MAKINEN — On a summer day in the peaceful Makinen Cemetery, Diane McComesky delivered a heartfelt thank-you. To the memory of her husband, George McComesky, who died six years ago. And to the Marine Corps brothers who came to pay their respects to the beloved buddy who had fought alongside them a half-century ago in Vietnam.
"It has been a weekend filled with laughter and tears, but most of all, you have hugged our hearts," she had written in her remarks to the men of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines.
"It's been a rollercoaster of emotions... Smiling one minute, tears the next. Six years ago (2013) our George changed his residence to Heaven," Diane wrote in an email. "Normally, one week prior to his anniversary in Heaven, our family would get heavy hearts. This year is quite different... we are coming off a great high of heart hugs, having spent time with the Charlie Company Marines, who shared stories of how courageous he was in fighting for our country... George was a lot more brave and courageous in combat than he ever led us to believe."
At the service on June 30 George McComesky's friend Bill Hanegmon, retired St. Louis County sheriff's deputy and a Vietnam veteran of the Army, read a poem that began, "I was a proud veteran/That served my country well/To those that would listen/I had many stories to tell." A Marine from Charlie Company read the names of the Marines killed in Vietnam and who have died in the ensuing years. Another rang a bell as each Marine's name was read.
"George held all of you in such high regard," Diane McComesky said in her speech at the cemetery. "Memorial Day, Marine Corps birthday, Veterans Day... he'd love, honor and remember you and the fine Marines that were lost in battle during Operation Beacon Hill March24-26."
Her speech continued, "I will never forget our first visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. With tears in his eyes and a heavy heart, he'd slowly trace the names" of Marines who had been killed. "On our second trip to The Wall, he wondered how many of his brothers had died from complications of the war."
She addressed some of the buddies by name, one of the them Carl Henry Martin, among the group of Marines who had made the trip to Minnesota. "Carl Henry," she said, "you were a topic of conversation on our first date in July of 1989. He was telling me how he admired you and hoped and prayed you had made it out on Vietnam alive. He had tried unsuccessfully to find you... until February 2013 when you sent him an email. He carried a copy of that email with him for days. I believe it was a gift from God that George reconnected with a lot of you in the last year before he changed his residence to Heaven."
In a phone conversation from his Florida home Martin said, "My words always came from my deep respect and brotherly love for our friend, George McComesky."
Martin then said via email, "George to me was the quintessence of what you expect from a Marine NCO (non-commissioned officer). He not only strived to do each task correctly and see it to its conclusion — mission accomplished. George also carried it a step further in that his motto was to do his very best every time. That makes all the difference in the world, believe me."
Martin continued, "He cared deeply for the men of his squad (First Squad), those Marines around him (First Platoon), the Corps (USMC) and his home (America). He was a gung-ho Marine as they say and espoused esprit de corps to all that knew him. It was my honor to have known George and served alongside of him in combat in Vietnam."