It is a story of brothers, not related by blood but through their serving in the United States Marine Corps in Vietnam. Of their connecting with each other after the passage of the years from 1967 to 2013. And of the Marine who came to Minnesota to pay tribute to the memory of a brother named George McComesky.
One day I placed a telephone call to a man named Carl Henry Martin, who had been in Vietnam with George. Carl was among the Marines, now in their 70s, who recently traveled to Minnesota, and to meet George’s widow, Diane. She and I got to talking recently about her George, and about the Vietnam War. My gentleman friend Gerry knew George, a fellow member of the Gilbert VFW. The two connected, a bond formed of common experience, the Vietnam War, and that each had been awarded a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts for wounds received. There is indeed a special brotherhood of those who were sent to the jungles and rice paddies, the rivers and seas half a world away.
As Diane and I talked, my memories were transported back to those days in the mid-1960s. When I first met and later would marry a young man from Eveleth who taught me the guitar at the Beddow Music store on Virginia’s Chestnut Street. When he was drafted into the Army in 1966 and went off to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, to become a soldier. And when he was sent to Vietnam in 1967 to serve as a radio operator with the 1st Infantry Division, known as the Big Red One. He would come home in 1968.
I have always been intensely proud of anybody who served in Vietnam, in a war that was decidedly unpopular. So many tales there are of those who came back home and never let anyone see them in uniform again. Only in the recent past have they received the praise due them -- for serving in a war which was doomed to fail thanks to the politics of President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Diane McComesky spoke at the gathering of Marines at her husband’s grave, saying, “He was a true American hero, a highly decorated Marine. He was very proud of his service, very proud of his accomplishments. He loved serving his country in the highest tradition. The Marine Corps is a brotherhood of the Few and the Proud. He kept in touch with his Marine Corps buddies and prayed daily for those that were lost in Vietnam during operations Deckhouse, Desoto, Firebreak, Prairie II and Beacon Hill. He deeply mourned them and never forgot them. One of our most emotional trips was to Washington D.C. to visit the Vietnam Wall. My heart broke for him.”
And for me it was indeed an honor to talk on the phone with Carl Henry Martin, a man with a delightful Southern accent, and dear friend of George. He told me that “George cared deeply for the men of his squad, those Marines around him, the Marine Corps and his home, America. He was a gung-ho Marine and espoused esprit de corps to all that knew him. It was my honor to have known George and served alongside him in combat in Vietnam.”