First let me give a shout out to all my Marine Buddies on this 240th Birthday of the Marine Corps. We chewed a lot of the same dirt, been to the same places, and fought some of the same battles. Semper Fi, my brothers. Semper Fi!
November 11th is Veteran’s Day when we take the time to honor our veterans for the service they have given and the sacrifices made to and for our country. I, like many of you, served in a war (Police Action) as we grew out of our teens and into our early twenties. It was not something most of us wanted to do… it was something required of us by the draft. Our number was called and we went. I enlisted in the Marines. I didn’t know much about Vietnam… it was 1965. Needless to say, I found out much more about that place during my fifteen week boot camp at Parris Island, SC. And a whole lot more was learned when I ran out of the back of that C-130 on the Khe Sanh airstrip during the Tet Offensive in 1968.
I must admit I didn’t care for war (real war) all that much… really overrated in the movies. I thought even less of it when the bullets, rockets, and mortars were not ping pong or nerf… folks, they were actually the real stuff designed to kill you or at least mess up your whole day. I remember laying down – no – better term hugging the ground as the bullets whizzed beside us in the grass, or the mortars where walking their way toward our column, or we received seven rockets into our tents at Quang Tri. I was doing my duty and would have all the way… but it was not fun. I stayed scared most, no, all the time.
We have a real hero in our family. He is one who put his life in danger many times to rescue people on the ground. My Uncle Joe Melvin is a veteran of both Korea and Vietnam. In Nam he was a crew chief on a helicopter. In April 2002 Congressman Howard Coble presented my Uncle Joe with 51 medals for his service in Vietnam. Among his honors were; two Purple Hearts, three Bronze Stars, and an Army Commendation Medal with Valor which he earned during his six tours as a helicopter crew chief with the U.S. Army. He served in the Army for 22 years.
On December 20th, 1965 Joe was with the 1st Aviation Brigade, “Nguy Hiem” when the Viet Cong shot down another chopper during the battle. Joe and his men were sent to the crash site to look for survivors. None survived. Joe had been drinking beer with the pilot of that downed chopper the night before. He grabbed the pilot’s body, slung him over his shoulder, while a fellow soldier grabbed the other victim and they ran across the rice patties back to their chopper. At lift-off Charlie started firing as my uncle stood in the door firing back some heavy suppressive fire. Because of Joe these families received the remains of their loved ones. In response Joe said: “They would have done the same for me.” Howard Coble, handing the military records to Joe’s grandchildren, said; “I hope you all appreciate this. I’m sure you do, but I want you to embrace it. When you get to be as old as I am (71 at that time) you need to remember it.”
I remind you of this local hero – my Uncle Joe Melvin – hoping that you will remember him, what he did, the very good soldier he was and all the good soldiers out there who are still living with the effects of the war. Take the time on this Veteran’s Day to say; “Thank you for your service.”
And Uncle Joe – thank you for the honor of being in your family and serving with you in Vietnam. You are, indeed, my hero!!!
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