Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Another Brother Gone but Not Forgotten

Lately I have been spending a lot of time on Facebook. It has been, for the most part, a rewarding experience. It has enabled me to meet people from all over the world and has taught me much about the different people and cultures we share this globe with.

One of the men I have met is another salty old Marine named Daniel Pickens. This morning when I opened my inbox, I found this. Daniel wanted us to remember his friend and mentor, Craig Matlock, Specialist 5, Gunship Crew Chief, United States Army, so this is for him. Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.

Craig Matlock
15 June 1946 - 1 May 2008

Crew Chief
1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry
Alpha Troop
Republic of Vietnam

1966 - 1967
"Head Hunters"
(Vietnam's first reconnaissance squadron)

From Daniel:

Craig was the husband of my friend Lois and father of my friends Paul, Matt and Steven. You really had to know him to understand the kind of man he was. He always said what was on his mind and if he didn't like you, you knew about it right away.

Specialist five, Craig Matlock, was drafted, run through the training mill, and sent to Vietnam. There he discovered what it really meant to crew a gunship. At the age of twenty he learned what it was like to kill to survive, to appreciate the beauty of a gunship run, and to feel pride in a unit.

It took me a long time for him to speak to me about Vietnam. These are a few of his words....

"I don't talk much about the war because no one ever wants to hear about it. When I came back through San Francisco airport, I got spit on. I didn't know what was going on in the States. We read the 'Stars and Stripes' over there and it printed what they wanted us to read."

"I had been drafted. I didn't ask to go over to Vietnam, but I still got called a baby killer."

"Almost everybody there was eighteen to twenty years old. They did their jobs well. We were damned good at what we did. The American people should have been proud of us, instead of treating us the way they did."

"I remember that country. It was really pretty country from the air, but sometimes you would see the bomb craters where men had fought and died. Vietnam was the kind of place you always wanted to get the hell out of, and once you left, you always wanted to see it again. I have a great regard for the MIA's and POW's who are STILL over there."

"I don't have anything against the people of Vietnam, even the Viet Cong. They were doing what they thought was right, and we were doing what we were told."

"People ignored Vietnam veterans and insulted us and treated us really badly, but I believe we will have our day."-- Craig Matlock Awarded: 19 Oak Leaf Clusters, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart

I will always remember....

So will we...


Friday, December 11, 2009

Merry Christmas & Happy Chanukah to Those who Serve...

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight. My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.

The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear..
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know, Then the
sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.

Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

"What are you doing?" I asked without fear,
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..

To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
Then he sighed and he said "Its really all right,
I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night."
"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.

No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at 'Pearl on a day in December,"
Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers."
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of 'Nam',
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.

I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue... an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.

I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother...
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.."

" So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."
"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
"Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."

Semper Fidelis to ALL who serve...


Cross posted at deuddersun says...