Marines.Together We Served

Monday, December 25, 2006

My "I Love Me" Wall

As this year comes to an end, I thought I would share with you some of those personal items that are important to me. They wouldn’t necessarily mean anything to someone else, but it’s the story behind each one that brings back a flood of memories.

Last week a friend stopped by the church office to visit me unannounced. Wes is a retired Marine colonel. We had served together a number of years ago down at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in Southern California. We haven’t been in touch since his retirement several years ago. Last October, while I was assisting my wife’s company with their annual golf tournament (not exactly a hardship!), I received a call on my cell phone. It was Wes. He informed me that he was in Ripon. In fact, he was visiting a friend at City Hall where he saw my picture on the Military Wall. After stating that he knew me, he asked if anyone had my phone number. Thus we renewed contact.

So last week Wes was traveling back to Ripon on business. Sitting in my office he commented on my “I Love Me” Wall. For the uninitiated, an “I Love Me” Wall is an unofficial military term. This wall consists of various items of importance that a military person has acquired during their time of service. Typically, for instance, when you complete a tour of duty with one command, you receive a plaque with the command logo, your name, and the dates served with that command, and any other bits of info that identify you. Pictures, promotion documents, coins, and a host of other items now festoon the wall of many service members today. The focus is on the individual. It tells of where they have been and what they have done. Thus, it is referred to as the “I Love Me” Wall.

Allow me to share with you some of the items on my wall.

There are four pictures that stand out for me. The first picture is of my brother, John, and me in 1970 at Camp Pendleton. He is in his Marine green flight suit, and I am in my Marine sateens (solid green dungaree material). The second photo shows me shaking hands with President Ronald Reagan in the Radisson Miyako Hotel during the 1986 Economic Summit in Tokyo, Japan. The third photo is of the flag-raising on Mount Suribachi. No, I was not there in 1945! But, for any Marine to have such a picture is practically iconic. What sets this picture apart is that I met the man who took this photo – a photo that is considered to be the most recognized photo in the world. Joe Rosenthal was a civilian reporter with the Marines when they stormed the beaches of Iwo Jima February 19, 1945. Joe passed away a few months back. In 1999 it was my pleasure to meet Joe at the Marine Corps Combat Correspondence Association, Joe Rosenthal Chapter’s monthly luncheon held in Alameda. Knowing that he would only sign pictures that were printed from the original negative – and he owned the negative – makes this picture that much more special. The fourth picture is when Brigadier General Mastin Robeson presented me with the Defense Meritorious Service Medal in Djibouti, Africa in 2003.

Other items: 1) a 3 foot Christian cross that was made for me with rebar (unfinished steel bars) by a Navy Seabee in Kuwait, 2003, 2) a Vietnam era helmet like the one I wore there, 3) various military coins I have received over the years. The first one was given to me by the commanding officer of squadron HMM-364, the “Purple Foxes,” Camp Pendleton, 4) an honorary Religious Program Specialist plaque from the RPs at Naval Station Rota, Spain, 1992, 5) four small jars that contain the following: sand from Omaha Beach; sand from Utah Beach; sand from the beach at Iwo Jima; and a portion of a stick from a tree at Belleau Wood, France. For an explanation of the first two, ask a soldier. For an explanation of the last two, ask a Marine, 6) my step father’s honorable discharge from the Marine Corps at the end of World War II, and 7) a picture of my wife and me at the 208th Marine Corps Ball. This was my last Ball as Marine Staff Sergeant wearing my dress blues, 1983. The next month I was commissioned as a chaplain in the Navy.

There are many more things I could share with you that embody moments or experiences that help make up the whole of life. Makes me wonder what this New Year has in store that may become part of my “I Love Me” Wall.

Whatever lies ahead in 2007, being in the service of the Lord is reward enough. The best part is simply knowing that my picture is on Jesus’ “I Love Me” Wall.

Happy New Year!