I met Doc Paul Blakely in early 1967 at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland, CA. I had heard he was there and took a big bunch on homemade cookies my mother made to him and others there. He told me the same story you just posted from Doc Hardin. He was recovering from the loss of a foot and was doing quite well with a new one. I also met another 3/3 member there but not sure if his name was Peterson or Pederson [Doc Gary Pedersen]. I would make the 2-hour trip to Oak Knoll every other month and take them more homemade cookies.
My brother Mike and I were close in age (22 months) and were very close. He had been married about a year. His widow later remarried and had a child. She passed away a few years back from cancer. His loss was hard on our family. Below is what I recently penned about Mike's funeral service.
“I don't think I ever told you the story behind Mike's funeral.
We got word of Mike’s death on 11 December. On the 12th I went down to the Marine Recruiter in Stockton. I was a class 3 reservist. I met with a Gunny and told him of Mike's death and wanted to be recalled to active service to be an Escort for my brother. He looked at me for a few minutes and picked up the phone and called CMC HQ. When he got off of the phone he said for me to go home and that I would be contacted in a few days.
Mom and Dad lived in Pocatello, ID. Mom was active in Navy Mothers. Our family was well known by the local Marine Recruiters as Terry and I had joined from Pocatello. As you might know the Marines did not send death notice telegrams to the family but rather to local Marine Recruiters or Marine Reserve units or a close Marine Corps Base. The local Marine recruiter came to the house and gave my parents the message and knowing they didn't have a car told them if they needed a ride any where just call him.
Their house was across from the Pocatello High School and parking was hard to get so if you moved the space in front of the house was taken. Visitors had to walk several blocks to get to the house. The high school principal announced Mike's death and asked every one to not park in front of the house. And every one complied. Mike was the second service member from Idaho to be killed in Vietnam.
The Marine Reserve in Fort Douglas, Utah was given the assignment to conduct full military honors for Mike. Well, Gunny Sgt Bill Allen was on I & I duty with the Marine Reserves in Boise, Idaho and heard about Mike's death. He went to his Commanding Officer and told him that he knew the Crouson Family well and that he wanted to do the honor for Mike instead of Fort Douglas. His CO said if he could get enough Marines to volunteer then he would call CMC and get orders changed. Every one of the Marines volunteered. So the orders were changed.
I got a call around the 13th of Dec that the Marine Reserve at Rough and Ready Island in Stockton would be cutting my orders and that on the 19th a staff car would come to my house in Lodi and take me to Treasure Island. A Marine Captain, who was my liaison, met me at T.I. and he put me up in the BOQ even though I was only a Cpl. I ate dinner in the BOQ dining room that evening with the Capt and received a lot of stares. Just a CPL. The next morning the Capt and his driver took me to San Francisco airport where we inspected Mikes' coffin which was in a heavy canvas casing and made sure the Flag was in the pouch. The ground crew respectfully loaded Mike and I then boarded the plane with my Black Arm band. Lots more stares.
We landed in Salt Lake airport to change planes, which would be a couple of hours. I supervised the off loading and the guy driving the portable conveyor belt parked it next to a hangar and I said that it needed to be inside and he said this was fine. His supervisor turned out to be a retired Marine Gunny and told him to open a hangar door and park it inside, which he did. The old Gunny said he would be back in time for loading, which he did, and I thanked him. The family was waiting at the Pocatello airport when we landed. It was colder than hell. The Marines from Boise, ID were there to off load Mike and escort him to the funeral home.
Terry, in the mean time, did all the coordination with the funeral home and the Marines. Mike's funeral was on the 23rd of Dec in one of the coldest winters on record. The funeral procession was several blocks long; the funeral director said it was the longest he had ever seen. The Boise Marines accorded Mike full honors. The guy who played TAPS was a schoolmate of Terry, Mike and me. He was home for Christmas and Terry got him to do it for Mike. He later said it was the worst he ever played, but Terry said it was his best. Christmas wasn't much this time though we tried, mainly for brother Jim's little kids who didn't understand it all.
We all gathered at home and many friends came by to visit and the Marines stayed close also. Considering the cold they did an outstanding job. I stayed for a few more days mainly to help Terry comfort the Family and Mike's widow Janet. I flew out after 13 days and landed at San Francisco where a staff car picked me up after I called and drove me directly home. The next day I checked in to the Marine Reserve unit and got my orders signed off.
I can tell you that it was one of the hardest duties I ever did. I remember the Recruiter asking me why I would want to escort my brother and I told him we were like the 5 Sullivan brothers and that Mike would have done the same for me. It was just something I had to do. I miss Mike and always will and know if he had lived he would have been a good man because he always was. Seems like Terry and I were always getting in trouble, but not Mike; we used to call him Mr. Goodie Two Shoes.
In 1968 Mom and Dan along with brother Luke and sister Sharon and Terry and his wife Betty moved to Auburn, California. Mom became active in Gold Star Mothers.
In 1970 brother Luke joined the Corps. His recruiter in Sacramento was Richard A. Pittman,
who was awarded the Medal Of Honor for actions on July 24, 1966 with I/3/5.
We drove down to Camp Pendleton to see Luke, when he was in 2nd ITR, with Mom, Sharon,
Luke's girlfriend (who he later married), Judy and our son Tommy who was about 8 months old.
As Mom and I were approaching the duty hut to check Luke out, a Marine Officer came out
and saluted my Mom and greeted her with a “Good morning Ma’am”. Mom asked me wore that
Gold Star pin.
We had a good visit with Luke but I know Mom was troubled because the Vietnam War was
still going on in 1970. Luke was never sent to Nam. He went into Aviation and retired after
22 years in the Corps.”