Jacob C. Schwan: Meditations
December 9, 2007
Steamboat SpringsSteamboat Springs — Scene: Coffee counter — Scene: Coffee counter
Steamboat Springs — Scene: Coffee counter
This young giant starts rapping about the numerous things that are wrong with “this country,” never once referring to our beloved nation as “our country.”
Says I: “Son, have you ever heard the name John Basilone?”
“What about Mike Strank, Rene Gagnon, Frank Sousely, Harlon Block, to name a few?”
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“Can’t say that I have.”
“I’ll bet you’ve heard of Ira Hayes.”
“Oh yes, he was that Indian who raised the flag on Iwo Jima.”
“You’ve heard of Ira Hayes, a Native American who raised the flag on Iwo and died in the gutter, and the media capitalized on it. But those with him who went down in the worst carnage in war history escape your knowledge. That’s what’s wrong with our country, son. Forty Marines made it to the top of Suribachi, only two walked down, Ira Hayes and Rene Gagnon. They both died shortly after. Alcoholism? Maybe, or maybe they died of an incurable ailment that afflicts surviving warriors; it’s called ‘remorse.'”
I didn’t make it to Iwo. When the 56th boarded ship, they left me in a hospital bed. But I paid my dues earlier under “Harry the Horse” Liversedge in the 3rd Raider Battalion. Talk about ‘remorse.’ I’m told that all but eight of my platoon never made the beach; four got it later.
After that war, folks were so hungry for peace that the media buried our heroes into obscurity. We’ve all heard of MacArthur. He had a good press agent. The combat Marines despised him.
Not all the Marines died on Iwo. A few of the bravest of the brave survived their wounds and made it home. Not the least of these was a Silver Star recipient by the name of William R. Schroll. He and I were partners. He was ‘Wild Bill.’ I was ‘Jungle Jim.’ We did a few things. Bill died a few years back from a lingering blood clot.
As we left the services in Cheyenne, the massive walls of the cathedral resounded with the strains of the Marine Corps hymn. Bill went down in style. I cried. I cried all the way to Woods Landing. I cried for Bill, and for all those whom no one knows.
Jacob C. Schwan