The Five, But Missing One
Jim Strickland remembers six men forever united by the Brotherhood of the Marine Corps.

Strong emotions ran the gamut last week. I was proud, angry, shocked, joyful, saddened.

First buoyed with the knowledge that I exist in a world of the finest men who have ever walked the earth. Then brought crashing down to that hard, cold earth by the reality of life.

If you read my ramblings regularly, you know my father is a Marine. Some would say he is the Marine's Marine. He spent 20 in, retiring when he was 36 years old as an E-9. The mind boggles.

We live not far from Parris Island, that place where Marines are made
( ). Dad is 84 and battling cancer today, still very much the Marine. After he fought the Japanese at Iwo Jima I don't think the cancer frightens him. It's just another hill.

A friend wrote a Memorial Day piece and submitted it to Sergeant Grit Then he passed it on to my dad and me.

Here it is for your enjoyment...

   Memorial Day -2009

   My Father and his Marine Corps buddies, a 60+ year timeline, and never forgotten encounters are what follows in a little written capsule I would like to share on this Memorial Day 2009.

   My father Robert E. Vogel served in WWII as part of the 4th Marine Division, 20th Marines (Engineers), 23rd Marine Regiment, Company “A” with the tour through the Pacific including Roinamur, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima. My Father passed away in 1960 at 36 years of age when I was 10 months old. Though my mother retained many of my father’s records, letters, and photos from the war, there was a time to seek insight from those who may have served with my Dad.

   On Veteran’s Day 1998 I started the search on the Internet for information regarding my Dad’s service. About 5 months later on April 1st, 1999, an amazing thing happened. An email was sitting in my inbox with the subject line “Your Dad – My Buddy” with the message beginning with words “It’s a small world….” Wow! A message from one of my Dad’s buddies was waiting for me. His name was Roy Strickland and to this day I still have the email in a scrapbook. I soon realized this was definitely no April’s fool and our family is forever grateful of making contact with Roy.

   Throughout that summer we exchanged emails and phone calls that all led up to me, my wife and our two young children attending the 52nd 4th Marine Division in Detroit Michigan. We will always remember, walking into the social gathering room and being greeted by Roy and several of his buddies. What a wonderful group of gentlemen!

   We would continue on to meet at the 53rd reunion held in Washington DC and since then I have made it a point to send a thank you each Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day to Roy with appreciation for the friendship he and his buddies brought to our family and the honor to our country.

   We shared stories, photos, and realities of the moment. I learned in the heat of the moment when my Dad was wounded on Iwo Jima how, first hand from the perspective of those who bring the stretcher bearer, our wounded got help. I learned that my father was always whistling “Far Above Cayugas Waters”, the alma mater song for Cornell University. I learned how these men lived through the phases of life with family, friendships, and careers. I had the honor of several actually signing my Dad’s original red book. There are many more simple and memorable events. Roy even introduced my wife and I to the Marine Corps Commandant P.X. Kelley who at the time experienced the tragic event of the 1983 bombing of our Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon.

   To name a few who we met were Harry “Cricket” Crickmer, Bob Sosbe, Harry Edwards, John “Gunner” Link (Platoon Leader), Warren Boo, and Bob McDaniels. Together, they filled a gap in my life with stories and information only they could provide about my Dad. Together, they even took a pretty good photo shoot (see photo, L to R, Rogers, Strickland, Vogel, Crickmer, Phillips) on leave in Honolulu. Some have since passed on since meeting them, but have not passed on from our family’s memory.

   Its been 10 years since that April 1st, 1999 email from Roy and it’s just an amazing reflection to think that 40 years on the other side of my Dad’s death, our family united with such a terrific group of men and Americans.

   Thank you Roy and buddies for the memories, your names are forever an extension to our family’s memoirs of my Dad.

   Semper Fi
   Bob Vogel, son
   Cato, NY

These Marines who were so young at the battle of Iwo Jima have stuck together to this day. When Bob Vogel came to seek information about his dad, he wasn't expecting that he'd be a part of this family of brothers. But that's how it is; Honor, Duty, Country...above all else. These are the men that are called "The Greatest generation" for a good reason.

The 5 men you see in the picture were a small
part of a larger group. The 4th Marine Division
has a long and proud history. Dozens of those
fellows kept track of each other for over 6
decades of life in America, each one of them
making it just a little better for the rest of us.
I was so proud to be able to meet many of them
as I joined my dad at their reunions.

There was another man who wasn't a part of
this story but he was a part of the lives of all
of them.

Clair Chaffin was a corpsman furing the
landings on Iwo Jima. My father (known
around here as "The Gunny") recalled that
Corpsman Chaffin was one busy man when the Marines encountered some 18,000 Japanese soldiers February 19, 1945. The Americans lost 6,821 men and saw 19,217 wounded ( )

Dad tells me that Chaffin treated him when he was wounded that week. He remembers him as a man who saved a number of lives of Marines during the fighting that took place.

Chaffin went on after the war to be a success in life and in the 4th Marines Organization. Although he wasn't strictly a Marine, (corpsmen are Navy), the Marines voted him in as an officer of the organization where he served for many years.

At about the same time I was reading bob's article about our fathers and those other heroes, my dad called me to ask a favor. I could hear the trouble in his voice as he told me that he'd heard of a shooting incident and that an old Marine was involved. He asked me to use my computer to find out who it was. The shooting had happened in Florence, S.C.

I'll let you read the details for yourself here ( ) and here
( )

Our guess is that Chaffin was assaulted and he fought back. He wasn't one to let being outnumbered bother him much. He learned all about death and dying in 1945.

The week ended for me much as others do. I accomplished some things, fell short of other goals...the usual.

But I had a lot to think about.

How is it that one young man loses his dad and yet doesn't lose him but finds him in the hearts and souls of many of his friends and admirers but other young men don't ever find their fathers to look up to?

Why were those fearless young men fighting a real enemy and doing a man's work in 1945 and these two modern day young men in 2009 couldn't summon up the courage to do anything more than rob an old man in a cheap motel parking lot?

Why am I more sad from hopelessness than angry and wanting revenge?

I don't have any good answers. I know that where you find combat veterans you'll find men of peace who don't use weapons; they understand the horror of violent death. I know in our ranks you'll find men and women who understand that life isn't fair and that working hard and finding your own success is a better route than stealing from the lives of others.

I know that at this very moment I'm prouder than ever that I'm a veteran and I can take my place in formation and stand in the shadows of such men.

God rest all their souls, they'll never be forgotten.