One Good Deal After Another (continued)
"All of them ... were put to the test. All of them. None backed down."
The Marines and Navy Corpsmen of BLT 2/26 had led a hard, challenging life. Weeks on end …. no hot meals; little rest; no showers … dirty, filthy dirty; tremendous physical demands, including carrying 152 mm artillery rounds along a trail to a distant helicopter landing zone; loaded with ammunition, rations, grenades, machine gun ammo, mortar ammo, mortar baseplates, machine guns, tripods and personal gear.
They saw friends wounded or killed. They suffered jungle rot and leeches. Some endured minor wounds that tended to become infected. Some, like Corporal Tony Olivadessa, had come back from major wounds and fought on. Others like Lieutenant Pat McDonald suffered sicknesses after trying to get clean in streams. No matter what the hardship or challenge, they “soldiered on.” They epitomized the esprit of the United States Marine Corps. They were great Americans.
Fifty some odd years later, things have changed. And they continue to change. If the political class, both civilian and military, has its way, future Marine infantry battalions will not be comprised solely of males. Anyone who thinks that is the way to win wars and stay free is a fool. No, more accurately, a complete fool.
Sergeant Major John Whirley had spent much of his adult life as a Marine at war, beginning with Guadalcanal. Detail from a photo by Kent Wonders.
We were identical to the Marines and Corpsmen of the other Marine infantry battalions fighting in Vietnam. Some, the senior enlisted Marines, were professionals.
The battalion sergeant major, Sergeant Major Whirley, had seen his first firefight in 1942 during World War II at Guadalcanal. After WWII came Korea and after that, he had been in Vietnam for 5 years when I joined the battalion. A tall, muscular Texan who shaved his head every morning, he was the prototype professional that Kipling had written about.
The other staff non-commissioned officers had fought in Korea. With the exception of the battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Sparks, who had fought in Korea, Vietnam was the first war for the officers just as it was for the young enlisted Marines and Navy Corpsmen. All of them from those who knew WWII and Korea and those who were learning their first war were put to the test. All of them. None backed down. They out thought and out fought their enemy. They all knew sacrifice. All of them.
Many gave their lives fighting for an America which, in turn, was fighting for a world threatened by Godless communism. They fought and died for freedom. A large number of the lucky ones who came home have since passed on. The rest of us will eventually leave this earth. May a merciful God forgive all of us our sins, enter our souls to Heaven and protect the lives of loved ones left behind.
Editors note: After his stint as Operations Officer for BLT 2/26, Jarvis Lynch went on to an illustrious Marine Corps career including postings as director of the 8th Marine Corps District in New Orleans; chief of staff of Fleet Marine Force, Pacific; assistant chief of staff for operations at NATO's Northern European Command; commanding general of the 2nd Force Service Support Group at Camp Lejeune; and finally as commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island.
It was there in 1990 that I visited him and noted that in the large and imposing office of a two-star general, there was but a single item displayed on the wall: a grease-pencil marked map of LZ Margo.
Major General Jarvis D. Lynch served in many billets in his Marine Corps career, but the highlight was his stint as Operations Officer of Battalion Landing Team 2/26. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.