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Documentary Film,Guest Blogs,Khe Sanh,Marines,Other Musings,Veterans,Vietnam War

January 16, 2016

On Navy Corpsmen

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Navy Corpsman

In today’s guest blog, BRAVO! Marine Michael E. O’Hara muses on Navy Corpsmen and Marines

The latter part of 2015 was not especially kind to me. I had a serious surgery in September and in November I suddenly fell ill once again and suffered a somewhat sustained period of time in the VA hospital, about 45 days all told. I am now home and greatly improved, Thank You very much. I mention that only because it reminded me of a time long ago and the special folks who endeared themselves to me.

Never, in our glorious past has any one group of individuals EVER earned the respect and the admiration of Marines across the globe than our FMF Navy Corpsmen, more commonly referred to as “Doc.” Most folks have no idea what these brave men have endured just to be called Doc. They train with the Marines, they deploy with the Marines, and they patrol with the Marines. They are as much a Marine as anyone can be without actually enlisting. Not a patrol goes through the wire without Doc.

Doc is everywhere. He was on the beach at Tarawa and on every island campaign in the Pacific. There was even a Doc who helped raise the flag on Iwo Jima. Doc was at the “Frozen Chosin” Reservoir when Chesty Puller’s men were withdrawing through that awful frozen (-30) tundra of North Korea. Doc not only tended to the wounded but was required to deal with many horrific amputations due to frostbite. Sometimes they had a real M.D. to help, but not very often.

Doc was in Lebanon in 1958 and again in 1983 when the Marine Barracks was attacked and over 200 Marines were lost. Doc is everywhere. Doc has been to all the little unknown conflicts most people have long since forgotten. Doc also went to a place that became known as “The Nam.”

2 January 1968. Bravo Company, 1/26 had been deployed Oct-Dec to 881 South. When we left the hill the day after Christmas, 1967, we ran a long operation up the Rao Quan River to the north. It was January when we got back and were assigned to the combat base. The NVA had broken a truce (SOOPRISE) and we were called back to the base. We sacked in with Alpha Company on the north side of the runway. By midnight, Danny Horton and I were delirious. We had not used our purification tablets which made our water non-potable, and as a result were really sick.

Michael E. O'Hara at Khe Sanh.

Michael E. O’Hara at Khe Sanh.

Our platoon sergeant, Staff Sergeant Gus Alvarado, was dispatched to tend to us and we were taken straight away to a tent. A firefight had just erupted with members of Lima Company close to the tent we were in. I was so sick I never moved from the table. Everyone else was on the ground. This was the beginning of my very first hospital stay, if that is what you would call it.

I think I was there 16 days, maybe. They finally said we had amoebic dysentery. It can kill you if not properly treated. But Doc was there. This tent was known as the BAS, Battalion Aid Station. It was a dark, sandbagged hole in the ground. I don’t remember much of the first ten days but I know Doc took wonderful care of me. Soon I was discharged from BAS and sent back to Bravo. I was very weak.

I would see or hear about Doc’s brave actions many more times during the Siege. You see, the reason Marines love Doc is because they know that if they take a bullet, if they lose a limb to a mortar round and call for Doc, he will come, just like he has always done. It makes no matter how heavy the volley, Doc will charge into the guns to tend to his wounded Marines. He has always done so and he continues to do so to this day. Make no mistake, Doc for sure is one of our most unsung Heroes.

Doc Cicala from our 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, is a fine example. Shot through one of his lungs and with grenade fragments to his groin, he still continued on the day of the 25 February ambush doing what he could to help guide others who were literally crawling back to the perimeter on their stomachs.

Second Platoon’s Doc Thomas Hoody, who spent many nights braving the incoming artillery patching up Marines, would visit me in the night twice during the month of March to check on my wounds.

I am sure the Docs in first platoon showed every bit as much raw courage and bravery as well. But one of the most searing moments of my tour came on 30 March when Doc and I met up close and very personal when our roles were reversed in the middle of one of the bloodiest damn firefights of the entire war.

Richard Blanchfield had served better than 6 years as a United States Marine. He got out, enlisted in the United States Navy and became a Doc. He was a replacement for the Third Platoon on 30 March. He had only been there a few days at the most. I didn’t even know him.

By the time I met him, the entire company was at “Fix Bayonets” and we were definitely engaging Charley. In fact, we were all in a virtual dead run to get these guys who had killed so many of our fellow Marines. Doc Blanchfield was well ahead of me. He had already tended to a wounded Marine and had just got up on the edge of a bomb crater when mortars simply rained down on him and the whole command group as well.

When I reached the edge of the crater, he was about halfway down and sliding in the loose dirt. There were two dead Marines and numerous dead NVA in the crater. Those two Marines certainly earned their pay that day. Doc had, by this time, stuck 2 morphine needles in his own leg. His arm was nearly blown off at the shoulder. At first I was in as much shock as he was, but I regained my composure and began to tie him off. After slowing down the bleeding, I tied two battle dressings together and wrapped him all around so he at least wouldn’t do any more damage to what was left of his arm. I thought he would die.

The battle was still in full assault so I laid him back and comforted him as well as I could and left him. I have not seen him since but he did survive and miraculously his arm was saved.

Michael E. O'Hara

Michael E. O’Hara

After getting involved with the Khe Sanh Veterans in 1992 I found out Doc Blanchfield was living in Oceanside, California. We talk once a year on the phone. He has never failed to send me a card for each and every holiday since that first call. I still have not seen him. He was very pained by what happened to him and I understand. He did say Thank You that first call.

Like I said earlier, I was in the hospital over this past Veterans Day holiday. Most folks understand that 10 November is the Marine Corps Birthday, so we were also celebrating 240 years of glorious history. That is a very long time for sure, a time in which we have come to celebrate the lives and courageous acts of many from our ranks. I could write pages, even a book or two recounting all of our Heroes for sure.

A wheelchair-bound Marine (a volunteer) was my only visitor on this Marine Corps Birthday. He had lost both legs in Vietnam. We had a grand conversation. He brought me candy, S/F.

I have read a great deal about the wars of the last ten years and the men who have gone in my stead now that I am old and grey. Don’t ever let anyone tell you this generation is lost. I am just as proud of our young Marines today as I ever have been.

And never forget this: Wherever you find these Marines, you will find Doc, ready, willing and able to charge into the guns if necessary. He will, as he has always done, come when he hears the word Doc.

Semper Fidelis to our Navy Corpsmen everywhere you serve.

Michael E. O’Hara served with 2nd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines at Khe Sanh during 1967 and 1968. He earned three Purple Hearts.

If you or your organization would like to host a screening of BRAVO! in your town this winter, spring or summer, please contact us immediately.

DVDs of BRAVO! are available. Please consider gifting copies to a veteran, a history buff, a library, a friend or family member. For more information, go to

BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please “like” us and “share” the page at

America's Middle East Conflicts,Book Reviews,Documentary Film,Eulogies,Film Festivals,Film Reviews,Other Musings

December 3, 2015

November Remembered

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Ken and I often ponder the life of BRAVO! and marvel at its journey. This November, for example.

The Veteran Services Office and Omega Sigma Delta hosted Boise State University’s 2nd annual Veterans Week. The festivities included featuring a different branch of the Armed Forces each day. Appropriately, Tuesday November 10—the Marine Corps’ 240th birthday—was Marine Corps Day.

There was a student veteran’s art exhibit, flags on The Quad, and ribbons on a memory tree. There was faculty and staff education on PTSD and TBI. There were legal clinics, and an impressive all-day conference about understanding veterans’ issues. Featured experts were Dr. Larry Dewey (author of War and Redemption) and Dr. Brian Meyer from the HH McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, VA.

The Idaho National Guard Band at the BSU Veterans Day Festivities. Photo courtesy of Lori Sprague

The Idaho National Guard Band at the BSU Veterans Day Festivities. Photo courtesy of Lori Sprague

Wednesday was the first-rate Veterans Day Celebration in Boise State’s beautiful Stueckle Sky Center. Attending with a great variety of veterans, professors, students, musicians, and other citizens, we enjoyed a tasty buffet, moving words from honored guest speakers Travis Hayes (President of Omega Delta Sigma) and Mischa Brady (Post Commander at VFW Capitol City Post 63), and live music by the Gowen Field Army National Guard. The program concluded with songs by the Garfield Elementary Choir. Their earnest and accomplished singing brought a tear to the eye.

Later that evening, BRAVO! was shown to an appreciative audience at the Student Union Building, followed by an exemplary guest panel of veterans, moderated by Sheldie Stetz. On the panel, Vietnam veteran Col. (Ret) Delbert Provant was joined by present-day war veterans Mischa Brady, Amanda Carling, Matt Thorusen, and Brandon Woodard. Their responses to questions were thoughtful, honest, and wise, garnering tremendous respect from the audience.

To have BRAVO! included in such a week at an American university reminds us once again that the job of our film is to educate. We look forward to many more similar events. It was an honor to be included on the planning committee with Lori Sprague, Dr. Chris Wuthrich, Travis Hayes, Mark Heilman, Norma Jaeger, Josh Bode, Corinna Provant-Robishaw, and John McGuire.

The panel for the screening of BRAVO! @ Boise State on Veterans Day. L to R: Sheldie Stetz, Mischa Brady, Amanda Carling, Matt Thorusen, Colonel Delbert Provant, Brandon Woodard. Photo courtesy of Betty Rodgers

The panel for the screening of BRAVO! @ Boise State on Veterans Day. L to R: Sheldie Stetz, Mischa Brady, Amanda Carling, Matt Thorusen, Colonel Delbert Provant, Brandon Woodard. Photo courtesy of Betty Rodgers

* * *
Speaking of honors, we were thrilled to have BRAVO! featured at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA, on November 21. The screening was scheduled in conjunction with The Wall That Heals. According to organizer Ron Reyes, there was a packed house for the film. Here are excerpts from his report:

“We had VFW, DAV, American Legion, and a lot of representation from different branches.

“…I went into why this is an important film with a rare glimpse of how Marines speak to each other.

“(In addition to the seating) there was a large area to stand and I know we had several people standing. I stepped out and watched the film and the crowd from the terrace above…This was a great viewing area for me, and allowed me to have a beer in honor of dad, and reflect.

“They had a stage and a podium set up with a mic stand on either side…I took a hand mic, and gave one to my son so he could run from person to person. That turned out to be a good bonding moment for me and my son.

“March 30, 1968, Payback Patrol was a significant day for our family, as that was the day my father was killed not too far away… Being a Gold Star Son always catches people off guard, and usually opens someone up to tell their story…The thought was to talk a little to get the session going, and…(then) Vietnam Vets spoke. It was very important for each vet to be able to connect, to be heard. It didn’t matter if they drove a general or loaded bombs or fought like hell. It all mattered.

“The event was a success and everyone involved was happy for the turnout.”

Ron’s father, PFC Ronald Reyes who served with 1st battalion/9th Marines, died at the Khe Sanh Combat Base in 1968 just two weeks after he learned he had a son. Ron said his father risked enemy fire while running from bunker to bunker passing out cigarettes in celebration. In just three days, Ron will leave for Vietnam with a group of other Gold Star Sons and Daughters to hopefully stand near the spot where his father gave his life.

Photo of part of the audience at the screening of BRAVO! at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Photo courtesy of Ron Reyes.

Photo of part of the audience at the screening of BRAVO! at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Photo courtesy of Ron Reyes.

And so our journey goes: Meeting heroes of every modern conflict, the people who care about them, and Gold Star Sons and Daughters. It is a great honor and a privilege.

If you or your organization would like to host a screening of BRAVO! in your town this winter, spring or summer, please contact us immediately.

DVDs of BRAVO! are available. Please consider gifting copies to a veteran, a history buff, a library, a friend or family member. They make great Christmas gifts. For more information, go to

BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please “like” us and “share” the page at

Documentary Film,Film Screenings,Khe Sanh,Marines,Vietnam War

November 5, 2014

Notes on California

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Last Saturday morning, November 1, 2015, BRAVO! was screened to a standing-room-only audience at the Veterans Association of North County in Oceanside, California. An attentive and enthusiastic crowd of folks both young and old joined us for the event, augmented by cookies and coffee supplied by American Legion Post 146 Women’s Auxiliary.

Thanks to Mike Knudson for dreaming this event and then following the dream to fruition. Donations collected at the door will help the Veterans Association of North County finish refurbishing their impressive facility, a place where thirty-seven veterans’ organizations are housed. We also want to thank Chuck Atkinson and the other folks who run the location for all their support in helping with the screening.

Skipper Ken Pipes addressing the audience at the Oceanside screening. © Betty Rodgers 2014

Skipper Ken Pipes addressing the audience at the Oceanside screening.
© Betty Rodgers 2014

Attending with the Rodgers were Bravo’s Lieutenant Colonel and Mrs. Ken Pipes. When the film was over, Skipper Pipes gave a stirring speech recognizing the sacrifices that veterans of war make. He acknowledged a number of attendees who served with us at Khe Sanh and a number of attendees who worked with Skipper Pipes during his tenure as a reserve officer with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. Helping to make Ken and Sharon Pipes’ day even more memorable, their son, Tim, daughter-in-law, Sandra, and grandson, Connor, also attended. Connor presented his grandmother with a beautiful bouquet of birthday roses, and was later called upon to assist with the raffle drawings.

We are always moved by the heartfelt responses to our film, and this occasion was no different. For example, one young woman approached us and stated that viewing BRAVO! changed her life.

Skipper Ken Pipes at the Oceanside screening. © Betty Rodgers 2014

Skipper Ken Pipes at the Oceanside screening.
© Betty Rodgers 2014

Prior to the Oceanside event, Ken Pipes, Betty and I were interviewed by San Diego’s ABC TV Channel 10 correspondent Bob Lawrence about the Siege of Khe Sanh and the making of BRAVO! You can watch the news clip that was broadcast on Channel 10 on October 31, 2014 here.

Later that evening, the Pipes and Rodgers contingent went to San Diego and attended the White Knights’ Squadron, VMM-165’s (VMM stands for Marine Medium Tiltrotor—V22 Osprey aircraft) Marine Corps Birthday Ball celebrating the 239th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. Lieutenant Colonel and Mrs. Pipes were the guests of honor and once again, the Skipper delivered a stirring keynote speech and received a rousing standing ovation from those several hundred Marines uniformed in their colorful dress blues.

Dress blues at VMM-165's ball celebrating the 239th Marine Corps Birthday. © Betty Rodgers 2014

Dress blues at VMM-165’s ball celebrating the 239th Marine Corps Birthday.
© Betty Rodgers 2014

If you would like to host a screening of BRAVO! in your town this winter or spring, please contact us immediately.

DVDs of BRAVO! are available. For more information, go to

BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please “like” us and “share” the page at It’s another way to stay up on our news and help raise more public awareness.

Documentary Film,Film Screenings,Khe Sanh,Marines,Vietnam War

October 29, 2014

On Oceanside, Newport Beach, the Marine Corps Birthday and Veterans Day

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Last Wednesday night BRAVO! was screened to an enthusiastic crowd at the Meridian Library District, Meridian, Idaho.
As the event began a brisk wind snapped the American flag on its pole outside the library building. Warm gusts sluiced across the surface of the parking lot, tumbling orange, gold and russet leaves that announced the abrupt arrival of autumn.
The weather hinted at what winter will deliver here in Idaho between now and April, but the mood of those folks gathered inside the library was one of much anticipation for the screening of the film.

BRAVO! was well received by the audience and we wish to thank all the folks who attended. Many thanks, too, to the Meridian Library District and to Mr. Greg Likens of the library who put the event together.

Ken Rodgers introduces BRAVO! to the Meridian, Idaho attendees. © Betty Rodgers 2014

Ken Rodgers introduces BRAVO! to the Meridian, Idaho attendees.
© Betty Rodgers 2014

This time of the year brings Halloween and Thanksgiving and sandwiched in between that, the Marine Corps’ 239th Birthday on November 10, 2014, and on the day following we honor America’s warriors with Veterans Day. The Marine Corps has a new commandant, General Joseph Dunford (you can find out more about Commandant Dunford at,_Jr.) who will soon deliver his first annual Marine Corps birthday message to Marines of all eras. In tune with the season of military memory and honors, it seems to be the season of film screenings for BRAVO!.

Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Joseph Dunford Photo courtesy of Department of Defense

Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Joseph Dunford
Photo courtesy of Department of Defense

Besides the just-completed event in Meridian, BRAVO! will be shown as follows:

On November 1, 2014, at 10:00 AM at the Veterans Association of North County, 1617 Mission Avenue, Oceanside, California. Donations will be accepted at the door to benefit the Association’s building fund. You can find out more about the Veterans Association of North County at Doors open at 9:00 AM. Reservations are requested for this screening. Please RSVP by emailing or calling 208-340-8889.

The San Diego Union-Tribune wrote a fine article earlier this week about the screening in Oceanside. You can read the article at–khe-sanh-rodger/.

At 5:30 PM on November 11, 2014, BRAVO! will be screened at the Meadowwood Technology Campus, E. Mission Avenue in Liberty Lake, Washington as part of a ceremony honoring Bravo Navy Corpsman Greg Vercruysse who was killed in action when Bravo Company 1/26 was ambushed off of Hill 881 South on June 7, 1967. You can find out more about Greg at More details about the Liberty Lake screening can be found at

Gregory Vercrussye Photo courtesy of Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Gregory Vercrussye
Photo courtesy of Vietnam Veterans Memorial

On November 15, 2015, BRAVO! will be screened at American Legion Post 291, Newport Beach, CA, 215 15th Street, Newport Beach, CA. Screening begins at 10:00 AM on November 15, 2014. Proceeds go to benefit the Fisher House of Southern California. You can find out about American Legion Post 291 at their website:

The Fisher House of Southern California is a non-profit organization that offers shelter and support to military families in times of medical crisis. You can find out more about The Fisher House of Southern California at

Please attend one of these events in your area and please be sure invite your friends.

If you would like to host a screening of BRAVO! in your town this winter or spring, please contact us immediately.

DVDs of BRAVO! are available. For more information, go to

BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please “like” us and “share” the page at It’s another way to stay up on our news and help us reach more people.

Documentary Film,Film Screenings,Khe Sanh,Marines,Vietnam War

June 4, 2014

BRAVO!’s Michael E. O’Hara Delivers a Stirring Speech; News on Upcoming Screenings

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BRAVO! Marine Michael E. O’Hara was the guest speaker at the Brown County, Indiana, Memorial Day celebration hosted by Veterans of Foreign War Post 6195. The event was held on the courthouse lawn and Brown County’s fallen veterans of war were honored. Michael O’Hara is an articulate and passionate man who, when he sets out to do something, does it with an eye to perfection. His speech is moving and memorable and does us all proud. You can read Michael’s speech here:

Michael E. O'Hara during his interview for Bravo!

Michael E. O’Hara during his interview for Bravo!

On a separate note, as we move into the summer season, BRAVO! COMMON MEN, UNCOMMON VALOR will be screened in a number of places. Here’s what we can tell you about future showings right now. We hope you will join us or send an interested friend or relative.

• Springfield, IL – The Staab Family of Springfield presents BRAVO! COMMON MEN, UNCOMMON VALOR on June 13, 2014, 7:30 PM, at the Hoogland Center for the Arts located at:

420 South Sixth Street, Springfield, Illinois.

The film’s producers, along with several of the men featured in the film, will take part in a Q & A session immediately following the screening. Never before have so many of BRAVO!’s stars attended any one screening. You will meet Cal Bright, John Cicala, Ben Long, Michael E. O’Hara, Betty Rodgers, Ken Rodgers and Tom Quigley. Springfield is Tom Quigley’s hometown. Also in attendance will be the film’s Associate Producer, Carol Caldwell-Ewart.

This is a free event, but donations will be gratefully accepted for a proposed Purple Heart Memorial at Oak Ridge Cemetery.

Here’s a link to the radio ad about this event. You will hear the voices of Dan Horton, Steve Wiese and Michael E. O’Hara. Staab Family IN HONOR WEEKEND 060414

Michael O'Hara in Vietnam

Michael O’Hara in Vietnam

• Chicago, IL – Union League American Legion Post 758 presents BRAVO! on July 24, 2014 at the Union League Club of Chicago.
More details to follow.

• Southern California – We are screening the film in Southern California around The Marine Corps Birthday and Veteran’s Day. Specific times, dates and locations to follow.

• If you would like to host a screening in your town this summer or fall, please contact us immediately.
DVDs of BRAVO! are available. For more information go to

BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please “like” us and “share” the page at It’s another way you can help spread the word about the film and what it is really like to fight in a war.

Documentary Film,Film Screenings,Khe Sanh,Other Musings,Vietnam War

November 10, 2013

On Semper Fi and Mo & Sluggo’s

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Happy 238th Birthday of the United States Marine Corps

Today, on our way to tomorrow’s screening at Western Nevada College, we celebrated at Mo and Sluggo’s in Carson City, Nevada, which included a lot of OORAHS, the traditional cake-cutting ceremony with the oldest and youngest Marines, and the birthday cake. Events like this took place all around the world, from the very formal with pomp and circumstance, to the rowdiest and noisiest jam-packed tavern. To all Marines everywhere, Semper Fi!

Sign for Mo & Sluggo's Bar and Grill, Carson City, Nevada. Photo courtesy of Betty Rodgers

And OORAH to friend and Marine Terry Hubert for joining us, and for initiating tomorrow’s screening .

In BRAVO! news, we are very proud to announce that Idaho Public Television chose to commemorate this date and Veterans Day by featuring interviews with Steve Wiese, and Ken & Betty Rodgers on Marcia Franklin’s program, Dialogue. Working with Marcia was especially rewarding because of her preparation, insightful questions, and knowledge.

The youngest and oldest Marines cutting the cake at the 238th Marine Corps Birthday celebration at Mo & Sluggo's. Photo courtesy of Betty Rodgers

We invite you to listen in at the following Dialogue links, the first about the Khe Sanh experience, and the second about making the film. The YouTube links may be more reliable for some viewers. We invite you to take a look:

On IdahoPTV:
On YouTube:

On IdahoPTV:
On YouTube:

Also, if you’d like to follow BRAVO! news on Facebook, here is the link:

Khe Sanh,Marines,Other Musings,Vietnam War

November 10, 2012

On Tun Tavern, November 10th and Dan Horton

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Today is the 237th birthday of the United States Marine Corps which had its beginning at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s Tun Tavern, a meeting place of some importance in 18th Century American history. Benjamin Franklin recruited militia there in the 1750s to fight Native American uprisings. Future presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson held meetings at the tavern, as did the Continental Congress.

On past birthdays, I have celebrated in local pubs, at formal dinners and elegant luncheons, but I spent the 192nd birthday on Hill 881, west of the Khe Sanh Combat Base. Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines garrisoned the hill from mid-October of 1967 until the day after Christmas of that year.

On November 10, 1967, I am sure there was some kind of celebration up on the hill to take note of this important date to all Marines, but I do not recall what it was. Some of the Bravo Marines and Corpsmen who are still alive might be able to remember such a celebration.

On November 10th, 1967, Third Platoon, Bravo Company went out on a patrol at 06:50 hours and returned about 11:00 hours. Second Platoon sent out an LP and an ambush that night. I am sure First and Third Platoons did likewise.

Most of what I recall about mid-November of 1967 was rain and mist and cold. Official records kept by the 26th Marines say that the rainfall for the month of November was about four inches, but in my memory it rained all the time up there on Hill 881, and we patrolled in the drip and the sop and the mud. We worked in the mud and we slept in dripping hooches and sometimes out on the ground with leeches crawling into our noses. We went on ambushes and listening posts and long patrols through creeks and rivers and marshes over the ridges to the west, towards the Laotian border. We stood watch in wet mist that hung so close you couldn’t see ten feet. Oftentimes all night, all personnel manned the trenches as red alerts kept us up watching for the NVA to come hurling through the foggy dark onto our concertina wire barriers and into our positions.

It was wet, it was boring, it was ham and lima beans, beans and franks, chicken noodle soup, day in, night out. If there was a cake cutting on November 10, which is traditional on the Marine Corps Birthday, I don’t remember it on our hill, in our outfit.

I remember wet and work and little sleep and undermanned squads sick near to death of the routine. The only things to spice life up were the occasional sniper rounds snapping past your head as you filled sandbags or dug your trenches deeper, or the recon outfits that landed on the hill and departed the hill’s gates for more dangerous territory.

And what really interests me now, in 2012, is how tough we thought all that was…the mud, the rain, the damp, the leeches, the long patrols, the all-night red alerts in a blinding fog. And it was tough. But we didn’t know what tough was, compared to what would happen to us beginning on January 21, 1968. But that is a different subject, for a different time.

One of the men who served with me in Third Squad, Second Platoon, Bravo Company on November 10, 1967, was Dan Horton, a tough Detroit kid who we all wrangled and fought with, but whom we all loved. And could he sing. He used to sing tune after tune on those cold wet nights and we thought we had BJ Thomas right there in our leaky-roofed hooch. Dan used to yell all the time because he wasn’t getting treated fairly, and sometimes he’d go to fists with other Marines over it, but when the real fighting started the following January, he was there, covering your back and your flanks, his weapon locked and loaded. And he was there, too, fighting the leeches and the rain and the cold mists of 881.

Dan was one of the fifteen Marines and Corpsmen of Bravo Company featured in the film, BRAVO! COMMON MEN, UNCOMMON VALOR.

Unfortunately, for those of us who loved and revered him, for those of us who still survive from that 1967 Marine Corps Birthday, Dan left us to go to another universe, another Tun Tavern. And fittingly, if he needed to leave, he left us on the Corps’ 235th Birthday, November 10, 2010. Sempr Fi, Marines. Semper Fi, Dan Horton.

Guest Blogs,Khe Sanh,Marines,Other Musings,Vietnam War

November 5, 2012

Happy Birthday

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BRAVO! Marine Michael E. O’Hara muses on tradition, the Marine Corps Birthday and one of the men of Bravo Company with whom he served.

Soon it will be 10 November, the birthday of the United States Marine Corps. Marines take this event very seriously holding “Birthday Balls” all over the world at Naval Bases, MCB’s, on board ships and our foreign embassies (provided they are there in the first place). Retired Marines hold small ceremonies as well in their local VFW halls and Marine Corps League facilities. The oldest and youngest Marines are honored and a cake cutting ceremony is usually held. If feasible the cake is cut with the traditional Mameluke Sword, which was presented to Lt. Presley O’Bannon in 1805 by Hamet Bey the rightful ruler of Tripoli when we were trying to subdue the Barbary Pirates during Thomas Jefferson’s administration. (He eventually paid the pirates ransom and sent Hamet packing. Some things never change.) Even in the Mayor’s office in Indianapolis there will be a cake cutting ceremony. Mayor Ballard is himself a retired Marine Officer.

It is a very special day for me as well. Being so close to Veterans Day, it always invokes past memories of “My Marines.” Those brave and courageous young men who I was so privileged to have known. I want to tell you all about just one. He isn’t technically a Marine. He is a USN Hospitalman, what we call “Corpsmen.” Marines revere their Navy Corpsmen. They train with Marines, they go into battle with Marines, armed only with their medical gear to treat the wounded and the dying. Many times over the history of our Corps they performed valiantly, many times giving their own lives trying to save Marines. They are a rare breed in and of themselves. I want to tell you about just one, Richard Blanchfield, USN.

I never really knew Dick. He was a new replacement for our third platoon, I believe, which had been decimated in late February. It was now March 30, 1968. We were in a pitched battle with the NVA. Many folks were getting banged up pretty bad. We were still in the advance when I came upon Doc. I found him at the bottom of a 500-lb bomb crater. He had been tending to two other Marines who were, by this time, deceased. He had taken a near direct hit from an 82mm Chi-Com mortar. When I got down to him his arm was nearly torn from his torso. He had already stuck two morphine needles into his leg and didn’t know or care about much. All I could do was tie two battle dressings together and compress his arm against his torso and try desperately to stop his bleeding.

But we were still in the advance stages and it was time to move on. Others would have to tend to him later, although I thought sure he would not survive his wounds. But he did. We made contact via the telephone in 1993 and that has been the only contact I have had with him since. Except. Every year since 1993 I have received a birthday card from Dick celebrating the birth of the Corps. He is as proud of being called a Marine as I am of being called his friend. These are the bonds that tie men together on the fields of war. They can never be broken, not even by death itself.

Semper Fidelis, Dick Blanchfield, and a Happy Birthday to you as well.