Mike & H&S Companies
Third Battalion, Fifth Marines
DENNIS MAHILODear Scot:
My deepest sympathy to you and your family. Capt. Burns was quite the man and Marine. I also appreciate your attaching the obituary. I've printed it and framed it and it is now on the wall in my office alongside the map of our tactical area in Vietnam. Mike Company had several commanding officers while I was with them, but it was a privilege to serve under Capt. Burns.
I arrived in country February of 1969. The company was finishing up operation "Taylor Common" at the time and I waited in An Hoa for their return. My first recollection of Capt. Burns was while we were occupying a defensive position just outside the wire of An Hoa. Most of the days were uneventful but on one particular occasion we took a few rounds of incoming mortar fire. It was during the daylight hours and nobody was wounded. But there was one very close call. Capt. Burns had taken a piece of shrapnel which lodged right above the left side of his chest. The reason it did no serious harm - he was wearing his flack jacket and it had stopped it. He thought nothing of it.
During my first contact with the enemy we were just outside of An Hoa in an area we always were hit at the same time each night. I recall this being my first fire fight and as the squad radio operator my ear was glued to the handset to relay information. As I crouched in a ditch with the AK-47 rounds whizzing overhead and the staccato of our return fire a voice came over the radio. It was Capt. Burns telling one and all to, "Get Some Mike, Get Some!" (Get Some was our company motto) He knew how to motivate, inspire and through his power of example made us all accomplish things we never thought possible.
Another incident involved my having an "accidental discharge" of my M-14 while walking point. I had the safety off and always had a tracer for the first round. I slipped somehow and since my finger was on the trigger the weapon fired into some brush, the tracer started a small fire and Capt. Burns requested to see whoever was responsible as soon as we set in for the night. I thought I was really going to be in deep trouble for this as it scared most of the company into thinking we were under fire. Well, I reported to him as requested and he was sitting down at the CP. I explained what had happened and he simply told me to, "be more careful." I was . . .
Another rewarding event did not involve any firepower. We were providing security for the village right outside An Hoa so they could have a free election of village officials. We basically set up a perimeter around the village and checked ID's and searched everyone coming in to vote. Afterwards Capt. Burns came on the radio and told us all how the village had elected new officials in a peaceful election and we were a part of it. Yes, a great feeling.
And finally, there was the time we had been humping in the mountains for what seemed like weeks. We were tired, dirty and hungry. The Colonel offered to send choppers out to bring us back to An Hoa but Capt. Burns declined the offer. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who thought he had really lost it. But as we continued our return march to An Hoa he came on the radio and told us all we, "had a lot to be proud of and we would hump back to An Hoa just as we left - forget the free ride." He made us proud to be a part of his company. He made us proud to be 'grunts'. He made us proud to be Marines.
I continue to remember my "Skipper" in my prayers each day and thank God for putting him with Mike Company. Semper Fi Capt. Burns and sleep well Marine.
Mike 2 - out