Mike & H&S Companies
Third Battalion, Fifth Marines
Denny Dinota's talk
A couple of months ago I was approached by a young Marine Sergeant from Weapons Company 3/6. He must of seen my M/3/5 tattoo and heard me telling war whoppers at the end of the bar at my favorite watering hole where he moonlights as a bartender from time to time. After talking for a while on several occasions and becoming friends he asked me if I would be the Guest of Honor at his units Mess Night. He said that he was to be "Mister Vice" (Vice President for the mess night) and one of his jobs was to find the Guest of Honor. The President of the Mess Night is of course the CO of the unit.
I told him sure I would, all the while thinking (knowing) that it would never happen and that they would surely be able to get some retired general, colonel or some other upper level dignitary as the guest of honor/speaker to bore them to death. After all this is Jacksonville the home of Camp Lejeune. Why the hell they would want a former Staff Sergeant/Gunnery Sergeant was beyond me.
A few weeks later the sergeants unit was having a promotion wetting down at the club and the Sergeant introduced me to his First Sergeant.
A week later a real squared-a-way Sergeant in full dress blues appears at my door and presents me with an invitation to be the Guest of Honor at the Weapons Company 3rd Battalion 6th Marines Mess Night.
I guess they wanted somebody who had actually occupied a fighting hole and who had seen the "Elephant".
While putting down on paper some ideas/thoughts for my speech I realized that of all the mess nights, Marine Balls and other formal events I've attended over the years I cannot recall one of the speakers names much less the subject matter of their talk. So I could see myself going into the same abyss.
Well, on Friday, December 13, 2002, a squared-a-way Corporal wearing full blues arrives at my door to escort me to the mess night!
My speech? It was about those (YOU) magnificent, wonderful skinny "kids" I served with in Mike Company and the rest of 3rd battalion 5th Marines! I told them about the battles you fought and won. I told them how you would raise up under fire and advance against fortified positions. I told them about how you beat back attacks. I told them about the stink of death and fear and how you sacrificed and didn't complain and how you are still making that sacrifice and still not complaining. I told them about the reunion and the tears.
I told them how "I Got To" (as if it were some kind of miraculous appointment from on high) serve with you.
I at times had to catch my breath and hold back the tears but I got through it. I could tell I had their attention and later when it was over and the young PFC's and Lance Corporals and Corpsman told me it was the first time they ever saw the men pay that much attention to anybody before. Whether it was speeches by the general, training instructors or whatever. That compliment coming from the "Troops" put me in a daze. It was an award. It was like Vandergriff telling me "Thank You" when I left Mike Company.
Seeing those "Kids" I see time frozen from thirty five years ago.