I took a low breath, checked my summer-service uniform for correctness, squared my shoulders, and took my initial stairs toward my cousin given final observant him over a year ago. The lid was open. we looked in during a Marine in dress blue uniform with a white cloth covering his forehead. It was my cousin. we uttered, “That’s Frank,” to a dual Marines station during any side of a flag-draped, china casket. They had accompanied him from a troops mortuary in Dover, Del. to a airfield during Philadelphia, Pa. to pass a sequence of control to me. They saluted as we approached. Having been briefed during Marine Barracks, Philadelphia on protocols and with my created orders retained in my left hand, we returned their salute, and they briskly over to lapse to their dreaded daily duties.
It was cold in Philly; however, only yesterday, it was Apr showers in California. The early morning sleet announced itself in incessant, repeated rat-a-tat-tat, rat-a-tat-tat, like a accost charge on a steel roof of a Quonset hovel used as an executive bureau by a Company Commander. That was me, Marine Captain Ralph Stoney Bates, USMC. we could hardly hear above a sound of a sleet when a phone rang. “Captain Bates” we announced into a receiver’s microphone.
“Captain Bates,” he paused, “Ralph,” a voice replied above a hubbub of a rainstorm, “Colonel Thompson here.” Instantly, we famous a voice, “Yes, approbation sir, colonel,” we responded.
“Ralph, we have orders here to be a physique escort, we need we to come to a G-1 this morning. You are vacating for Marine Barracks, Philly this evening.”
“Body escort? Me? What… Who.. .” The colonel pennyless in, “You know a Frank Kitchens?”
I shivered. My neck hair rose like a soppy hackle. Perhaps it was a rain, maybe not. Mentally, and now we flashed behind to a day during Parris Island, only over a year ago. My cousin had followed me into a Marine Corps and was graduating from foot camp. His cavalcade instructor had told me of this fact and that Frank was formulation to revisit me in my bureau right after his graduation march concluded. we was stunned. My God, Frank, we told we to keep your conduct down, we whispered to no one.
Frank was about 6-years-old when, with my grandmother, we final visited his family home in a country, circuitously Heflin, Ala. we entered a Marine Corps from circuitously Anniston, Ala. we still remember being in tip of one of their aged apple trees throwing these little, tart, immature apples during him, only harassing him for no good reason That eventuality was my final childish act as a 17-year-old kid.
When Frank entered my office, he was a spitting-image of a squared-away Marine! He stood high and proud. He was unfailing to be a rifleman in a infantry. He knew he was streamer for Vietnam and that hot, aroused war. It was 1969.
We talked about family, his life given we final saw him — a common things. Like me, he had a tough immature life, mostly alone, deserted by his father, with his mom also eventually leaving, remarrying, and settling in a new life in another state. Frank weathered poverty, as we had. He was taken-in by others, as we was, and, distinct me, he excelled in high propagandize in Birmingham, Ala. Following me into a Corps of Marines was his life-long ambition. Now, he had taken his initial stairs in a life he had dreamed of. He was a United States Marine.
I can’t remember how prolonged we talked until Frank forsaken this blockbuster conditions onto my shoulders. He told me about his girl. Her name was “Marcie,” They were childhood sweethearts. They wanted to get married. His doubt to me was — should they marry before he over for Vietnam or wait until he returned? we didn’t see it coming. we rattled off some motive for possibly preference and left it adult to him. we chickened out! “Do what we and Marsha wish to do, Frank.”
As a genuine Marine prepared to skip my office, we suggested that, if they did marry before Vietnam, to make certain they would devise to accommodate in Hawaii half-way by a Vietnam fight avocation in Vietnam. It was called RR. My final difference were, “Frank, in combat, keep your conduct down!” Frank finished battalion training, married his Marcie in Birmingham, and she accompanied him to Camp Pendleton as he finished pre-deployment fight training. She afterwards returned to her relatives in Birmingham.
I schooled that Frank was killed by gunfire, strike in a head, on Apr 17, 1970. The phone rang in my bureau 3 days later.
I took him home around Philly, Atlanta and Birmingham aboard Eastern Airlines. we met Marcia, or “Marcie” and her family, and stayed tighten to her for 3 days. She was a beautiful, immature Marine wife, who wanted, needed, and perceived assistance in observant goodbye to her whole world, her whole future. She was a spiritually vigourous immature lady who wanted to know how her father died, and why. we answered a first, and simply told her he died doing what he loved. we didn’t know what else to say.
We had prolonged conversations about her and Frank, their dreams and ambitions, all taken divided from them in a immature ruin half a universe away. As a time came to skip a wake home, for a church use before to burial, she asked to be alone to contend goodbye to her Frank, her Marine, and a dreams of her future. We buried Frank circuitously an aged apple tree in a tomb circuitously Birmingham. we returned to my universe and resumed my troops duties, a opposite Marine.
My mother and we perceived a minute from Marcie a few weeks after informing us of a fact that, when they were together in Hawaii, she became pregnant. Her minute ended, “Frank still lives within me.”
It was several months after when we perceived another minute from Marcie. “It’s a boy. Frank lives!” She wrote.
Last month was 50 years given Frank’s funeral. It has been 50 years given we final saw Marcie and Frank. And, given those days, each April, as Memorial Day approaches, we deposit behind to a days of a many difficult, nonetheless noted duties we ever had in my career as a United States Marine.
Memorial Day is dedicated to remember a hundreds of thousands of Franks who died in fight for this country. For me, this day is also for a many, many Marcias, who have been compulsory to collect adult cracked lives, desert dreams and ambitions of a future, and to pierce on in life — perpetually changed.
Major Ralph Stoney Bates, Sr. USMC (Ret) served 26 years as an active avocation Marine and 16 years as a law coercion officer. He is a Vietnam War maestro and lives in Mount Pleasant with his wife, Lyn. Together, they investigate and write of engaging characters in American history. He also volunteers during Patriots Point.