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April 30, 2018

Requiem for the Skipper

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On Thursday, April 26, 2018, the men of BRAVO! lost their Skipper, Lt. Colonel Kenneth Pipes, USMC Retired.

I had talked to him the day before. We laughed, reminisced, talked about other vets, the kind of conversations we always had.

He didn’t say to me that he thought the end was near, nor did he complain about the many ailments that tormented him. He was stout and incisive and funny.

Kenneth Pipes

If I wasn’t so slow-witted I might have picked up some hints that he sent me, but I didn’t get them right away. They eased their way back into my recall as I sat there the rest of the day and on into Thursday. Our last conversation was a moment where the ties that bound us became much more apparent than I’d ever noticed. How deep and wide and long and thick the bonds were.

As I sat there thinking of him and how intimate our conversation had been, how what we said to each other bore into the inner shields I have managed to keep in tact for over fifty years; it sunk in that he was telling me that he was moving on.

And just as I finally got it, we got news that he had passed on and the rest of us who are left behind to grieve his leaving won’t have that rock-steady, low key, humorous leadership and advice that had become so much a part of our lives.

Ken Pipes at Khe Sanh.

The Skipper was a career Marine. As the saying goes, “A Marine’s Marine,” but he was also a fiercely loyal, compassionate, intuitive man who could dig right into what might be bothering you and help you expose it to the light of reason.

He commanded a company of Marines throughout the Siege of Khe Sanh. Under his command the company gained fame—if somewhat belated—but the casualties that ensued in that horrible and ugly 77-day battle rode him. And the load was heavy.

Besides a career in the Corps, Skipper Pipes was a longtime volunteer with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department and retired recently at the rank of Captain. As a mark of his standing with the SDSO, there were only two volunteer captains—a sign of the Skipper’s abilities as a leader of women and men—when he retired.

Skipper Pipes at the 2010 Khe Sanh Veterans Reunion in San Antonio, Texas. Photo courtesy of Betty Rodgers.

In that final phone conversation between us, he spoke about his wife, Sharon and their family. He spoke about his fifty-plus years of marriage and how much Sharon meant to him and how she had helped him carry his burden. It was all there in that last conversation, his final goodbye.

I could write for pages and pages about my relationship with this man, but this is not the time for that. It’s the time for those of us who knew him and loved him to hole up and let the pain rack us until we can move on while never forgetting how fortunate we were to have known and served with Kenneth W. Pipes.

Semper Fi, Skipper.

  1. Once again a beautiful tribute, Ken – my deepest sympathy – Mimi

    Comment by Mimi — April 30, 2018 @ 11:28 am
  2. Thank you, Mimi.

    Comment by admin — May 24, 2018 @ 8:53 am
  3. I last talked to the Skipper on March 30th, as you know our special day. he was not only my leader in Viet Nam, but also my leader in life. When I was having trouble with the VA for my c&p’s, he kept telling me to never give up, and he also would call and check up on me going through my 4 times with cancer. He was always there giving me encouragement, and keep fighting the good fight. I will miss him very much, but I know he is up there telling us all to keep fighting the good fight, and will see us all again someday. The Quig

    Comment by Tom Quigley — May 1, 2018 @ 8:28 am
  4. Semper Fi, Marine. We will all miss him!

    Comment by admin — May 24, 2018 @ 8:53 am
  5. The Colonel was Awsome as I had an opportunity to talk tp him and discuss veter to veteran on a wide variety of different subject. He will be missed at our meeting American Combat Veteran of War.

    Semper fi

    Comment by Ismael-Jerry MAGALLANES — May 17, 2018 @ 8:46 pm
  6. Thank you, sir, for your kind words about Ken Pipes.

    Comment by admin — May 24, 2018 @ 8:52 am

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