The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Bill Eggert

August 25, 2012

BILL EGGERT | Semper Fi

JOHNSTOWN — Where has the summer gone? Already the days are growing shorter and cooler. The fireflies, a popular staple of summer nights, are already almost gone, not to be seen again until next summer. The Perseid meteor shower, another sign of the close of summer, has come and gone. August is almost over, and Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer, is fast approaching.

My good friend PR will also be disappearing soon at summer’s end. A Marine veteran of the first Gulf War, PR is being relocated to Southeast Asia on assignment, and will be reuniting with his wife, who is serving with the Marines in the current Gulf War.

PR is a unique individual and a Marine to the core. I have known only three Marines in my lifetime prior to PR: My Uncle Jim from Georgia and a former next door neighbor, both of whom served in World War II, and my good friend Lynn, who served in the Korean War.

Uncle Jim was only a teenager when he enlisted, and served in combat in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, among others. His unit was to be part of the invading Marine vanguard to the shores of Japan, where fatalities were predicted to be extremely high. Had President Truman not dropped the atom bombs to end that war, my Uncle Jim, and countless other Marines, may never have survived World War II.

My dad served in the Army Signal Corps when he graduated high school in 1946, and his younger brother, Ron, also served later in the Army. My Uncle Don served in the Navy in World War II as well as in the Korean War. His father, my maternal grandfather, served as a doughboy in World War I, receiving the Purple Heart in battles such as the Argonne Forest.

Those who served in the military bring a unique set of skills the ordinary citizen does not possess. My dad used to say that all males upon graduating high school should serve in the military for two years, in preparing for adulthood. In retrospect I think he was correct.  

There are certain skill sets that those who serve in the military learn, such as self-discipline.  

These qualities are especially pronounced in Marines. My Uncle Jim was a laid-back person most of the time, and yet I had no doubt there was a tiger waiting to pounce if the situation warranted it. He was an incredibly observant and perceptive person, no doubt much of this learned by avoiding deadly trip wires while navigating jungles during the war.

Having PR as a friend has brought back memories of my relatives who served in the military, especially my Uncle Jim.

PR’s perspective on life, based on his military training, reminds me of how important our military is to our country, and how much the military and their families sacrifice in so many ways to protect our country. They are so good at their jobs that we sometimes take them for granted until emergencies strike. The Marine’s motto is “Semper Fidelis,” Latin for “Always Faithful.” Hopefully we will be faithful to our military as they continue to make sacrifices on our behalf during the current war and beyond.

I will miss PR and his unique perspective as he embarks on his new assignment. But I will always be grateful for his friendship, and his service to our country. Semper Fi, PR, and Godspeed, brother.

Bill Eggert is a Johnstown resident. He writes an occasional column.

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