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By Pat Lisi/Southern Utah Vets Aid

I think back to 1968 and have to ask myself, “Why did I join the Marines instead of another branch?”

Actually, I enlisted in the Marine Corps in late 1967 but had to wait for an opening in Marine boot camp to actually head to Milwaukee, take my oath, and then fly out to San Diego to get things going.  A friend of mine from high school, Greg McCallum, was with me; a third guy that came in on the ‘buddy system’ ended up failing his physical at first and he would not head for boot camp until a couple months after Greg and I.  We were graduated by the time Dave Hron, who we called ‘Chopper’, found his way to the west coast to train.

Back to the question on the table.

Probably the biggest factor that enticed me, Greg and Chopper to enlist in the Marines was the fact that the Vietnam ‘conflict’ (we call it the ‘war’) was really heating up, and three of the guys from our high school had been killed in Nam in 1967.  So, we signed up to get revenge, basically.  And, knowing full well that we would be sent to Vietnam after boot camp and infantry training, and wanting to go over there with the branch of the military that had the reputation of the Marine Corps, it seemed like a no-brainer.  We wanted to train with the hardest of the hard so that we might have a chance of survival once we got to Vietnam.

Of course, the other branches of the military have rough training just like the Marines, especially the Army, but being a Marine had that certain undertone of being an elite warrior which is why many young men and women choose the Corps even today.

I didn’t expect boot camp to be fun at all; in fact, I was hoping it was all that the recruiter promised it was going to be — and it was.  I’ve never been through the basic training camps of the other services, but I’m willing to guess that the Marine Corps’ boot camp is at least 1 notch higher in intensity than the others.  So, that’s the major reason why I joined the Marine Corps instead of another branch.

I’m glad I was in the Marine Corps in Vietnam for another great reason:  The Marines are fewer in ‘manpower’ than the Army, and I believe this makes the Marines a bit more careful in how they disburse and assign the troops.  That is, the Army had a ton more soldiers committed to the battles in Nam and I am assuming that part of the strategy was to simply overwhelm the enemy with infantry.  I don’t know if there is any validity to my argument here; what I guess I’m saying is it’s almost better to be in smaller units of fighters instead of this huge body of soldiers pouring into the action.  That’s for Vietnam, of course.  The Marines did massive landings in the Pacific which totally contradicts my theory on being a small and elite fighting force.  Nam was a different story, if only by terrain differences.

In the end it may simply come down to personal preference.  Myself and my two buddies felt that the Marine Corps was for us, and so we enlisted.  The ‘sell’ of the Marine recruiter was better than the other 3 recruiters we visited, and it is probably just as simple as that.

So, what happened to my pals Greg and Chopper?  Greg never did serve in Nam.  He ended up as an airplane mechanic in the Marine Air Wing,  and went on to become a Master Sergeant and retired from the Corps in 1988.  Chopper went to Vietnam as a “grunt”, just like me.  He was an expert with his rifle and they sent him to sniper school in DaNang.  He served two tours in Vietnam and received 3 purple heart awards by the time he was done in the Nam.  Chopper died of cancer related to Agent Orange poisoning in 2011.


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