Volume 3 Issue 1
December 2006
    Special Reunion Edition in Honor of Gunny LaChance
Officers & Trustees
Paul Mangan

Vice President
Phil Leslie

Ben Dickson

Mario Sagastume

Ron Bates

Phil Odom

Gene Csuti

Ron Sampson

Darnell Oglesby

Vinnie Burdziuk
New Memberships & Renewals
Please return this form with your TAX DEDUCTIBLE Voluntary Donation of  $15.00, $25.00, $50.00 –or- $100.00 to:

    Vietnam Veterans of 2nd Bn 1st Marines
Mario Sagastume  778 Silverado Estates Ct., Chico, CA 95973



City:              State:Zip:

Phone:  eMail:

Is this a Renewal ? ___ 

Yes! I Wish to Support 2/1 and Enclose My Voluntary Dues in the

Amount of: Enclosed $_______  

Yes! I wish to receive the newsletter:________

Rank:______  MOS______  Year(s) in Vietnam_______to_______

Nickname________  Your Outfit: i.e. Golf/Fox/Etc.._____________

“Voluntary Memberships Run From January 1st to December 31st”
    Your Donation is Tax Exempt Under 501( c ) 3 – Non Profit. 

Thank you, Gunny LaChance for your Corps Values.  With your passing on December 3, 2006,  the Marines,  Corpsman and Families of 2/1 will celebrate your friendship and service to our beloved Corps & Battalion Association by naming our 2007 Reunion in Honor of you... Semper Fidelis… Gunny!       (The Gunny Pictured Above “Center” Honoring Our Fallen Hero’s)
Our DC reunion was held at the Holiday Inn at Key Bridge in Arlington Virginia  the week of November 1st thru the 5th. The location is excellent in that we were  close to all the monuments, and to “Our Wall.”  It was a time to reflect back on our youth, recall the experiences of serving together in 2/1, swap stories both humorous and serious. And, the most important to honor those (Our Hero’s) who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his brothers and country.
Deployment to Iraq, a Mothers Experience
              Nanette Sagastume
                  April 24, 2005
I wasn’t prepared for how it would be. I thought I could guess how I would feel when my son deployed to Fallujah, Iraq (in March of 2004). Instead, many times I was bludgeoned by emotional surprises. The juxtaposition of them kept me careening from one emotion to another as if thrown by the flippers of a pinball machine. In fact, the experience became as profound a life experience for me as giving birth was. It touched many core issues. I didn’t realize that, despite my son being grown, my emotions would still be as fierce when his well-being was threatened as when he was an infant. It was as if I thought that by keeping the emotional connection to him strong, I could will him to stay alive. Nor did I anticipate how wide the “ripple effect” would be: that many of my son’s experiences would affect me as keenly as they did. Through the intensity of my emotions, for both good and bad, my son’s Iraq deployment has altered and redefined my life to the depths of my soul.

DESOLATION: The gloomy winter evening matched my mood when we took our son to the airport at the end of his pre-deployment leave. Every maternal instinct was to protect my son. Yet I had to release my clutch on him and say good-bye. My only thought was that my last glimpse of him walking toward his departure gate might be the final time I would see him for the rest of my life. The child I had carried in my womb for nine months I would now carry in my heart for the next seven.  My heart sagged with the heaviness of pessimism and desolation. I was inconsolable for a long time.

ANXIETY: Anxiety was my constant companion. It hummed just below the surface of my waking and sleeping states. Its presence was sometimes so stealthy I believed in my own calm façade. But anxiety was always there, burbling below the surface.  It even permeated my sleep. When I rolled over at night, I inevitably awakened, glanced at the clock, and calculated the time of day in Iraq. Knowing my nighttime was his daytime, and that my son could be on patrol and in danger, I could fall asleep only after I’d said a prayer for him and sent him love and a kiss across the miles. 

Modern technology both aggravated and relieved my anxiety.  It was aggravated by “live feed” from embedded reporters in Fallujah, televising some of the firefights as they occurred in Fallujah during April of 2004. The live coverage made me a spectator in the middle of the action. I found it unnerving to consider that my son could be involved at that very moment in the scene I was now watching, or that the camera might be rolling when one of our men was injured or killed.  Technology increased my anxiety on another occasion when my son called me on the satellite phone while he was at his base, only to have a mortar attack take place as we spoke. I could hear the loud thuds in the background. Equally distressing was to have my son phone home moments before he was to head out on patrol for a few days. Knowing he was in danger for the next several days, I tensely tried to picture what he was doing each moment throughout those days. Was he afraid? Was he tired or hungry? Was he discouraged? Was he injured?  All of these All of these circumstances were the more upsetting because they unfolded in real time. It had the effect of making me feel I too was there.
On the other hand, technology allowed me to speak to or get email from my son every few weeks—an unprecedented luxury. The relief of hearing his voice would purchase about twenty-four hours’ reassurance. Even that brief peace of mind was delicious.

Anxiety: also clutched my heart on those occasions when we returned home after a weekend away. I feared there might be an official car with uniformed Marines waiting to deliver the worst news there is. I often looked down the street before turning into our driveway, and, especially if the daily news bulletins had been grim that week, often cried with relief when no car was there.

HURT: One of the most painful things I had to deal with was the unthinking comments of strangers, friends, and family. People would ask perfunctorily how my son was, and then launch into a diatribe against the President, the military, our policy, and the validity of the war. These people wanted to engage me in debate about the war or to tell me why my son shouldn’t be there. This was a frequent occurrence. At a time when my son could die in Iraq, I couldn’t bear to hear why he shouldn’t be there. Or that the cause might not be worth his life. Or be told that he lacked good judgment to be in the military in the first place. Regardless of political leanings, such quarrelsome comments battered my bruised heart. I wanted only to be comforted, to have someone ask simply how my son was. With a son in harm’s way, I found politics could not be a casual intellectual exercise. It had become very personal. I became sensitive to political comments, all of which added to my pain. I was surprised and horrified to realize how quickly I was willing to discard decades-long friendships and family relationships after these gratuitous comments. Indeed, I am not sure things will ever be the same with some friends and family.

PRIDE: Alongside my anxiety—and as a compensation for it—was pride. As a way of coping with my anxiety, I tried to focus on a positive: pride. I was proud of the goodness and generosity of Americans and the beauty of our country’s landscape. And I was proud of my son for serving his country. I was proud he was a Marine, as his dad had been. Proud that he was willing to challenge his own personal fear and do a job that was so dangerous and difficult. I telegraphed my pride by wearing a variety of “My Son is a U.S. Marine” tee shirts. My automobile had so many Marine and American flag bumper stickers on it that it looked like a military recruiter’s van. But pride was a positive emotion that helped offset the anxiety.

SPIRITUAL TRUST VS. FEAR: One of the most difficult challenges for the duration of the deployment was spiritual.  For seven months I whipsawed one moment between trying to be open to whatever should be in God’s plan, trusting in God’s loving presence to my son, and the next moment, catapulting into panic that God might ask what I didn’t want. I then would begin to flail, beseeching God that my son not be killed.  I wish I could say that I eventually conquered my hysteria, and was calmly reconciled to God’s will. But the best I can say is that by the end of the deployment, I had made some progress in coming to terms with the possibility of my son’s death. I drew some comfort remembering that even Jesus begged for the cup to pass. But, unlike Jesus, the best I could do was to want to want God’s will. This was a daily struggle.
CONNECTEDNESS: Just as I came to feel that all my son’s combat buddies were my sons, so, too, I was blessed to come in contact with military families who became my family. I had several circles of support during my son’s deployment. I belong to a hometown military family support group, which still meets monthly. A dozen of us had sons in Iraq at the same time. It was so comforting to have people who shared the same concerns and fears and with whom I could share my pride in my son’s service.  This group became a new and treasured family that offered their ears, their prayers, and their hearts to each other.

My son was in exactly the same battalion, regiment, company, and platoon as my husband when he was a Marine in Vietnam almost forty years ago. My husband and the other Vietnam veterans from this battalion have had annual reunions for years. Of course, these men were keenly interested in my son, and how my husband and I were doing. They so graciously offered us a steady stream of encouragement. They wrote letters to the injured and sent frequent care packages to their “little brothers” in Iraq. The support of those who had “been there” and come out the other side was invaluable. This group became another family for us as well.

I had the good fortune of having had email contact with about forty people from all corners of the country whose sons, brothers, and boyfriends were serving in my son’s battalion and regiment. Over the months we shared newsy tidbits from our Marines about the temperature in Iraq, the availability of the phones or computers there, life in the desert, etc. We emailed each other to keep each other’s spirits up—particularly when the situation there had become precarious. We prayed for each other and his/her Marine. And we comforted each other when those Marines were injured or killed. Over the course of the seven months our little email group became almost as tightly bonded in our own unique “fighting hole” experience as our Marines are with their brothers in their real fighting holes.

GUILT AND GRIEF: One early morning just a few weeks before our Marines’ tour was due to end, news came that, while we slept, a suicide bomber had crashed into a convoy vehicle, killing seven Marines and wounding five others. Our email family held its collective breath. Despite the fact that the news bulletin only stated cryptically that this occurred in Al Anbar Province (where several battalions of Marines were deployed), somehow we KNEW this had happened to our Marines. Cautiously we emailed each other, tentatively asking how each other was doing and reassuring and comforting each other—holding hands in cyberspace, if you will. Throughout the day we waited to see if one of us would get the knock on the door. I tried to prepare my heart in case I had lost my son. I prayed it wasn’t my son. But if not my son, it meant that it was someone else’s. I felt ashamed that my relief would only mean another mother’s worst nightmare had begun.

As it turned out, only one of the injured had family in our email group, but none of those killed did. My son called twenty-four hours after the bombing to let us know he was okay. It indeed had been his platoon that had been hit and was now decimated. My son had almost ridden in the ill-fated truck, switching only at the last minute to the truck which followed it. My heart twisted in grief as he told in graphic detail of that excruciatingly gory scene. It broke my heart to hear him speak of such things happening to his friends, and to know he had seen things no one should ever have to see. It hurt to know I was so far away and helpless to reach out to him. The loss of these young men (I felt they could have been my sons too) was like a blow to the solar plexus.  It felt---no, it feels---very personal.
Despite the fact that, gratefully, my son has been back on U.S. soil for months, I find my heart is still heavy with grief. I will never be the same. I still mourn the loss of these young men. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of those young men cut down before they had lived life fully. It comforts me to wear a memorial bracelet that honors their memory. These young men are etched forever in my heart.  

I grieve for their parents; their endless pain is unimaginable to me. I feel guilt that my son came home to me while theirs did not. I only hope that these parents have some small satisfaction in knowing that their sons have not been forgotten. Their sons’ lives and deaths have mattered to me. 

And I grieve for my son who has forever lost both best friends and his innocence. I wouldn’t have thought it possible that an event on the “battlefield”, happening to persons I didn’t know, could “ripple” out so widely and affect me so deeply. I was unprepared for that outcome. This grief is yet another emotion that blindsided me during my son’s deployment.

GRATITUDE AND ADMIRATION: There were many situations during those long seven months that I felt had aged me. And there were others that also stretched my heart and enriched me.

I have had the privilege of knowing some of the most wonderful, decent, loyal, earnest people in this country: our military families—past and present! I am so awed by their quiet everyday grace and courage. I hadn’t been acquainted with any military families prior to my son’s entering the Marine Corps, but I know now that my life would be emptier without the friendship of these wonderful people.

After the experiences of this deployment, I will never feel the same way about our freedom. Our military men and women have been given a very difficult and frightening job to do; yet they do it well and with such personal courage. I am in awe. These young people are my heroes!

I now know that the “ripple” effect of a deployment extends much further than just for those who serve. For each person deployed there is probably a score of people deeply affected, who also psychologically deploy with their loved one.  I am likewise grateful to each of those friends and family members for their sacrifice for our country.

I am so appreciative of those who have generously given years from their young lives in service to our country. And I am deeply humbled and honored by those who have given their most precious possession—their life.  Now I know something about the personal cost of freedom.
                                I shall NEVER take my freedom for granted again!
November 2nd

We all met at our hospitality suite and swapped some great stories. Jack Leonard Lt Col USMC Retired is the National Service Director with the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Jack gave us some insight on dealing with the Department of Veteran Affairs. His 1 1/2 hour presentation was excellent and he answered lots of questions from our membership. He also left us booklets explaining our benefits for Veterans and their dependents. Also, during the day our members went on a little sightseeing, shopping and dinner. All in all it was a excellent day for all.
November 3rd

This Friday we had a full day. This morning 2/1s 1st Lieutenant Dan Francis gave us a lecture on what it takes to write a book. All those in attendance got a lesson on the basics of writing and having your book published. Dan served with Fox Company in 1965-1966 and is the author of ( Last Ride Home a Memoir of Vietnam ).

At 1300 we headed of to the D.C.Mall to visit the monuments. We gathered near the Vietnam Wall at 1500 to honor our fallen Hero Dennis E. Pike (Echo Company) and present his family a plaque to honor Dennis and bring them into our Marine Corps Family. The Navy / Marine Corps News was there to film the ceremony to be shown to our troops. Col Duncan spoke for a few minutes. Then Paul Mangan spoke and presented a plaque to the Pike Family. His presentation brought a tear to everyone’s eyes.

We then, in a solemn march proceeded to the Vietnam Wall for our Fallen Hero Ceremony. Col Bill Duncan said a few words before laying our Plague at the foot of the Wall. We all stood silently, hands over our hearts as the bag-pipes played the Marine Corps Hymn. At the end of the ceremony our Members, Family, and Friends visited our hero’s on the wall. Made rubbings of the names and took pictures in front of their fallen comrades. It was a time for remembrance!

Later in the evening we watched a movie called: TELL IT TO THE MARINES.
Everyone in the theatre, actually the hospitality suite, that enjoyed the movie want to shout out a big "THANK YOU!" to, Col. Jim Page (Foxtrot CO '65) for providing the movie.

November 4th

Saturday morning we held or annual meeting. Phil Odom has taken the point as reunion committee chairman. Some of the topics were for our 2007 Houston and 2008 Oceanside Reunions. Phil will also be looking into the feasibility of having a Reunion on a Cruise Ship sometime in the future.

In Houston, Vietnam Veterans of 2nd Bn 1st Marines will finally get their (Homecoming Parade) in which we will be riding on a float which we will design and decorate.

Ron Sampson (re-elected), Phil Odom (re-elected) and Darnell Oglesby have been elected to a 3 year term as Trustees for our organization.

Doc Bob Adams is involved in helping homeless veterans. He informed us that there are at least 400 Afghanistan and Iraqi vets using Veteran shelters throughout the United States each day. And that there are over 300,000 homeless veterans. To find out more about the shelter or to send a donation go to: http://www.helpaveteran.org

Our Organization donated $100.00 to the Shelly Halliburton Fund. Shelly was a Iraqi Vet who lost both his legs. He did not survive his struggle to heal and a Scholarship Fund has been set up in his name.

Another discussion at our annual meeting was the MARINE FOR LIFE PROGRAM whose mission is to provide transition assistance to Marines who honorably leave active service and return to civilian life and to support injured Marines and their families. To see more on the subject go to:


In the evening we proceeded to our Banquet. It was a huge success as the atmosphere was upbeat, food was excellent, and our guest speaker a Sgt Major William H. Small was not only humorous but presented an excellent message.  After, we held our raffle, and were entertained by our one and only Mario Sagastume. Mario missed his calling... Instead of becoming an accountant he should of become a comedian! But we are grateful that he was a Marine first!

Here are some pictures to share with you... Ben Dixon in his Sponge Bob Square Pants PJs and Marine Corps Robe... Eight fellow Marines that were part of the initial deployment of the Battalion who went to Nam aboard the USS Bexar in August of '65... Start of our Annual Meeting... Start of our Reunion Ceremony... and the Reunion.
Presidents Message: FROM THE C.P.
What a great year this has been for our 2/1 organization.  The growth of active involvement by so many men has been incredibly motivating.  During the year I have spoken to more than a hundred of you, via the phone and almost as many of you by email, and can report to everyone that the members of the Vietnam Veterans of the Second Battalion First Marines are a great group of men to know.  Whether you sent anonymous donations, called/emailed to inquire about the health and well being of a brother Marine or family member, paid for the transportation for a brother to get to the reunion, or whatever else some of you did for 2/1, everyone can be proud of the enthusiasm within Association.  Oooh-Rah!

I hope all of you enjoy the pictures from the reunion and if you have an opportunity will view the hundreds of reunion pictures on our website -1stmarines.org.  Special thanks to Ken Harding (H&S Company RVN 1966-1967) for being our official reunion photographer this year.  Great job Ken, and the guys at the reunion really appreciated your printing off pictures for them to take home when the left.   Additional thanks to Col. Bill Duncan (2/1 CO) and Lt.Col Clyde Wood (Golf CO) for reading Commandant Lejeune’s & Commandant Hagee’s Birthday message during our banquet . Thanks to Headquarters Marine Corps Battalion Sergeant Major William H Small for an outstanding speech and a special thanks to the Headquarters Marine Corps Color Guard for a precision posting of the colors.  Thank you, Gunny LaChance for your Corps Value comments after dinner.  And, with your passing on December 3, 2006, the Marines, Corpsman and Families of 2/1 will celebrate your friendship and service to our beloved Corps & Battalion Association by naming our 2007 Reunion in Honor of you.... Semper Fidelis....Gunny!

Thanks also for the donations from Sgt. Grit and the Arlington, VA area Budweiser dealer, Eagle Distributing and a hats off to the 2/1 brother that donated the anonymous $500.00.  It was used to finance a couple of electric wheelchairs that were needed.  During the raffle, which again was conducted superbly by Mario Sagustume (Foxtrot ’67) the winner of free reunion hotel stay was John Towles (H&S ’67-’68).

Our 2/1 family increased during the reunion with the addition of Mrs. Rita Pike and her daughter, Cathy Allen.  Mrs. Pike and Cathy are the mother and sister of L/Cpl Dennis E. Pike – Echo Company KIA October 15, 1966.  It was an honor for all of us to meet them, especially for the brother Marines at the reunion that served with L/Cpl Pike.  We also welcomed L/Cpl. Pike’s best friend Charles Magee and his wife Mary.  Charles and Dennis joined the Marine Corps on the ‘buddy plan’ but were posted to different units when they were sent to Vietnam.  If any of you knew L/Cpl Pike and would like to get in touch with his family, please contact me.

As some of the pictures show, the 2006 reunion included several special events.  The 2/1 Fallen Comrade Ceremony at the ‘Wall’ was poignant and heartfelt by all that attended.  A portion of the ceremony was recorded by Navy news and posted to military outlets.  It can be reviewed here (www.NavyTimes.com).

During our education/breakout sessions, 1st LT Danny M. Francis USMC Retired (Foxtrot ’65-’66) gave a great talk on what it takes to write a book. and we also heard some good stuff on how to deal with the VA from the National Service Officer for the Military Order of the Purple Heart,  Lt/Col Jack Leonard (USMC Retired) A hearty thank you to them for a job well done. 

A new committee was born during a round table discussion (short for BS party) on what it was like to come to a 2/1 reunion for the first time.  Ken (Doc) Shaffer, Gary Gordon, Larry Wilson, David Grosse (attending his first reunion) and Juan J. Huerta have offered to be a committee responsible for reaching out to those attending their first reunion to help them feel at home.  Great idea guys, thanks!  And then there was the addition of something else new to the reunion.  “Movie Night’, thanks to Col. James Page (Foxtrot CO ’65) all in attendance had a chance to see the 1926 silent movie classic “Tell It To The Marines”, starring Lon Chaney. (notice that is not LC Junior) as Sgt. O’Hara.  It was a good night.  Jim says he’s got ideas for next years movie but will let us know later.

Congratulations to the newly elected and re-elected Trustees; Darnell Oglesby, Phil Odom and Ron Sampson.

On the November 10th Dedication of the National Museum of the Marine Corps Museum.  Many of us were able to stay in DC for the dedication. And, special thanks needs to be given to our 30th Commandant of the Corps, General Charles Krulak (Golf ’65-’66) for helping to clear the way for those 2/1 Marines that wanted to attend the overbooked ceremony.

Yes, 2006 has been a good year for our association, but 2007 is shaping up to be even better.  Phil Odem and his reunion committee have been active for months preparing for our November 7-12, 2007 reunion in Houston, Texas so you should start making your plans to attend.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.
Semper Fidelis, Paul Mangan (Foxtrot ’65-‘66)
I wish I could have been at the reunion this year. I've learned so much about my father through many of his buddy's. Being a toddler when he died, I never really knew him.  2/1 has made it possible for me to know things about my father I never would have. I am so very grateful. I'm forwarding you a poem I wrote about the Vietnam Memorial. My father died at Nu Loc Sun on April 1967. He was the Lt. 3rd squad leader of Fox Co. under Captain Degan at the time of his death. Thank you and God bless. 

Sincerely, Lori Shelton Puckett

Written by: Lori Shelton
In Honor of her father Lt. James H. Shelton, USMC
KIA April 1967, Fox Co.  2nd Battalion 1st Marine Division
His name is located at Panel 18E, Line 64
        The Black Wall of Death
                         The Vietnam Memorial

    here is a place in this great nation
    Where soldiers stand in solemn formation
    A wall of stone black as death
    Engraved with names who drew their last breath
    The Black Wall of Death stares back at you
    A reflection of the price and those we once knew
    Those in the Army, Navy, the Air Fore, Marines
    Fighting in the air on the ground or at sea
    Fighting a war controversial at best
    Fighting as told nevertheless
    Patriots of freedom dying at war
    Giving their all then giving some more
    They followed their orders to their last breath
    And because of their sacrifice
    Stands the Black Wall of Death
    Hero’s to those who knew their names
    A symbol of freedom to all just the same
    The Wall stands in honor to those we have lost
    Of their courage and valor and at such a high cost
    So let us pay tribute to those names on the wall
    Those still missing in action
    And those who came home for us all
    The Black Wall of Death burns memories so deep
    Stone panels stand boldly
    The Wall’s history we must keep
    For without the Wall’s memories we will not learn
    Freedom costs dearly and it’s value we earn

The Achilles Class

By Susann H. Pearson

6 Nov 2006

There is no cure-all like the embrace of a hundred Marines – the would-be hecatomb to Lyndon Baines Johnson’s ego – here, alive and breaking bread with me in this Rosslyn Heorot.

I got off the plane in Washington DC as night fell. With my weary body wanting to follow suit, dragging and spirits flagging, I wondered how smart it was trying to make my brother’s USMC Reunion on this Friday night. I had risen early that morning, attended classes and fought Miami traffic as though it was a little Vietnam.

I felt near collapse after sitting rigidly between two uptight business people flying back to angst-riddled DC on a jam-packed flight. The security at the airports is insane these days. They search everything including your shoes.

When I saw my brother and his two friends waiting for me at the baggage claim, my verve returned, shot up my spine like a Roman candle and burst into red and gold. There stood a fine trident of warriors come to collect me. I knew I had arrived into the best of hands.

{Achilles Class Continued}
Gary snatched my luggage and I was borne up by his Marines. Gary Belden, Don Dennis and Jim Gray’s contagious esprit de corps deleted my fatigue. Bopping down the street with these men, crisp autumn wind hitting me in the face, there was no other place I wanted to be. It was bliss being back in Old DC. I had forgotten how delicious and enlivening the air felt at this time of year.

The hotel was 17 floors of “class act.” Seventeen floors of “a room with a view.” The penthouse was a cozy sky bar overseen by a pair of Indian bar tenders in white jackets. They made us feel like royalty atop the splendid amber lights of the city. Behind them as they shook up drinks lay a fat red river of tail lights moving over Key Bridge in a crawl. The city enveloped me in surrounding lights tantamount to the warm embrace of my brother’s Platoon. It was glittering therapy at 360 degrees.

My brother, Gary Belden, was a machine-gunner in Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, First Marines. A man of few words who identifies with “Freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.” Gary slung a lot of lead. Action, not words, got him through his tour of duty. He fought the Vietnam War in 1968 and 1969 during the fever pitch of the fray. Many of his friends did not come home. Those who survived gather every year at this Reunion and convert some hotel into a Viking mead hall. It is my honor and privilege to break bread with these men at their long, gung ho tables.

Some of these Marines kept battlefield diaries in little notebooks. Many carried cameras. All have a sea of flashbulb memories burned into their minds. My job as an aspiring journalist is to extract as many of those memories as I can and write about them. This is American History.

So without being too much of a nuisance I slipped in a few questions for this paper. To my “what made you decide to join the Marines?” Golf 2/1 machine-gunner Jim Gray replied, “Well first I went to the Navy recruiter and tried to join the Navy. He told me that they had already met their 50-sailor quota for that day. So I signed up with the Marines. The next day my mother said that the Navy recruiter was on the phone and said that they could see me now. I said to hell with them – they had their chance.”

Don Dennis was a rifleman in my brother’s platoon. He was meant to survive this war. No man can walk point for that long and not step on an enemy booby trap. My theory is that it was Divine Intervention because there is nothing purer than the linen of this man’s soul. I deduce that it must be his goodness that has acted as a shield against the javelins of war. According to the Eastern Religions, like attracts like. In Christendom it is written “what you sow, so shall you reap.” That is how I explain Don Dennis’ survival and returning to his Delaware home without a scratch.

What makes Dennis a historical treasure trove are his lucid memories, his battlefield diary and his eschewing of drugs and alcohol. His mind is a lagoon of memories served to me in Chekhov-style word economy. “We were miles from camp, no food, no nothing. After daybreak two little girls came up to me with palm leaves wrapped around rice balls. They were gifts from their mother who thanked us for defending their home,” Dennis said. “How many steps in a mile? Each one can cost you everything. Keep watch for an ambush. We had a young kid, about 14, who would visit us every day. I liked him. Then one night the enemy hit our wire. We killed about ten and one of the dead was this little guy. Some of the Platoon thought he was VC. But not me. I think the enemy came to his village, took him out of his bed, and made him lead them to our base. You see in Vietnam, it wasn’t all black and white – most of the time it was gray.” So goes a small taste of Don Dennis’ mind.

What makes Gary’s USMC reunions all the richer is the wealth of photography that the Marines bring to share with everyone. These photographs chronicle their experience beyond words in many cases.

Most of the fighting men in Vietnam were working class boys between the ages of 18 and 21. Their leading officers were often young, inexperienced and came home in body bags after a short time.

In the case of Lewis Puller, Jr., he was a young, inexperienced Marine officer, full of vim, and leading my brother’s platoon. He stepped on a booby-trapped Howitzer shell that vaporized both his legs to the hip and many of his fingers. Thanks to Golf Company’s Navy Corpsmen, Puller survived to write an autobiography about his brief Vietnam experience entitled Fortunate Son. This book is all about his tour of duty in the company of my brother, Don Dennis and their rough and ready brothers-in-arms.

It is keenly different when you read about American History from a text book than when you hear it told from those who lived it. That is what I learned this weekend at my brother’s USMC Battalion Reunion. That and how food just tastes better when you are eating it with The Achilles Class.                                          
Paul Stevens 2/1 Fox Co 1970-1971

For those who know Paul he went back to Iraq for the second time. He is in a combat outpost on the Syrian border, NW Iraq. His headquarters are in Tel Afar. He travels to Mosul a lot and has many incidents with small arms and RPG fire. One of the police units he works with near the border killed one insurgent and captured two. A squad from S/Sgt Paul Stevens 3rd platoon got hit in Mosul and killed one RPG shooter and one of his own gunners got wounded from a IED. Paul said he likes the mission he was assigned and things are heating up. He wants everyone to know that they are well equipped and have lots of fire power to handle any situation. 

Minutes of the 2006 Reunion Business Meeting
                                           Minutes of the 2006 Reunion Business Meeting
Vietnam Veterans of 2nd Battalion 1st Marines
Holiday Inn Rosslyn, Arlington, VA

Officers Present: President: Paul Mangan
           Vice President: Phil Leslie
           Treasurer: Mario Sagastume
           Secretary: Ben Dickson

Approximately 60 members were in attendance.

The meeting was called to order at 10:00 hours by President Paul Mangan.

President Paul Mangan gave greetings and welcome to members present.  The first matter of business was a report of the mid year planning meeting...  The following points were discussed:

Location – Houston, Texas.
Members attending – board and officers.
Consisted of three days of intense meetings, planning sessions, break-out sessions, brainstorming, and              flow of ideas.

Objectives of the meeting.
1. What we will be doing.
2. Tactics: long term things to be done.
3. Strategies: use these to accomplish tactics now.
4. Resource allocation: what money do we have and need, what people and resources are                     available?
5. Review: look at the overall plan and establish timelines, get everyone’s input, do critical thinking.

President Paul Mangan presented the operational plan:
Defined it.
Discussed the points identified.
Read the plan that was developed (Copies are available for those who want one.)
Highlights of the strategies.
1. Squad search
2. Contact list of those who can help locate others
3. Identify attached units
4. Reunion committee – Phil Odom chairman
5. Finance committee – Mario Sagastume chairman
6. Membership committee – Gene Csuiti chairman
7. Service committee – Ron Bates chairman

Under other business President Paul Mangum read a letter from Tom Matteo, former president of the organization.  Formation of a group of volunteers to help new guys transition into the organization was discussed.  There was no further discussion or questions.

The following reports were given:

Treasurer, Mario Sagastume gave the following report:
Highlighted information on handout.
Finances reported for last fiscal year (This year to be discussed in 2007).
Dues are donation which helps to offset cost of functions.
Web site is doing well.
Using Pay pal for PX and all transactions.
•        Financial report was approved as read.

A motion was made and passed to forgo the reading of the minutes from last year. The minutes are posted to the web site and can be accessed by all.  Contact Ben Dickson if you need a copy.

Communications Committee
Vin Burdziuk reported that:
Pictures are being posted to the web site.
Archives include over 5,000 items thus far.
Have the largest web site for a group like ours on the net.
Updates are going well.
1. Use to share stories and pictures
2. Find information
3. Post notices
Newsletter being worked on to increase frequency, post to the web.

Reunion Committee
Phil Odom gave the following report:
Houston, Texas site for 2007 reunion.
Dates – November 6-12.
Location – Houston Hobby Marriott.
Daily agenda discussed.
Veteran’s Day parade with 2/1 as guests of honor (will be our homecoming), float, tailgate party.
November 10 – Texas barbecue to celebrate our birthday.
November 11 – visit ceremony at Veteran’s cemetery, hospital visit to VA hospital, cookout.

Service Committee
The Service Committee was formed.  Ron Bates was introduced as chairman.  He will post details later on the web site.

President Paul Mangan stated that there are three positions for trustees open for vote.  Phil Odom and Ron Sampson indicated that they would be willing to continue.  Mitch Kosoff is unable to continue so that position is vacant.  Nominations were made and seconded for the following: Phil Odom; Ron Sampson; and Darnell Oglesby.  There was no further discussion.  Motion was made and seconded that the nominations be closed.  The motion was approved.  A motion was made and seconded for a voice vote on all three nominations.  The motion passed.  A voice vote was taken and all three nominees were approved for the position of trustee.

Paul Mangan made note that the 2008 reunion is scheduled for Oceanside. Col. Len Hayes will help with the planning.  2/1 will have us at their birthday party if they are not deployed.  Colonel Hayes will have banquet at Officers Club if 2/1 is deployed. 

A discussion was held regarding the selection of the site for the 2009 reunion in D.C.  Paul Mangan brought up the possibility of having the reunion in Quantico or in D.C. The hotel in Rosslyn is a great location.  Quantico has the museum.  A tour of the museum has been assured by General Christmas.  Transportation will be provided.  Paul will check on the possibilities and let everyone know.  In 2009 the birthday is on a Tuesday.  There was discussion about getting dates we want and better rates by booking further out.  The cost of taking a whole week was brought up.  If the stay is through the 11th we can be here for the ceremony at the Iwo Jima memorial on the 10th and Veterans’ Day on the 11th. A motion was made and seconded that the dates for 2009 be November 7-11.  The motion was approved.

Phil Odom discussed taking a cruise for a reunion in the future.  Paul Mangan requested that Phil and the reunion committed research this possibility and make a recommendation at the next general meeting.

Under new business Doc Adams, HM G 2/1 68-69, reported that the Midwest shelter for homeless veterans was almost up and running.  He discussed details, including, shelter, training, medical, and the no man left behind concept.  Doc Adams thanked the association for the gifts and the continued support.

Membership issues were discussed concerning the following:
Do we open it up to veterans of other eras?
Do we want to be “last man standing” group?
We can give experience to new guys if we open it up.
When we came home we were rejected by groups like VFW and others.  Do we want to treat them like                     that?
What legacy do we want to leave?  We don’t want 2/1 to die out.

The following points were made in regard to these issues:
We would lose our identity if we accept new guys.  Can we really relate to their war and them to ours?                     Isn’t it the natural order of things?
We will leave a great website and legacy behind.  If we get too big it generates problems.  Look at 1st                      Marine Division Association.  Give others help to start their own association but keep our identity.
Detachments that are started with our help have title of their conflict, ie. Panama, Iraq 1, Iraq 2,                                 Afghanistan, but come together for reunions.
Establish chapters for each era of veterans.

A question was brought up about registration fees for the reunions.  Should a registration fee be charged?  This could be a financial burden for some.  This is not a burden for the association.  This issue was tabled until the next meeting.

Larry Wilson solicited donations to Shelly Haleburton Fund.  This is a scholarship fund in honor of a wounded vet who overcame his injuries.  The association voted to donate $100.00.

A motion was made and seconded to adjourn.  The motion passed.  President Paul Mangan repeated the order to stand down.
Two Generations of Valor
Pearl Harbor survivor Houston James of  Dallas embraced S/Sgt Mark Graunke Jr. during a Veterans Day commemoration in Dallas. Graunke lost a hand, a leg and an eye when he defused a bomb in Iraq last year. 

Message from Colonel Bill Duncan
Former Marine, Terry Gniffke developed a program (non-profit) that can be picked up under:


Terry's Caliber Media Group is the activity that hosts the  program only wants to help our military families.  In Oct 2006 Terry was invited to visit  the Admiral of the 3rd Fleet in San Diego where he presented the program. The Admiral approved the program as being a "Tremendous Vehicle to Keep Families in touch when deployed." 

Terry also received endorsements from the 3rd Fleet PIO for the 50,000 plus military that serve in the 3rd Fleet who would like to receive endorsement by anyone who would purchase a package of support. This would be USN and USMC who are assigned to the 3rd Fleet. The real advantage is that the program can be used by any member of the Armed Forces if sponsors will endorse and subsidize the program.

It is really a great way for families to stay connected through long periods of deployment. Terry developed it out of the knowledge of family difficulty during the Vietnam years and his personal family separation.

Arlene and I have enrolled in the program to provide support for a family to be "in touch". 

Perhaps there are those with  2/1 and other units that would like to click on to the web site and see the advantages it offers in keeping families in touch.
Dennis King here.

I received my order from the PX in fine shape.  I ordered our unit ball cap and a unit Jacket.  I also received a key chain from Jon and Whitney Stromire. I truly do thank those two fine people for expressing their thanks for all of our services.  It is and was an honor to serve and to have served this great country.

I also wanted to share something with you and everyone involved with the PX and the fine products made available to us.

  Well low and behold, this past Wednesday was my wife’s birthday (Age Unknown of course) LOL. I went to a local florist to purchase flowers for my sweetheart.  While trying to decide what I wanted, the florist behind the counter just about jumped over the counter and grabbed my hand and started shaking it uncontrollably. 

He said a Viet Nam Vet I see, and I replied yes sir. He said thank you so much for your service to this country.  Well to make a long story short, I said No problem would do it again.

Once I got to my favorite truck, I sat there for a minute and was thinking holy crap, no one has ever said or did what this guy did.  I was also wondering how the guy knew I was a Viet Nam Veteran. It dawned on me after a couple of minutes, I had my hat on. 

Anyways I thought you would like this story for everyone’s hard work.
Semper Fi,  Dennis King
Pre-Registration Form for the Vietnam Veterans of 2nd Bn 1st Marines 2007 Reunion in Houston, Texas
  A $25.00 Deposit is requested for each meal ordered for the Banquet.  The Deposit is (Refundable) upon notice to us that you won’t be attending. 

NAME :                                           Make Check Payable to :
                                     VIETNAM VETERANS OF 2ND BN 1ST MARINES
ADDRESS :                           Mail to :
                                     Mario Sagastume : Treasurer
PHONE :                               778 Silverado Estates Ct, Chico, CA 95973

HOW MANY WILL BE IN ATTENDANCE : ____               EMAIL IF AVAILABLE :_______________________________

MEAL CHOICES : Poultry ______  Meat ______              YEAR(S) IN VIETNAM____________& COMPANY_________

REGISTRATION DEPOSIT : $_______________


Houston/Hobby Marriott - 9100 Gulf Freeway - Houston TX 77017 - Nov 8 -12  (800) 228-9290  Reservation Code: TWOTWOA
From the Webmaster
Family members, school-children and others use our website for research.  We have military men and woman as far as Iraq telling us what a great site we have.

So, I need your help to send us news about our members. Also, pictures and stories to keep our site interesting.  An interesting and updated site will keep everyone coming back to see what’s new with Vietnam Veterans of Second Battalion, First Marines.

We also have a Bi-Weekly eMail Newsletter. If you haven’t signed up for it, please do.  It will keep you current to what’s going on in our organization.

On behalf of 2/1 I would like to thank everyone who contributed to our website.  4 years ago we grew  from a few dozen pictures to over 5,000.  We have been for the last couple of years the largest Military Organizational Website on the internet.  And, it’s because of our members, family and friends that we have grown and continue to grow.

If you would like to share some stories or pictures with us.  Even if it’s just one.  Please don’t hesitate to send them in.  These pictures and stories are “our history”.  It shows the future generation who we are.

Don’t forget to sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter on our homepage.               
                             Vin Burdziuk  


See Our November 2006 Reunion Pictures:  CLICK HERE