Anything is Possible!

With Love, Hope, and Perseverance

Tough Old Marines


Jerry's medalsThey knew each other in Vietnam. Jerry was one of four tunnel rats in a battalion of about 2000 marines. Dad’s unit didn’t have a tunnel rat, so when they needed one, they’d call up battalion to get one. Sometimes it was Jerry. He’d crawl through tunnels with a pistol in one hand and a flashlight in the other, and a rope tied to his ankles so his buddies could pull him back out. Jerry got away with cutting up on the radio, cracking jokes, and harassing everyone, even officers, because he was so valuable.

My dad was a Gunnery Sargent, but did the job of an officer, leading his own platoon through the jungle. He retired after 20 years in the corps and still has nightmares about Vietnam. Jerry stayed in a little longer and retired as a Master Sargent.

My dad and Jerry each earned three purple hearts during their military careers. Dad got his in Korea, being wounded in the legs and back.  Jerry was seriously wounded in the abdomen in Vietnam.

They weren’t close in Vietnam, but as civilians, they serendipitously ended up being neighbors. Jerry moved in across the street from us when I was in high school. The bond of having served together in hell ignited an instant friendship. Jerry and Dad (and Jerry’s wife and my mom) became  best friends.

As I grew older and listened to their stories, I came to respect my father and Jerry more. In spite of my pacifist leanings, my peace songs, and peace rallies, I grew to admire the strength and courage of these two men who I knew to be caring fathers and loving husbands. They’d both been close to death multiple times. They both had to do horrible things to stay alive. Dad didn’t talk much about Vietnam, but with Jerry around, the stories flowed easier. Jerry’s sense of humor was good therapy. I wonder if it kept him from going crazy.

When dad was in the hospital with is heart surgeries, and when mom was in the nursing home, Jerry and his wife, Joyce, always visited, even after they moved an hour away to the same city I live in. After mom died, they tried to help me convince Dad to move closer to us. But dad has been stubborn, staying in the house where he feels my mom’s presence. Because of his age and health problems, we all assumed my dad would die before Jerry. My dad is 84, but Jerry at 75, went on ahead. Jerry died unexpectedly this past Thursday, on Nov. 5.

November is a hard month. Dad’s sister, my older sister, and my mom, all died in the month of November, and now Jerry, too.

carrying the casket in

For me, Jerry’s death is hard evidence that, contrary to what I’d like to believe, even tough old marines don’t live forever. But I will always remember what my dad told me when I was twelve:

“Nothing is Impossible.”

It’s even possible for a tree-hugging pacifist to love, respect and deeply admire a couple of  tough old marines.

I am forever grateful to my father, to Jerry, and to others like them, for their years of dedicated service as soldiers and as civilians. I am increasingly amazed at my father’s character, his integrity, and his strength in adversity. His body may wear out, but his spirit will live forever. And so will Jerry’s.


always faithful even in the pouring rain

Always faithful – even in the pouring rain, as we said goodbye to one tough old marine.


Author: JoAnna

An open minded, tree-hugging Jesus follower, former counselor, and life-long lover of animals, I'm returning to my creative roots and have published my first book: Trust the Timing, A Memoir of Finding Love Again as well as the short version: From Loneliness to Love.

20 thoughts on “Tough Old Marines

  1. as a veteran
    i salute your father, his friend
    & your compassion 🙂

  2. I was born in 1943, so I have lived through every war and conflict since then. I have had many members in my family serve in every branch of the armed service’s. Some were wounded one uncle lost his life. They were all there shoulder to shoulder fighting for our freedom. All the men and women that have served have my deepest respect and love. They are the brave one’s, they are the hero’s of this country. They fought for freedom for us and where ever freedom was threatened. I will always honor them and I will never forget them, including your father and Jerry. When you see your dad again please tell him thank you for me. We will never forget…….
    RIP Jerry.

    • Thank you, Patricia, for your heartfelt message. I will deliver it to my father. I honor and appreciate all your family’s service, those who went to war, and those who supported them at home.

  3. Thank you for sharing this touching story. May God continue to strengthen you

  4. That is a very nice story. Thanks to those men

  5. They were heroes and so brave. I can’t imagine how terrifying it would be to be a tunnel rat. I wonder if people realize the tunnels you are talking about were the Viet Cong tunnels that could be booby trapped or have Viet Cong soldiers hiding within. I have read about them before and as I say it is terrifying to think of crawling into one. Many soldiers who did, died.

  6. Sorry for your losses. Thank you for sharing their stories with us.

  7. Thank you for sharing this story and thank you to these people for their sacrifices. I’m so sorry that November is such a sad month for you. Hugs and blessings. May the Lord surround you with peace and comfort, JoAnna. 🙂 ❤ xoxoxoxoxo

  8. The following is recited every Friday in RSL clubs all over Australia.
    So this is for your Dad and Jerry,
    “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
    Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
    At the going down of the sun and in the morning
    We will remember them.”

  9. Thank you JoAnna, this is a great tribute to my Dad.! You family has always been part of my family!

    • I’m very glad you approve, Stanley. As time goes on, we realize the value of family, and how family can reach beyond blood, beyond politics, beyond what we ever thought possible. I feel so blessed and thankful for our family. I know your dad was proud of you, and he always will be.

  10. This is a lovely memorial to family and friends. May they rest in peace.

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