I met in a parking lot in Kentucky, a man who was pushing grocery carts.
He was a store clerk and visibly haggard. He noticed the sticker on my parked SUV that said, US Marines.
He said,”you were in the Marine Corps?”
“Yes” I said. “Semper Fi”
“I was in WWII, fighting the Japs”, he said. “From Guadalcanal to Iwo Jima, We gave ’em hell!”
I said, “thanks for your service, Sir, I wish you the very best”
Continuing, he said, “I’m an Indian of the Cherokee nation, my ticket out of poverty was to do or die.”
I stood there and listened to his soft spoken diatribe. He was a decorated Marine with the First Marine Division. A hard core son of a gun, dedicated to the ultimate mission. Marines in the Pacific theater were given to the task, to end the Japanese advance at whatever the cost. The price was high, life’s were lost, blood was spilt, maimed, many left lame…
At the end of it all, He asked me if I wanted to join the local Marine Corps Legion?
In Kentucky, military service is revered. I felt a special pride for this mans dedicated vision. I told him I was only passing through and that I appreciated the time he spent telling me, his war stories.
As a former Marine, I can spend all day listening to older Marines talk about their experiences, the cauldron of hell, the way that human blood smells.
A brotherhood forged by fire, death of a brother in arms, the stench of war…My First Sargent once told us of his experiences of Vietnam. The tears of fallen brothers etched in their souls, nothing changes from generation to generation. It’s the same wherever a Marine goes.