Military stories from past to present, both wars.

Hug a Vet

May 24th, 2008 Posted in The SandGram v1.0

Dear Gang,

Here I am at “Camp Adams” on Memorial Day Weekend; let’s see “Cut the grass, Wash the Humvee, Clean the poop stains, change the sheets, and clean the gutters.” See, the “Honey Do This and That” never end, ever. Even when you are in a battle zone!

Actually, this is a pretty important holiday for me because I was commissioned this timeframe twenty years ago as a second Lieutenant. When I got home from college and things had settled down, there came a knock on our front door. When I answered, there stood James A. Michener from our church. He was gruff, stocky, bulldog type guy who used to yell at me for running down the hallway at church. I know what you are thinking, “is this the same guy who wrote all the books?” the answer is “no,” they are from a town apart and the author was adopted by the Michener family. But it gets better later.

Mr. Michener came in with a large box in tow. “Taco,” he grabbed my hand in a bear claw vice, “I’m proud as hell of you for joining the Marines,” and patting the box, he said, “Now that you are a Marine, I guess I need to pass this on from one Marine to another.” Now, I had no idea he was in the Marines, but then it all made sense, his bearing, demeanor, it all said “Marine.” I was at a loss and just mumbled, “Wow, I thought you were a retired school teacher. I didn’t know you were in the Marines.”

He opened the box and started to pull out all these treasures that belong in a military museum. They included his WWII web gear, and all his memorabilia. In February, I wrote about Iwo Jima, and talked about Col. Michener. By giving me his gear, he was passing the torch to the next generation of Marines. I was so proud to receive it, and I honor his memory. Honoring those who have set the example is the backbone of the Corps today.

It started for him in December 1941, just a few days before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when he shipped up to Philadelphia Naval yard to attend TBS. At that time, all Marine Officers went through training there. He had a great memory and could recall all the dates and names of the guys he served with as if it had just happened. We talked about his time on Iwo Jima and how his Colt .45 had taken the lives of over a dozen men during the course of the war, from spider holes to bonsai attacks. He wept for the loss of his friends, but swelled with pride over the accomplishments his units achieved.

As he spoke, two hours went by, and a sparkle of mischief was in his eyes as he talked about the author Michener. I guess after the war ended, his division, what was left of it, steamed to Hawaii for some R and R. Mr. Michener took his men out for a well-deserved night on the town. They drank a bit too much and it’s no surprise that alcohol and Marines did not mix well with Army guys around. Some words were exchanged, and pretty soon there was a giant brawl in the bar. When the MP’s showed up, the owner, rightfully pissed off, wanted them all arrested. Mr. Michener whipped out his ID and showed it to the owner, “Do you know who I am?” I guess Michener the author was out in the Pacific in the Navy, but that didn’t stop the future Col. Michener. “I’m James A. Michener, the writer. Just send the bill to my address and I’ll pay for all the damages.” The owner was pretty happy with this and agreed not to press charges. Of course Michener gave the address of the writer from the next town over. He just thought that was a hoot.

Then come to find out a few years later, James A. Michener, the writer, and his wife landed in Hawaii to take a vacation. After they were led down the line of hula girls, there were a couple of Hawaii “5-0” officers there to arrest him on the charges of destroying a bar. He pleaded that it wasn’t him, and when the bar owner arrived he confirmed that this tall, lanky guy wasn’t the short, stocky Marine that trashed his place. Michener loved that story. “Didn’t you feel bad, Mr. Michener? He smiled, “Hell no, he was Navy anyway, and was rich off that book he wrote before the war. I figured he could afford it.”

Well, I know lots of guys like my Mr. Michener, my grandfather, my uncle and most of all, my father, who have worn the uniform of the United States Military, and it makes me proud to carry on the tradition. To all of you out there who have served, or are serving, give yourself a big pat on the back as you read this. This weekend is for you. I hope that you don’t have to cut the grass in your battle rattle, so have a beer for us over here.

Semper Fi,


Tags: , , ,