Posts Tagged ‘sacrafice’

Major Bill Smith USMC/RET., of San Clemente and a vetran of Iwo Jima and Guam, lends words of support and experience for Marine Corp recruits at the Denny\'s on Avenida Pico in San Clemente at their last civilian meal before entering boot camp on Monday evening.  Steven Villegas, 19, of Whittier(left, foreground) looks on. Every Monday at noontime the United States Marine Corp calls the Denny’s in San Clemente and asks to speak with Guillermo Santos.  Santos will answer simply and wait to hear the number; the number of plates to set for the weekly busload of Marine recruits on their way to the San Diego Marine Recruit Training Center that will be eating their last civilian meal for 13 weeks.


…Most of the time its 20 or 30 guys…sometimes its just 12 or 15…and in the summer it can be as many as 45…”

 Former Navy Radioman and Pearl Harbor survivor, Pete Limon, of San Juan Capistrano, shares his experiences during WW2 while waiting to address Marine Recruits at the Denny\'s on Avenida Pico for their last civilian meal on Monday evening.

Every week the recruits file in and every week Major Bill Smith USMC/Ret. is there ahead of time, in the same booth, with his friend, Pete Limon, Navy radioman and Pearl Harbor survivor.  They sit in the back, on the way to the bathrooms, passing the time talking about the old days and their investments. 


They don’t talk too much about the recruits during this time; they were recruits themselves once and their feelings are too intimate and common between the two men; anything to say has been said as they watch together, their own newer shadows stepping off a rented Marine Corp bus in the parking lot beside them.





 Tall, short, shaggy and trim, these young men, the new believers, disembark from the bus that will shortly deliver them to a tight jawed, stubborn, un-bending drill instructor.  This day there are 23 volunteers that file in for a choice of steak and shrimp, hamburger and fries, salad bar or pasta with marinara sauce.  They will taste for the last time Coca-Cola and eat without hurry and without a screaming Marine Corp Sergeant counting off the minutes they are allowed to consume their meal. 


Brad Napier, 18 of Lompoc and Johnny Carillo, 19, of Mission Viejo are Marine Corp recruits lining up for their last civilian meal at the Denny\'s on Avenida Pico in San Clemente on Monday evening.Heads bowed and with little to say, they lean into their plates, the first light of the reality that will be their lives for the next 4 years has begun to stretch across a landscape of food made by someone other than their mothers. Smith makes his way to them between the breakfast counter and the tall, thin wood grain laminate privacy partition.



A dress saber is exchanged for an aluminum walker, its creaks and squeals compete with silverware, plates, pans and spatulas in the kitchen.  The other diners sit a little stiffer and a little quieter as they watch Major Smith pass by; a Marine Major, retired, thin, grey and  wobbly but determined, still calls their attention and respect.  


Smith enters the cluster of booths, along with Limon, at the end of the restaurant and begins to speak.  Limon pulls a few photos and documents from an old folder and motions for them to be handed around among the recruits.  At first, most are more concerned about what is on their plates and talking to each other but then, slowly begin to pay attention and listen.  Smith’s words convey support and care for the brotherhood they will soon share when they are Marines in 3 months.  


Smith’s words are simple and to the point; he does not share anything about his time in Iwo Jima, Guam and Korea so many years ago.  The recruits that want to understand show it in their eyes and nodding heads.  The rest will know what it means at the end of 13 weeks.

 Guillermo Santos, of Denny\'s, prepares to seat Ramiro Alvarez, 21, of Downey, a Marine Corp recruit, for his last civilian meal at the Denny\'s on Avenida Pico in San Clemente on Monday evening.

Limon finishes “their routine” as he calls it with a few words of his own and as everyone in one shot could not hear them, they move to the other side of the booths to repeat it.  The recruits where I sit are a little quieter and more thoughtful; they have been handed another clue and see a little further into the unknown world they have joined. 



I move from one to another for their names, hometowns and ages for my photo captions.  Strangely familiar, they respond in similar voices of those “Victory at Sea” documentaries I watched as a kid.  Their names come, different and unknown, but their towns sound strong and close.  Lompoc, Santa Clarita, Whittier, Lakewood, Slymar.  These are California towns and cities and I am suddenly more involved than if they had said Pokipsie, Grosse Point, Saint George or Galvaston. 


     “Can I get your name?” I ask.

Sure,  it’s {Johnny Carrillo}” he says and spells it so I get it right with the two r’s in his last name.

“Mission Viejo” he responds after I ask him where he is from and then states his age as 19.

I ask him if he went to Mission Viejo High School and what year he graduated.

“I went to Capo Valley” he says and adds “I graduated last year”

“Why did you join the Marine Corp?” I asked.

He began to respond with something he thought better of and stopped, looking up at me from his finished plate of Steak and shrimp.  The shy, gangly grin he shared earlier with his new friends at the table turned instantly to the sure, solid and serious words of a soon to be Marine.

“For the experience, sir.”





















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Memorial Day 2004 at Fort Rosecrans Military Cemetery Point Loma In the late 1960’s and up until the mid 1970’s in Southern Orange county there was a heavy military, especially Marine, presence as a result of the US involvement in Vietnam.  It was not uncommon to find Marines woven into every aspect of our lives and as children growing up we were not lost on where these men had been or where they were going.  We saw them in military dress and as civilians, even though as civilians their distinctive haircuts and bearing set them apart. 

 A child’s world is much closer, immediate and in focus; it’s more visceral, although they don’t know what it means yet.  Perhaps it’s because children are that much closer to the ground or they don’t have that omnipresent crush of bills to pay, jobs and bosses to appease, spouses to please and even children to raise


On errands with my mother I saw them coming and going through the downtown bars and pawnshops, in line at the bus station, at church, at the barber and on the beach enjoying the ocean and the sand on our side of the Pacific one last time.  We saw them with their strange tattoos; snarling tigers, crossed swords, hissing snakes, Marine Corp emblems and naked girls in curvy poses. We saw the convoys of trucks and jeeps on the road up close as we passed in their inevitably long, slow moving line.  These were serious men with serious faces and a serious job to do.


I saw the Marine helicopters at recess from the blacktop of our school’s playground as 20 or 30 in a single flight, passed over on their way from ship to shore, cuddled and hovering within the valleys of their base just south of our elementary school.  Trips south to Vista, where my grandparents lived, we passed through the mid-section of the base and there again from the highway I watched as these men prepared for Vietnam; armored carriers, launched themselves seaborne from ships just off shore and made their may to the landing zone, crashing dramatically  through the surf.  Overhead, flying low and heavy came the fat, wide, drab colored helicopters lending care and support to the men maneuvering on the beach. 


Even at night from our beds, if we listened we could hear the dull throaty recoil of the Howitzers and the popping staccato trill of the heavy machine guns at the practice range.  As children we witnessed, heard and saw all of this and although it was common it did not fail to make an impression everyday.


The Vietnam War ended on my birthday, March 31, 1975; I turned 11 years old that day.  At least that was the official close of hostilities for the US Armed Forces.  The Republic of Vietnam held on for a little while, staggering and bending first on one knee, like a wounded water buffalo, and  then slowly giving up the other three.  We watched on TV, along with everyone else, the final moments of the fall of Saigon and the take over by the Communists from the North.  Fresh from the jungle, the mean Russian made tanks rolled through the tree lined streets of the capital.  We imagined the war was over now, even for us, but wars have a way of living on. 


Two weeks later in mid May, eight or so grey and white USMC bluebird school buses, just like the yellow ones we rode everyday, came rolling through the gates of our little elementary school.  From all that we had seen over the years we might have expected to see Marines in those buses but that was not the case.  There, through the windows and at each seat we could see, as the buses pulled up to the cafeteria and the school office, little black haired children, boys and girls of all sizes; they were not speaking English and they were nothing like us. 


The school faculty lined our classes up on the playground for an assembly and we stood and watched as group by group the new arrivals marched off the buses and onto the playground opposite us.  It was quite an impact to see them dressed as they would have been in school in Vietnam.  They wore white short sleeved shirts that were fine and delicate, almost like a blouse and they had the patch of their school over the left breast.  They wore black linen pants and black sandals that clacked and clattered on the blacktop, keeping pace and time with the Vietnamese they spoke. 


The teachers announced the new arrivals and welcomed them, assigning the appropriate ages to the classrooms that corresponded best for them.  I was impressed by the entire scene that day and even more so when I thought back to what I had seen on the TV only a few weeks before and knowing these new students had come out of it all and were here with us.


I am taller now and with the eyes of an adult I can see if it weren’t for those men that lived, fought and died, it might have been me on that bus, in some other country, far away from my home.


‘History does not entrust the care of freedom to the weak or timid.’ – Dwight D. Eisenhower 




NOTE: This photo was taken 4 years ago on Memorial Day at Fort Rosecrans National Military Cemetery Point Loma, Where my father is buried.

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