Military stories from past to present, both wars.

Veterans Day, hanging with Hero’s

November 11th, 2013 Posted in The SandGram v1.0

Veterans Day weekend is a busy one.  It falls on the Marine Corps Birthday weekend so usually I have to block off the whole weekend for the many different events going on around the Metroplex.

We had the Young Marine Ball on Saturday night with RV Burgin as the Guest Speaker for the kids.   Now there is a guy you just love to hear speak.  He spent the better part of two years slugging it out in the Pacific war.

One of his Marines wrote a famous book called “With the old Breed” detailing much of their time over in the Pacific.  Years later he finally got around to writing his book, “Islands of the Damned” which I really enjoy reading because it’s a view that you normally don’t get.

One of the things I do is to deliver Marine Birthday cake to a few Marine Shut-ins after our ceremony.  It reminds them of their proud heritage when I show up in my Dress Blues to bring the cake by.

Dan Burnham is from my church and has served in every branch of the service over a 30 year period.  His time in the Marine Corps was during Korea when he was attached to the 1st Regiment, 1st Marines from 1952-3.  He was on the Soul Corridor with only six minutes of ammo for his 4.2 mortars to fend off any attacks.  Dan is a tough fire plug of a guy and I’m betting even tougher back then.

dan

My other local hero is Bill Stanbery.

bill

I’m friends with his son and grandson a current Marine Officer (a family we love) and I love to hear Bill’s stories from when he joined the Corps in March of 1944.  He fought in Saipan and Okinawa with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th MarDiv followed by stints with 2nd MarDiv and the 3rd Amphibious Corps.  Because of his Italian heritage, he was marked “PTO” which was Pacific Theater Only.

Bill gives a lot of credit to the Marine Corps for shaping him and making him the man is today.  It’s those lessons in life that carried over to his time during the Korean War a few years later.

A friend got Bill to sign up with the local Army Reserve unit (extra drill money) but when Korea kicked off, he found himself with the Army’s 24th Divisions G-2 unit.  His claim to fame it being the third set of boots to be in Korea 26 May 1950 with KMAG.

This is where it gets interesting.  Later on the North Koreans are running the Army units down this road and Bill is sent up to destroy a couple of artillery pieces that were left behind.  He had to go spike the breeches so they couldn’t be used against them.

After the last one, he took some white Phosphorus in left arm as it blew up.  This didn’t feel good and with the Koreans a mile behind them, shooting at them, he didn’t have time to worry about it.   As he and his crew were racing down this road, he noticed a Soldier prostate on the side of the road.

Bill wasn’t about to let the Koreans desecrate his body as they rolled past so he ordered the driver to stop.  The Driver, AJ complained that they didn’t have time for this dead guy.  Bill told him “We don’t leave our brothers behind” something that was ingrained in his brain from his past Marine Corps Days.

When he reached down to pick up this dead body, he realized the Soldier was still alive.  So instead of strapping him across the hood like he planned, he held his body as the M-8 scout car raced down the hill.  When they arrived at the local MASH unit, the Doctor said “You should have left him, there’s nothing we can do for him.”  That didn’t go over well with Bill and he asked where the next hospital was.  Getting directions, his driver raced them to the next place through miles of bad guy land while getting shot at.

Arriving at this hospital, he went in to find a Doctor.  This Colonel came out and looked over the Soldier and while he agreed that the other doctor was out of line for telling him to leave the body, there wasn’t much they could do, he had lost a lot of blood.  Bill found out when kind of blood he needed so he stopped a transport truck with 10 replacements in it and got 8 of them to jump out to give blood.  He returned with the bodies for blood donations and asked the Colonel if he would operate on him now?

The Colonel said he would do his very best and “Oh by the way, what is your name Soldier?”  Bill said “Sgt Bill Stanbery Sir”

Now fast forward to February of 51, Bill gets sent home on Emergency leave for his dying father (a WWI Vet) and you can imagine the stuff that he had endured up to that point before he left.  After the funeral, he returns to Japan to rejoin his unit.

Standing there in the Admin shop, the desk Sergeant calls “Next” with all the flair of a DMV wait line.  When Bill puts his orders down on the desk, the Sgt turns white.  Bill looks at him asks “Sgt, are you ok? You look like you have seen a ghost.”

The Sgt, Archie Mimes, looks up at Bill and says, “No I’m looking at an Angel.  Do you remember saving a Soldier on the side of the road? That was me.”

Bill was shocked that he had made it.  Sgt. Mimes calls out his Capt and Bill tells the story to him.  The Captain was shaking his head and said “Here I have heard that story a few times and thought it was embellished some, but wow, it really did happen. “

He then looked at Bill and asked “Do you really want to go back to Korea?”  Bill, very humble, says, “That is what my orders say, but I’d rather not.”

The Captain and Sgt Mimes have a little talk and next thing you know, Bill is working on the G-2 Staff there at Camp Drake in Japan.

Years later, he is going up before a  re-enlistment board.  As he is sitting in the chair in front of a few Officers and SNCO’s, they are waiting on the head of the board to arrive.  When the Colonel walks in, he see’s Stanbery and says “Hello Sgt Stanbery, what are you doing here?”  Bill doesn’t recognize him and replies that he is here for the board.

The Colonel turns around and says, “Gentlemen, I served with Sgt Standbery over in Korea and if there is a man among us, he is.  I think this meeting is over, thanks for coming out Sgt Stanbery.”

That was the Doctor who was able to save Sgt Mimes life in 1950.  Thanks to a dedicated Soldier and Former Marine.

 

We live in a small world and your actions have reactions, both good and bad.  Bill lives on the side of the line where I aspire to make the type of good decisions that he would make in tough situations.  So next time you are facing a hard choice (hopefully not with bullets hitting the dirt all around you as you struggle with a limp body) ask yourself, “What would Bill do?”

 

Semper Fi and Thanks to all the Vets past and present!!

Taco

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