was a developer who never saw a lake, wetland, mangrove or forest he thought he couldn't improve. During the 50's-70's period he "improved" a lot of Florida because regulation was so lax and the general climate for bulldozing, ditching and filling was so different. Growth meant everything and just about everything was being done without much conscience or science. I could provide a long list of his projects but that can be another time.

    I spent 32 years as an Owner/Broker in west Volusia county specializing in new homes. I was encouraged when "my" builders and developers were often made to toe the line by SJWMD. It was always my opinion that even when developments were called Eagle Sanctuary or Manatee Heaven or Happy Acres, the animals and the trees were usually given short shrift. I always believed in maintaining a representative variety of vegetation on every homesite and I argued the point throughout my career. To say that the accepted method of clearing all vegetation and "starting anew" in most subdivisions angers me would be a huge understatement. I fully comprehend that the goal is finished, ready-to-build lots but the sight of these wastelands has always made me swallow hard.

    I look forward to follow the comments in this blog.