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 By Richard W. Williams

 I was a grunt in India Company 3/5 in 1969. But, this is not war story. 
 is a story about the Espirit de Corps of the 1st Marine Division. I lived 
 Boca Raton, Florida. Prior to joining the Marines in 1968, I learned that
 there was a Marine who lived close by my home.

  I knocked on his door and his wife answered. I merely said I was
 considering joining the Marines and I understood her husband was a former
 Marine. I was hoping he’d let me ask him a few questions about what to
 expect.  Like any Marine’s wife, she let me in and introduced me to her
 husband, “Archie.”

 Archie was quite old. However, he sat in his winged-back chair with a 
 repose. In spite of his failing eyesight, he fixed me with a steady gaze,
 politely smiled and simply said, “Welcome aboard.” We talked the afternoon

 Archie patiently answered my questions about the Marine Corps, Parris 
 and careers in the Corps. All he related to me about his exploits in the
 Marines was that he loved the Corps and every minute he had served in it. 
 the late afternoon sun dipped on the horizon, I bid him farewell and
 promised I would return to see him after I finished Boot Camp.

 I kept my promise and visited him nearly every day I was back from Parris
 Island. He and his wife were gracious hosts. As I sat and learned from
 Archie, his wife would serve us brandy in the afternoon to go with the 
 Archie enjoyed only once a day. I felt extremely bonded with Archie for
 sharing his ritual with me.

 As my leave drew to a close and I prepared to go to Vietnam,  Archie’s and
 my conversations drew deadly serious. He gave me tip after tip on how to
 fight and even how to win campaigns. As an enlisted snuffie, I didn’t 
 the High Command would be interested in my opinions on running a campaign,
 but I listened in utter fascination to Archie’s knowledge.

 He told me what to expect in war and what not to fear. After his brandy 
 evening he said, “Don’t worry if you are ready for the task of war. 
 no sane man is ever ready. There is only one thing that makes a good 
 and that is a man who cares for his fellow man. That is why the Marines do
 so well at making war. We respect each other. We’d rather die than to let
 down our comrades. You see, there are many reasons a young man marches off
 to war – patriotism, duty, honor, adventure; but only one reason he 
 fights once he is in a war. He fights for the men next to him.

 Marines don’t endure the hell of combat for any lofty principles. Marines
 fight because each Marine acknowledges the loftiest principle of all: he
 acknowledges and accepts the responsibility of being his brother’s keeper.
 That’s why you will fight. You are a Marine and you will protect your unit
 at all cost.”

 Archie asked me to write and keep him abreast to what I experienced in
 Vietnam. He gave me his address. I thanked him and promised I would write 
 soon as I landed and found out what my FPO address would be. Without 
 at it, I folded the paper and put his address in my wallet and marched off
 to war.

 Naturally, I lost his address. However, I sent a letter to him through my
 father letting him know I landed and providing him with my FPO. I had been
 in Vietnam less than a month when I got a response from Archie. He simply
 asked me to tell him how we were conducting the war, what were my

 The name on the return address was General Archer A. Vandegrift, USMC
 (Ret.). My friend, Archie, was the former CO of the 1st Marine Division
 (“Guadalcanal General”). He had won the Medal of Honor at Guadalcanal and
 later became Commandant of the Marine Corps. At PI, we had learned all 
 General Vandegrift. But being as dumb as a box of rocks, I never really
 remembered “Archie’s-” last name until his letter arrived. I just 
 it was “Van” something.

 I sat down in the sweaty jungle rot and stench and began what would be a
 long series of letters from one snuffie to the ex-Commandant and the most
 famous CO of my Marine Division. I started it out simply, Dear General
 Vandegrift, Vietnam is like a large island where the enemy has kept a 
 open. The enemy also has a secret weapon. The seaway is the Ho Chi Minh
 trail. The secret weapon is their ability to use re-supply themselves 
 technologies that existed since the stone age. We ignore the seaway, 
 it open and try to use high technology to cause collateral damage to their
 stone-age production capacity.

 It’s like dropping firecrackers on ants. So the enemy will continually be
 re-supplied.  And we will continually be re-supplied. That means this 
 will go on until one side or the other tires of it.

 On the ground, your Marines are just that, Marines. We are doing just what
 you predicted, fighting for the guy next to us. Other than that, it don’t
 mean nothing but, what does mean something is that for all those months 
 never let on who you were. It was just two Marines, no rank. That’s why I
 serve, because of men like you who have made the Marine Corps something
 worthy to fight for. Semper Fidelis

 The General wrote back and agreed that an enemy must be denied re-supply. 
 war of attrition is less costly to a Third World country then it is to a
 high-tech country. He said that the bombing and blockading of Haiphong
 Harbor and an end run up the Ho Chi Minh trail coupled with a staggered
 attack due north would end this war in a few months. But, without a Pearl
 Harbor, the American people don’t have a heart for war. That was America’s
 greatest strength, he said. We only like to fight when we are mad. And, 
 we are mad we fight like no other civilization in the history of the 

 This story isn’t about famous people I have known. I was then and am now a
 nobody,  just a simple grunt. But, the most famous CO of the 1st Marine
 Division would sit down and talk to a lowly private just shows what the
 Marine Corps is made of.

 It shows that the Corps’ motto, Semper Fidelis, is more than mere words.

 It is a way of life ! ! ! !

Reprinted by Southern Utah Vets Aid of St. George, Utah

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