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By Pat Lisi – Southern Utah Vets Aid

You often see me refer to my old Marine unit from Nam — Echo Company, 2nd Bn, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.  It’s a whole lot easier to just say, “Echo 2/5” which is how I usually do it.  Since 2004, Echo 2/5 has been getting together with any of its survivors of the Vietnam War to shoot the breeze and to remember lost Marines and go over old times.

The very first reunion (I did not know about these get togethers until 2010) they had about 6 guys and their wives show up.  The next time there were more.  In 2010 we had 22 Marines show up in San Diego.  In Quantico, Virginia last week we almost doubled our attendance with over 40 former Marines of Echo 2/5!  It was great, to say the least, considering the fact that some of the former Echo 2/5 guys who normally come to these reunions could not make it this time.

I know of at least 2 from our ranks who were are not ready, yet, to come to a reunion.  The pain of Nam is still too fresh in some minds and maybe that’s a lifetime ‘souvenir’ brought home from war.  For others, it’s cathartic.  Sort of a closure in a way.  For most, I think they have dealt with the war and just want to see some of their buddies before they die.  That’s where I’m at with this notion of reuniting with Marines from my company.  Although, I have to tell you, every time I go to The Wall I end up off to the side, in tears.  It happened again last week.  But, I wasn’t the only one, and the others were quick to come and help.  It’s just sad, seeing all those names up there, fine young men who died for only God knows what.

Our reunion coordinator and President of the Echo 2/5 Association, Ochal Caudill, did an outstaning job of getting things lined up for us to keep busy.  We spent a day at the  Quantico Marine Base transported by a tour-guided bus.  Our guide, a young Marine Sergeant, had quite a time keeping us under control after he referred to us as “senior citizens”.  All day after that, he tried to make ammends.  But, it never worked.  He was alright, though, and we all thanked him for his service when we parted late in the afternoon.

Some of the things on base that we did included a few demos on how Marines are trained for convoy duty.  Little of it is on real trucks;  mostly, they get into small bands and then train in simulators that are electronically decked out to imitate actual patrols.  You wouldn’t think it sounds very real, but the instructor can make the enemy appear and attack the convoy, the vehicles can ‘roll over’ and the Marines have to get out in a limited time, and the vehicles can be dipped under water (for real) to see how the Marines have learned teamwork, not to mention their underwater survival skills.

The Marine Archive building was fascinating.  We spent about an hour there. Think of the largest libray you’ve ever seen either in person or in a movie, and then put nothing but Marine Corps documents, books, charters, maps, old movies, CDs, anything that tells the history of the Corps — into that building.  There are physically tons and tons of items in the Archives.

We visited the Museum of the Marine Corps which was privately funded and built just a couple of years ago.  We only had about 6 hours there which included lunch, but to see everything in the museum would literally take at least 2, 8-hour days.  And, they are adding on of course as we wind down Afghanistan.  Each war has its own gallery and they are made to look quite real.  The Korean War Gallery, for example, is chilled to an almost uncomfortable temperature for part of the exhibit to simulate what it was like there in the winter for the troops.

An interesting time was spent at TBS which stands for The Basic School.  TBS is where the new lieutenants spend a few months preparing for their combat assignments.  Most of them will be commanding a platoon of Marines in places like Afghanistan or wherever we have Marines on the ground waging war.  A Marine Captain talked to us quite a bit about how the school is run and what the lieutenants go through; then, it was outside to the TBS martial arts area where we got a demonstration on current methods of hand-to-hand fighting the Marines have adopted.  TBS culminates with an “8-day war” in which all of the training comes together in a pass/fail war game.

Some of us went up to DC on the last day to check out The Wall and the other monuments.  The ride was only 45 minutes from the Holiday Inn where we were housed.  I think one of my fondest memories from that was meeting several WWII veterans at the WWII monument, also newly constructed within the last few years.  Some were from the Battle of the Bulge, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, etc.  They liked telling stories and appreciated any attention they could get from passersby.

Saturday evening was our banquet held at the Globe and Laurel.  The G&L is the ‘crest’ of the British Marines.  Look on line if you want to see what it looks like.  In fact, any of the things I’ve talked about so far can be viewed on line, including the Globe and Laurel restaurant.  The uniqueness about this eatery is the ton of Marine memorbilia on the walls.  It’s like a museum all its own.  Owned by a retired Marine Major, it has become ‘the’ place to eat if you’re a hungry Marine and where you can leave ‘stuff’ from your Marine days.  Quantico is also home to the FBI Training Center, so some of the items on the walls and ceilings are law enforcement related.

Sunday morning, just before everyone went their separate ways once again, we held a memorial for the Marines of Echo Company who died in Vietnam.  There were just over 160 names to read and it was an emotional send-off.  All the guys I knew during my tour there were read off; I was one of three who was assigned a list to read.  But, they’re gone and there’s nothing you can do about that except to remember them.

The next reunion of Echo Company will be in 2014.  We haven’t decided where to  gather, yet, but I have a sneaking suspicion it will be either Branson or New Orleans.  I was elected VP of the outfit (we rail-roaded Ochal into staying on since he’s doing such an outstanding job), and so I’ll be knee-deep in the planning for the next reunion.  That’s fine.  It’s the least I can do.

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