Marine sergeant major remains in service to fellow veterans

Marine sergeant major remains in service to fellow veterans

Ifanyone dares question what I did in the Marine Corps, he can verify everything I've ever uttered on the subject by contacting Richard Eubank in Eugene.

The retired Marine sergeant major's integrity is unimpeachable. Indeed, this is a man who will step forward to become the national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in August, leading 1.5 million American combat veterans. He is the current senior vice commander.

He was a Marine's Marine, a former recon instructor in Coronado, Calif. When he wasn't showing servicemen the finer points of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, he was giving lessons on scuba diving with the sharks.

Before he went into recon, Richard was a sergeant and I a corporal stationed together at the 4th Marine Division headquarters at Camp Pendleton for nearly two years beginning in late 1969.

And the Vietnam veteran can vouch for the fact that, although I was a squared-away leatherneck who was as gung-ho as the next devil dog, I did absolutely nothing of consequence in the Corps.

No heroics. Nothing spectacular. Just marking time in stateside duty.

In fact, Richard has a nearly 40-year-old photograph that clearly shows the only thing I would ever fight was an occasional hangover.

"Yeah, I still got a picture to prove that one," he agreed with his unchanged gravelly chuckle when we reminisced over the phone last week.

I had called him to get a comment for the troubling story in today's Tribune about a Vietnam veteran's alleged embellishment of his military career.

But I also wanted to hear the familiar voice of a Vietnam War veteran whom I first came to know four decades ago, a fellow I knew would gladly die rather than lie about his military record.

This is a man whose word is as solid as the proverbial bedrock.

On the eve of Memorial Day, I wanted to be reminded that there are many Vietnam veterans like him whose stories don't change with the retelling. Locally, that long list would include Purple Heart recipients Jim Klug, Larry Rupp, John Waldrop and countless others.

They are straight-shooters, and not just on the rifle range.

I asked Richard two years ago why he committed so much of his time to the national VFW. His answer would not have surprised anyone who knew him.

"I've got a lot of buddies who didn't make it home from combat, either physically or mentally," he replied. "I'll do what I can to help veterans."

When I first met him, Sgt. Eubank was already a geezer of 22 or so. At 18, I was among the youngest in our unit.

But he was a natural leader who was uniformly respected and liked. He was also one of the toughest in our outfit. He would have made Chesty Puller proud.

Richard happened to be the sergeant of the guard the night the photograph was taken. It seems he was making his rounds when he discovered after-hour and completely unauthorized activity coming from the communications shop.

He stepped in and flipped on the light. There sat half a dozen jarheads, including yours truly, who had already unarmed several dozen brewskis. No doubt there were also a couple of bottles of really bad booze that had surrendered to our thirst.

That's when one of the culprits snapped a photograph.

"You and Pete (Healey) are both in it," Richard said. "Everybody had a beer. And I'm standing there with my .45."

In the Marine parlance of the era, the sergeant cut us a huss. In other words, he gave us a break.

God knows we could have all been hauled to the brig, or at the very least been given office hours under Article 15 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice.

But he also knew we were squared-away Marines who would quickly sober up, clean up our mess and muster for duty at 0600 the next morning.

And we knew to a man that none of us would ever allow the sergeant to be blamed should our multiple violations come to light.

Before saying goodbye last week, he joked that he is holding off giving me a copy of the photo until the statute of limitations expires.

But he knows there are no limitations on a veteran's honesty, integrity and truthfulness.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or at

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