By Andy Weddington
Monday, 25 May 2020 Memorial Day
"Dude, I'm going to fly helicopters."
A 40+ years old photograph came out-of-the-blue late last week.
That the colorful moment frozen in black and white a surprise an understatement; a welcome shock.
Pictured: Eleven fit men, in their white elephant squadbay aside railroad tracks, soon to be commissioned Marine second lieutenants out of 2d Platoon, Charlie Company, 113th Officer Candidates Class, Officer Candidates School, Quantico, Virginia.
On iPad, I loaded the photograph into an app. In red, for the pop, (ironically, having again just read Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae's masterpiece 'In Flanders Fields') identified all without so much as pause.
We numbered 18. The missing seven, one the photographer, instantly came to mind: Howard; Kincaide; Leberman; Nelson ("Tall" - "Short" pictured); Smith; Stagnone; Weiss.
Forty-two others were, for one reason or another, shown the exit; but a few names a struggle to recall - good people for trying just not Marine material.
'The Few. The Proud. The Marines.' Not just bumper sticker. Not just bravado.
The impromptu moment mere days before graduation and commissioning. Hair and smiles reflect our happy.
And celebrating return of the man center; our ever upbeat, comedic relief. He'd been hospitalized a few days - severe reaction from a spider bite during the "for score" grueling Endurance Run. Still weak, arms draped for support as much as camaraderie.
2d Platoon, Charlie Company, 113th Officer Candidates Class
One candidate hailed from Southern California.
A surfer - 6' 5" and lean and strong.
Long wavy hair fell just below shoulders.
He stood out, obviously; a "favorite" of the staff.
And so too stood out for his personality.
One of the most confident and capable people I've ever known. Not cocky just certain.
We stayed in touch through the years. And visited on occasion.
Wise, Warren Wise - brother Marine, my friend - stayed Warren.
He died 18 years ago.
He served our country.
The opening quote came from Officer Candidate Warren Wise. His reply, Day 1 (before haircuts), when loudly, and rather sarcastically, queried by one of our (Marine) instructors, "Why are YOU here?"
Classic Warren Wise.
He flew helicopters (CH-53).
I miss Warren.
Best I know, the other men alive; occasionally in touch with a few.
Some of them aviators, too.
Our trainers - Platoon Sergeant Gunnery Sergeant Cooke and Sergeant Instructor Staff Sergeant Hardison - examples in thought, word, and deed. Demanding. Fair. And ensured the men they'd see pin on gold bars be Marines they'd be willing to follow. They deemed 18 worthy.
Thank you Butch Howard, brother, for the photograph. Better this Memorial Day, and henceforth, for it.
May our fallen, duty done, rest in peace - for Eternity.
1. Another photograph not known to exist (author during that damn grueling Endurance Run):
2. This date, 31 years ago, I commissioned my wife an ensign in the Navy. She retired an admiral. Topic over coffee on our porch early this morning - just before draping bunting to honor our fallen.
Home Sweet Home (yard flags note service to country):