Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A General in the Marines

“I’ve sent a lot of men to their deaths,” my friend once told me. It has been my pleasure to know a man who has seen all kinds of trouble, and he has seen it on behalf of his beloved country. In World War II Tom enlisted as a swab jockey recruit, the lowest form of life there was in the U.S. Navy. Or anywhere else, for that matter. I know. I have been one.

A big man, half American Indian and half Irish, he stands at least six foot two. So there wasn’t any way for him to hide behind other recruits. He just stood out.

Somehow Tom and the Navy parted. He immediately enlisted in the Marines at a very low level. I know he flew pursuit planes. And that he was in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. I also know that when Tom was finally retired, he was a Lt. General in the Marines. He is not the type to run a desk. He is what some would call a combat general. I have seen him in full dress Marine uniform with lots of medals and campaign ribbons. I don’t know what they all mean, except for the Purple Heart.

Even though I am still deathly afraid of military officers, I generated enough courage to ask Tom if I could write a small book about him. I figured that anyone who went into the military as a seaman recruit, who went through three wars, and who emerged as a three star general in the Marines must have a hell of a story to tell. And I have five books to my credit already, one of them a small history of part of WWII in North Africa and Italy.

But when I asked permission to write, this giant Marine said, “What for? I didn’t do anything.”

No comments: