Growing up I always was fascinated with the stories my uncle would tell all of us kids. He liked to talk about his time in the United States Marine Corps (USMC), his friends he made, the friends he lost, the places he visited, and his experiences. But, he wasn’t always a marine. Before he was a Marine he was part of a family which consisted of eight sons and eight daughters. He was the youngest boy, born 06 October 1932 in Mandan North Dakota. Coming from a family of Marines he knew early on he wanted to be a Marine and continue the legacy. He enlisted in the USMC on 08 October 1950 and was quickly carted off to fight in the Korean War where he completed multiple tours. In July 1953 with the end of the Korean war in sight he was cycled back to the United States he found himself stationed at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. Later in the year, 15 October 1953 he married his high school sweetheart and began his own family. Over the years they had nine children, five boys and four girls. In 1965 he was part of Rolling Thunder, the initial wave of soldiers being sent to Vietnam. He would do three tours in Vietnam, his last one in 1970 falling short since he was wounded in action. He returned home in the summer of 1970 and retired later in the year with 20 years of active service with the United States Marine Corps. At this time, my uncle, a retired USMC vet, decided to open a hardware/feed store where he grew up outside of Mandan. He would run the hardware shop for thirty years and finally decided that it was time to let his children carry on with it. The hardware store remains open today, some 42 years later.
In early June 2013 my uncle was diagnosed with a cancer I won’t try to pronounce or spell. by the time it was diagnosed it was spread to almost 60% of his body. He went into intense therapy to try and attempt to eradicate the cancer but it only put a little dent and then decided to continue to spread aggressively. On 09 October 2013 he was re-admitted to the hospital die to complications with his liver and kidneys which later in the week completely shut down. My mother, his last remaining sibling rushed to North Dakota to be by his side as everyone was fearing this would be his final trip to the hospital. He had recently, the week before, celebrated his 81st birthday a frail, sick, shell of the man he once was. Knowing he was going to die very soon he demanded to be let out of the hospital because he did not want to spend his 60th wedding anniversary in a hospital bed. On the morning of 15 October 2013 he was released into the care of his wife. Upon request, he was helped to get dressed in his finest Sunday suit for dinner in their one room apartment that evening, celebrating his wedding anniversary with the love of his life. In the wee hours of Wednesday, 16 October 2013 my uncle passed away.
His funeral will be this coming Monday, 21 October 2013. I was told that once a Marine, you are always a Marine, and you will die a Marine. His funeral will be a full on USMC service and burial. Many of his fellow Marines he served with over the years will attend to pay their respects as well as family and friends. When I spoke to my aunt this morning and my mother last night I was told that the one thing she is not looking forward to is being present the United States flag which will have been draped on the casket. She thinks the reality of his death will come to pass at that moment. She was very emotional. My mother has requested me to make my aunt a shadow box enclosure to house the flag and a variety of his Marine memorabilia she will be returning home with. As I wiped the tears from my eyes, as I am having to do now, I accepted the task. As I say farewell to my uncle Steven I am reminded what a remarkable son he was to his parents, how he cherished the very ground he wife walked upon, he was a great brother, and how he is a wonderful father, grandfather, and great grandfather. He was many things to many people, he was a man who was the picture of honor and reliability, luckily I knew him my entire life as uncle Steven.