Khe Sanh survivor and Bravo Company Marine Ron Rees muses on history, the present, and coincidence.
More than a “Coincidence?” I will let the reader decide this. I have my own take on it, which came over me instantly; it needed no thought.
If you do not know me, I coach girl’s JV Basketball. My girls were to play their rivals on Friday, February 10th, 2012. It would be a huge game for us since we had beaten this team once by 3 points and lost the last game at their gym by 3. That set the stage for the game we played against them on the 10th of February, at which the winning team was to become the league champion. It was at home, in our gym, our crowd. For me as their coach, even more pressure. I was very nervous, I wanted the win as much as the girls did, and I didn’t want to let them down as a coach. I would have to do and say all the right things at the right time, etc.
A backdrop to the story: Before every game, during the flag ceremony, I personally (silently) thank all those Brave Marines from Bravo 1/26 who made the ULTIMATE SACRIFICE during the siege of Khe Sanh, 1968, and then thank and honor all others for their sacrifice at Khe Sanh and all previous wars. “Your sacrifice has allowed these kids here tonight to play this basketball game in a safe and secure country. Your sacrifices were not in vain. Thank you. Thanks to each of you for your sacrifices, and for allowing us the privilege of playing this basketball game. AMEN!”
Then it was Friday, February 10th, and the showdown time was in sight, the nerves were not any better. As I checked and double checked to make sure I had everything, I started out the door, and out of nowhere, something told me “it’s a special day,” and to go check my copy of Battalion of Kings (a tribute to our fallen brothers who died because of the Battlefield of Khe Sanh, Vietnam, written by Chaplain Ray Stubbe to whom we are indebted) and make a note to honor those who specifically died on this exact date 44 years ago. I have never done this before.
On page 186, there they were, six Brave Marines:
BROWN, SSGT WILLIAM LEO H&HS-1
CALVIN, SSGT GLENN HENRY E/2/26
D’ADAMO, MSGT JOHN JR VMGR-152 (DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS)
DEVIK, LCPL DANIEL RALF VMGR-152 (DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS)
PETERSON, COL CARL ELVING 1 MAW
WALBRIDGE, SSGT GEORGE WILCOX H&HS-1
After writing down their names, I decided to read a bit further. The first sentence that describes their doomed flight read (only in part, out of respect I will not recount details): At noon a silvery KC130-F of VMGR-152, #14981, call sign BASKETBALL-813….
My heart dropped to my feet. OMG, I was not ready for this at all. Call sign BASKETBALL! I was instantly blinded by my tears, the emotions overwhelming, at randomly going to this book to HONOR whoever it was who died on this same date 44 years ago, and then reading this first sentence.
To me, this absolutely was NO COINCIDENCE. A greater power than I set this up so these men could be a part of ONE MORE BASKETBALL GAME. Someone on that plane was a baller (basketball player). They had life one more time, 44 years later. A couple of my players played like they had never played before, even though I always tried to get them there.
I have wanted to share this story so badly, but on the 10th there was nobody to tell, and I could not tell the team, at least not yet. I will. It would have been too much in one night for them and some still had another game to play. I couldn’t tell the other coaches because they still had their game to coach. My wife was with our daughter at a hospital 5 hours away testing our granddaughter. But I felt that the story was certainly bigger than me and bigger than our game, even though we did win it. We were never behind in the game and won by 5pts.
No, the real story that needs to be told is for, and all about, SSGT BROWN, SSGTCALVIN, MSGT D’ADAMO, LCPL DEVIK, COLONEL PETERSON, and SSGT WALBRIDGE. They are the heroes for their sacrifices 44 years ago, and now, they are…you decide! I will tell you, they were at that game and I did silently recognize them at the start of the game, which was the only time I have ever specifically honored anyone outside of my father.
Ron Rees USMC
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