PRESERVING A MILITARY LEGACY FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
The following Reflection represents Sgt Raymond Vaughn’s legacy of their military service from 1965 to 1971. If you are a Veteran, consider preserving a record of your own military service, including your memories and photographs, on Togetherweserved.com (TWS), the leading archive of living military history. The Service Reflections is an easy-to-complete self-interview, located on your TWS Military Service Page, which enables you to remember key people and events from your military service and the impact they made on your life.
Who or what influenced your decision to join the military? Which service branch did you select, and what do you remember most about joining up?
My favorite uncle was my inspiration to join the Corps, not an easy decision at the time because Vietnam was starting to really escalate. It was all over the news, and we were starting to see wounded vets returning, and views of flag-draped caskets with bugles playing taps were popping up frequently on the local news. My Uncle Brady, Uncle Caesar, and my Dad were all Merchant Marines but 180 degrees apart in demeanor. Dad and Uncle Caesar, a US Navy WW II vet, were settled homebodies. Uncle Brady was the happy vagabond with different kinds of stories to tell. We loved hearing their sea stories since my father had been part of the sea convoys carrying supplies and men overseas to Europe and the Pacific, and Uncle Brady had actually had feet on the ground. Dad had asthma and was not eligible for the military.
Still, Uncle Brady was able to enlist and always had great tales to tell about the hard training he received at a place called Montford Point and being a member of the Corps during the Pacific Island campaigns. He always brought us the best gifts from his travels. He was a jovial drunk who limped because of shell fragments still in his body that earned him his Purple Heart. He talked about Iwo Jima and Okinawa, places I knew about from school. One Christmas, he gave me a world globe and pointed out little dots in the ocean that I had never heard of, like Peleliu and Tarawa. I spent a few weeks in the public library, looking up the islands and the battles there. I was awed and impressed. His duties as a dark green Marine had been very limited; not signed on for combat, but as a stevedore and supply type, he found himself in the thick of things a number of times. His job was to get the gear off the beaches and into the hands of Marines actually in combat. Being a supply man during the island campaigns meant he often ducked bullets and mortars and was not always successful, hence his Purple Heart. My Dad wanted me to finish high school and go to college, but I could never shake the tales of Uncle Brady. I wanted to see the world and explore the adventures the 3 of them experienced during the war.
In boot camp, I learned the significance and importance of island hopping and the horrors that went with them. Knowing the hell he went through fortified my decision to wear that Eagle, Globe, and Anchor with a firm resolve that I would come home from Nam in one piece. Uncle Brady’s speech about keeping your head down, your wits about you, and a clean rifle helped me more than all the classes at Parris Island ever could, and the fact of him being a Montford Point Marine at a time when equal rights were not present for black vets, only made me even more eager. I began and ended my Corps time at Montford Point, in school, and as part of the IG staff. I relished the thought that I had walked the same grounds and slept in the same barracks he probably had slept in. Our bond was cemented forever. We were a dress blue family, as strong a brotherhood as family blood ties. One day, we will both stand guard together at Heaven’s Gate.