Good to hear from you. Imagine current events is a hot topic in your classroom. As you can imagine, your brother Marines at Camp Lejeune are biting at the bit to receive a mission in the first war of the 21st Century. It will come but not until around Thanksgiving/Christmas time from the tea leaves I'm reading. It will kill me to see them go leaving me back to guard my driveway!
Went to New York City on Friday, 26 September for a Memorial Service for my college roommate (Joe Zucalla) who was lost in the WTC. You should remember Joe coming to the house with Sal Lentene to pick me up for the drive to the University of Dayton. An extremely moving and profound day. Denny and I walked from Penn Station down 5th Avenue to 50th Street to get to St. Patrick's Cathedral. From the 'Missing Posters' handing everywhere to the letters from school children all over these Unites States, it was the most emotional 'hump' I was ever fortunate enough to participate in. The change in the people in the 'Big Apple' is simply amazing. Red, White, and Blue everywhere with everyone being courteous and polite, not knocking anyone down as they walk the Manhattan sidewalks - I had to keep looking around to assure myself I had not been transported to Dublin or Madrid! The cathedral was packed with fraternity brothers, the rather 'Familia de Zucalla', friends of Joe from all over the city and Long Island, and just good Americans who did not know Joe but wanted to show one of the many aggrieved families that they care.
After the funeral mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, about 20 of the fraternity brothers went to 'Callahan's Irish Pub and Grill' for a DGO wake. After two hours of liquid courage and intelligence, Denny, 4 other fraternity brothers and I went down to pay our respects at ground zero. One of my frat bros, Jerry Sampson, is a retired Nassau County Police Officer. He tried to use his badge to get us through the barriers but no joy. I then decided to use my only trump card. Broke out my retired military ID and went up to the cop and said, "I'm Colonel Williams of the USMC and my old friend who was a soldier died in there. I'd like to go in to pay my respects!" The cop read the ID Card and then snapped to attention, saying, "Semper Fi Sir!" Turns out he was in 1st Marines. The cop next to him turns and says, "Joe, I didn't know you were a Marine. I was a Marine too - in 2nd Tanks. Semper Fi!"
Joe then takes me over to his Watch Sergeant and tells him who I am while handing over the ID Card. The Watch Sergeant reads the card, looks at me and says, "Semper Fi - Sir". After shaking hands and finding out he was in 9th Marines in Viet Nam, he hollers over to a young cadet, "Hey rookie get over here. Take the Colonel and his men anywhere they want to go". After clearing the barricades and acknowledging the salutes of the National Guardsmen who have now figured out who/what is going down, the rookie looks at my US/USMC Flag lapel pin and asks me if I was a Marine. When I answer in the affirmative, he says, "Semper Fi - Sir". Turns out he was in 6th Comm Bn up until a year ago. As you can imagine, my normally over-inflated Marine ego was even more inflated given this most recent affirmation of the power of the Marine Corps Mafia and a simple phrase that means so much to a very special band of brothers.
To sum up this event, being at the WTC, with the smoke, acrid smell, and total devastation, and looking in the 1000 yard stares of the rescue workers who refuse to give up - all of this imparts a entirely new appreciation for human kind and a total revulsion for the damage that was done to our fellow citizens and country in the name of God. It also fills your eyes with tears and your heart with pride to see how the New Yorkers and so many other volunteers from all around the nation have joined together and refuse to be beaten. Finally, it makes you appreciate even more the true meaning of our beloved Corps - it is a family and the words "Once a Marine - Always a Marine" are as valid today as they were when first spoken.
My best to Kerry and the kids. Rest easy tonight John - your brother Marines are on the watch and ready as always to serve.
Love and "Semper Fidelis",