Mike & H&S Companies
Third Battalion, Fifth Marines
Pete Paffrath passed along your E-Mail regarding Pat, as well as the one from Marty Brandtner, and I also talked with Jack Atwood at length yesterday. Let me first say that I was deeply saddened to hear about your uncle's passing. He was a really great guy and an outstanding Marine.
Pat was one of the group of guys who lived together at the BOQ in Hawaii when we were young lieutenants with the 1st Marine Brigade more than thirty years ago. We all arrived at Kanehoe at about the same time and in our roles there as bachelor Marine infanty officers we very quickly bonded together; experiencing as we did so some of the most traumatic and important events in American history. President Kennedy was of course assassinated in November of 1963, an event that left all of us and our troops as well in a state of shock. Having grown up at a time of great national pride and patriotism, it was hard for us to comprehend that such an act could take place in our country. Then the following summer came the infamous "Tonkin Gulf" incident, an event that headed America down its irreversible path towards the war in Vietnam. Finally, less than a year later in the spring of 1965 Pat, myself and the others were among the first combat troops to land in the Republic of Vietnam. Over the many years since, the experiences we shared during that time have served to strengthen the bond that exists between us. My best friends to this day are the guysI served with back then and while I had only seen Pat a couple of times since then I have thought of him often and had managed to keep up with his activities through others who had seen or talked to him more recently.
What I can say about your uncle is that he was one of the nicest guys that I have ever known. I will always remember him as someone who was soft spoken,courteous, interested in his friend's wellfare, someone who in short was a real "southern gentleman" in the best sense of the term. He will be missed by all of us but rest assured he will never be forgotten. What I did not know about Pat, however, was that he had seen so much heavy combat during his second tour in Vietnam and had been so highly decorated as a result of his actions at that time. Pete Paffrath, John Martin and myself had dinner with him here in San Francisco about eight years ago as I recall and he never mentioned a word about what he had seen and done. Thinking about it, though, I'm not surprised because he was far too modest a man to promote himself in anyway as a hero. Learning of Pat's heroics has made me reflect upon a book that I recently read called "Stolen Valor." You might want to get yourself a copy. Written by an army Vietnam Veteran, it thoroughly documents the incredible number cases in which men who never saw a minute combat themselves have never the less played the role of war hero and in doing so have helped to warp the public's image of the men who actually fought the Vietnam War. Their shameful acts have in fact stolen a piece of the glory that belongs only to guys like Pat, guys who truly did made great sacrifices for their country,sacrifices that remain little appreciated by their fellow countrymen.
It was nice to hear that you have always thought of Pat as your personal hero. As far as I'm concerned that says something about you as well. The cult of celebrity that our nation has so embraced in recent decades has left so many younger people with a terribly misguided sense of who we should look up to and has made heroic figures of people who have sacrificed nothing for the betterment of our nation. My hero was, and still remains, my late father. He was a simple man of great character who worked extremely hard all his life to support his family and as a valued member of our community was the kind of citizen that made America great. Pat certainly led a life that you and the rest of his family can take great pride in. I know that I for one feel priviledged to have known him.
If I can be of any help in your efforts to document Pat's Marine Corps career let me know. As I believe Jack Atwood mentioned to you, I have written a book about those times and in doing so I did a lot of research along the way. Consequently I have quite a file on the various resources that I utilized to help with my story.
Lynn I. Terry