To all Marines, families, and friends:
I recently received an e-mail from a young boy asking "How
do you stay motivated? What keeps you going?" To that boy, and
to all of you that may have the same question, I am sending
you the link to a literary page on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Wall site. This page, a tribute to my brother John, was lovingly
created by my very good friend, Sandy Vinson. It contains a
very powerful letter to which all veterans can relate, written
to my then-baby brother, Bob, who I also lost to heaven. It
also pictures the "26th Marines" Zippo lighter that John sent
me as a birthday gift on the very night he went on patrol and
met his death in Quang Tri. It is perhaps my most valuable possession.
This Saturday, February 19th, John would have been 51 years
old. But to me, he will always be the 19-year-old Marine hero
that I will always honor and revere. It is to his memory, that
of my other brother Bob, and to all of our fallen heroes regardless
of service branch, that keeps me going. No other motivation
could possibly make me stronger.
Happy birthday, big brother. Thank you for your strength.
Our love goes to you and all of the heroes who stand guard beside
From the web link......
John (Tanney) enlisted in 1967 as he always felt it was
his duty to serve his country. He was a true patriot in every
sense of the word. While at Khe Sahn at the age of 18, John
wrote a letter to my baby brother Bob, who was only 7 months
old at the time. It was written just before the 26th Marines
launched their assault on Hill 881 North. The letter was only
to be opened in the event of John's death. John was wounded
by mortar fire at the siege of Khe Sahn in April of 1968, where
he received his first Purple Heart.
After his death in September, the letter was opened by my
parents. Our Congressman, Alexander Pirnie, read it and asked
permission to read it in a Congressional session, where it is
now a permanent part of the Congressional record. It was also
run on the front page of our newspaper, The Rome Sentinel, whereupon
the author Alex Haley ("Roots") called us and said that it touched
him deeply that such thoughts could come from the mind of such
a young boy. The letter and an article about John were again
run on the front page of the newspaper on Veteran's Day in 1984.
Here is the text of that letter exactly as he wrote it:
Dear Brother Bob,
I know that you won't be able to read this for awhile, but
I just felt a compulsion to write to you anyway. I'm waiting
to be picked up by helicopter with the rest of my buddies to
push on to Hills 861, 881, 881 North, and 689. My platoon is
spearheading the assault up Hill 881 North. The enemy has many
soldiers up top and they are dug in as well as we are at Khe
Sahn (a Viet Cong siege of U.S.Marines). It will be a hard and
bitter struggle, but as always, we Marines will take the objective.
You are little now and haven't the slightest idea of what
is going on in the world, but what we are doing here concerns
all. It is important for you to remember that we are fighting
for freedom for Viet Nam. The Bible says "I am my brother's
keeper". This is also true for our Viet Nam brothers.
Someday, when you come of age, you too will render your
services to your country. You do not have to join the Marine
Corps because I did. Just fulfill your duty - your privilege.
Yes, it is a privilege to fight for a noble cause. War is far,
far worse than hell.
Men are torn apart like a worn-out rag doll. War has a smell
to it. It is the smell of charred flesh. War has sounds. They
are the sounds of men dying. Bob - I hope that you will never
have to go to war. I hope that we can stop this thing from spreading.
I hope that the men of peace will sit down and discuss living
in peace - but, alas, I hope in vain.
I am nearly going crazy thinking about assaulting that hill.
But, I am a Marine and I shall not falter. I will be confident
in the Lord and in my training as a Marine. Bob - if anything
should happen, remember this: I am fighting for what I believe
in - you, Mom, Dad, Tom and Cindy. I am fighting for the right
to chose my own religion, make my own decisions, and to
be my own man. And yes, I am fighting for my flag. My country
means a lot to me and I am proud to fight for it. I know that
you will be, too.
You know, I am over 18 years older than you and I have spent
so little time with you. But, you are near to me not so much
in my mind as in my heart. I hope that your generation of people
will respect what we are doing here. I hope that they will understand
that we, too, love life. We have lost many friends and now it
is time for the enemy to lose some.
We are United States Marines. We are the best troops in
the world. We fight odds that are heavily against us - and win!
Our spirit is indomitable, our courage unexcelled, and our loyalty
I felt like writing to you. Perhaps it sounds foolish. Perhaps
it is. But you can never imagine what it is like - not
knowing if I'm coming back down that hill. I wanted you to
have something from me to you. I love you, Bob, but you are
too young to know it.
Someday you will know.
I will leave now - time is short.
Love to you,
[My brother Bob was killed tragically in 1993 at the age
of 26. I know that he is in good hands and under the protective
eye of the 26th Marines. Semper Fi, my brothers.......Love,
Despite the rhetoric, we have always had, and will continue
to always have, some remarkable young men and women within our
military services. No generation has been exempt. These are good
kids who give it their best. Some are over-achievers while others
are not. And just when you think you've got them pegged, they
do something to surprise you even more. Think of all the potential
that has been lost over the last two and a half centuries. Statistic
will bear out there have been many. Could one of the John Tanney's
of America have been the individual who found the cure for cancer,
figured out the energy solution, or wrote the great American novel?
We'll never know. I guess that's one of the great tragedies of