by Debby Stinemetz Caulfield
When I was fourteen, I moved into the Marine Barracks and fell in love with many handsome Marines. My father was the commanding officer of the Marine Barracks, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine. Our quarters were literally one end of the barracks. On the other side of my bedroom wall was “the head” where I could hear the Marines showering at reveille. Our front yard was the parade ground and our backyard was the servicing area for the mess and laundry. There was also a brig. There was no better place for a coming-of-age young woman to be where opportunities for flirting abounded, if kept out of the Colonel’s watchful eye. My younger brother and sister developed friendships with the off duty Marines too, riding skateboards together down the back service road.
Sometimes our Marine friends moved away and we never heard of them again. But some came back in the form of bad news as our father would tell us at the dinner table that our friend Lurch or Tom or Bob had been killed in action in Vietnam. It wasn’t just the Marines at our barracks home who were dying. My father, being the senior Marine in Maine, was tasked with officially notifying the families of Marines killed in Vietnam. I’d wait for my father to come home and see the emotion on his face, as he’d tell of fathers fainting in his arms or mothers screaming inconsolably.
We moved out of the Marine Barracks and my father moved to Vietnam. We continued to get more stories of Marines dying as my father shared his experiences as the commanding officer of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in Danang.
Before I was 18 years old and started developing any political sense and ideology about wars, I had become keenly aware that war and service to country is about death. This is what I think about on Memorial Day.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
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By Allen Dale Olson
Active duty personnel underwent some sort of alert almost every month. As a civilian employee, I was mostly unaffected by them. Only significant events – such as the death of President Johnson or the attempted assassination of President Reagan – disrupted my life in any meaningful way, attending security briefings or doing phone duty to inform various commands of proposed actions. But the most curious one came in 1974, shortly before President Nixon resigned.
I had been at our ranger training installation in Bad Toelz in Bavaria. At breakfast in the German hotel where I had spent the night, I gleaned from a TV newscaster that something was impacting on all U.S. Forces in the world, so I thought I’d better check it out at the Army post before driving back home to Karlsruhe. I didn’t make it to the post; I was intercepted by military police directing me to return immediately to my duty station. The senior NCO looked at my orders and I.D. and wished me luck on my three-hour drive back home. He had no explanation for the alert.
Nor did my bosses in Karlsruhe and Heidelberg. The alert had been called personally by a very troubled President who had perceived a national threat, apparently unsubstantiated by either military or security agencies. For almost 24 hours, soldiers, sailors, and airmen manned duty stations with absolutely no rational explanation as to why they were frozen in place. All we were ever told is that it was “real,” not “practice.”
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Of course it would be Sheer Lunacy to skip past a Pentagon security guard to get to your office. But I was surprised to be stopped by a guard who said my official ID issued by the United States European Command was no longer sufficient to get me in. Unless I was assigned to a Pentagon job, I could only get to my inner destination accompanied by a Pentagon-assigned employee.
For years my EUCOM ID had been good enough. I had even learned which Metro station, which Pentagon entrance, and which corridors to use on my frequent trips to the place. Not that day; new security rules.
The guard told me to use a lobby phone to call my counterpart inside and he would come get me and walk me in. This was before cell phones, so it meant I had to dig into my brief case to look for the phone number. While doing so, I became aware of an altercation across the lobby at another entrance.
I could see the back of a gray-haired man engaged in intense conversation with a security guard. Both men were obviouslypassionate about their discourse but they were not shouting, so I could not hear them. It also appeared that the security guard was not getting the best of the discourse.
When I finally found my colleague’s phone number, my security guard put his hand on my shoulder and said not to bother. The rule had just changed, and I was free to go in on my own.
I asked what happened, and he explained that the man at the next entrance was retired General Lyman Lemnitzer, former Supreme Allied Commander, Allied Powers, Europe. One more example that a few stars on your uniform can effect instantchange.
There is (or was) civility in the Pentagon in those days. On one of my visits, the Secretary of Defense called an “All Hands” meeting, and another colleague and I headed for the most secure wing of the famous Puzzle Palace.
My colleague was new to government service and had never been around the military, so when we arrived at the Secretary’s outer office and faced a buffet table laden with pastries and coffee urns, he approached a man in a white jacket pouring a cup of coffee and asked if he could please also have a cup.
“Absolutely,” was the response, and Admiral William J. Crowe, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and resplendent in Navy whites, turned, pot in hand, and fulfilled my colleague’s request. Sheer Lunacy is pleased to report that no task, it seems, is too small for our Defense Chiefs.
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There will soon be a “Mabel-Grammer-Ring” on the former Sullivan Barracks. The major thoroughfare through the installation (soon a new suburb) will be named after the very WII soldier after whom the barracks had been named in the first place.
After I had started the initiative to name a street after Mabel Grammer,
the City of Mannheim, represented by the municipal archives – asked
me for similarly important German-American personalities, and I
suggested a local blues, swing and jazz icon (Joy Fleming) and Jean
Moore Fasse who ran a Service Club in town for several years.
All three suggestions were approved by the City Council, so Mabel Grammer returns to Mannheim; and this time, for eternity.
When the municipal archives moved to a new location right
across the Neckar River a while ago, Director Prof Dr Ulrich Nieß had a
great idea: He suggested adorning the scaffolding around the archives’
new home with the eyes of prominent Mannheimers. Among them: Mabel
Grammer. Here’s a report about the art project:
You will easily recognize Mabel Grammer’s eyes, taken from the very
photo I had used in my book. She is joined by German soccer legend Sepp
Herberger, Berta Benz (wife of Carl Benz, the inventor of the automobile
who was the first person to actually drive a car) and others.
Mabel Grammer’s story is documented in the following movie: