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“Hold and Die” – Legendary Marine Passes On
Townhall.com ^ | November 3, 2008 | W. Thomas Smith, Jr

Posted on 11/03/2008 5:36:55 AM PST by Kaslin

COL. JOHN W. RIPLEY, U.S. MARINE CORPS (ret.), recipient of the Navy Cross and for years one of my personal heroes, has passed away.

Ripley, 69, was awarded the Navy Cross – the nation’s second-highest award for valor in combat – for single-handedly blowing up the Dong Ha Bridge in Vietnam, thus blunting the North Vietnamese Army's Easter Offensive on April 2, 1972.

The enemy was attacking in great strength – huge numbers of infantry, tanks, artillery – and Ripley's little force was ordered to "hold and die."

Dying would be easy. But the only way to hold was to blow the bridge spanning the Dong Ha River. And, as Ripley said, he was "the Marine there to do it."

Then a 33-year-old captain, Ripley accomplished his task by dangling from the bridge's I-beams, climbing along the length of the bridge hand-over-hand, his body weighted down with explosives, the enemy shooting at him, desperately trying to kill the lone Marine hanging beneath the bridge.

In a June 16, 2008 interview for Marine Corps Times, Ripley said “I had to swing like a trapeze artist in a circus and leap over the other I-beam. ... I would work myself into the steel. I used my teeth to crimp the detonator and thus pinch it into place on the fuse. I crimped it with my teeth while the detonator was halfway down my throat.”

Ripley set the charges and moved back to the friendly side of the river, all the while under heavy fire.

When the timed-fuses detonated, Ripley – running for his life on the road leading away from the bridge – was literally blown through the air by the massive shockwave he had engineered. The next thing he remembered, he was lying on his back as huge pieces of the bridge were hurtling and cartwheeling across the sky above him.

In an interview for Americans at War (U.S. Naval Institute), Ripley said, "The idea that I would be able to even finish the job before the enemy got me was ludicrous. When you know you're not gonna make it, a wonderful thing happens: You stop being cluttered by the feeling that you're going to save your butt."

A Virginia native, Ripley served in the Marine Corps for 35 years: He commanded three Marine infantry platoons (one rifle, one weapons, one reconnaissance), three rifle companies, a British Royal Marine Commando company (which operated alongside Gurkha infantry in Malaya), a U.S. Marine rifle battalion and a Marine infantry regiment. He also held a variety of other posts from professor to university president. He directed the Marine Corps' History and Museums Division. He testified before Congress on the dynamics and rigors of combat. And a Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan was named for him.

In addition to being one of the Corps greatest heroes and a legend among midshipmen at Annapolis (his alma mater), this year Ripley became the first Marine inducted into the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame.

Incidentally, a signed copy of Col. Charles H. Waterhouse's painting depicting Ripley's exploits at the Dong Ha Bridge hangs in my office as a reminder that – as we read in Philippians – "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

Considering the lives saved and the superhuman feat performed under intense enemy fire at Dong Ha, I believe Col. Ripley's Navy Cross should have been – and should be – upgraded to the Medal of Honor.


TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs
KEYWORDS: quadbody

1 posted on 11/03/2008 5:36:55 AM PST by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin

BTTT!


2 posted on 11/03/2008 5:41:40 AM PST by Covenantor ("Men are ruled...by liars who refuse them news, and by fools who cannot govern." Chesterton)
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To: Kaslin

Word to the wise:
Never crimp your detonators/blasting caps with your teeth.


3 posted on 11/03/2008 5:41:56 AM PST by Lusis ("Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.")
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To: Kaslin

OORAH

To think my son has the chance to join this Brotherhood make my heart swell with pride.


4 posted on 11/03/2008 5:41:58 AM PST by don-o (My son, Ben - Recruit training at Parris Island from October 20)
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To: Kaslin

A Marine legend... extreme heroism combined with extraordinary strength.


5 posted on 11/03/2008 5:43:24 AM PST by johnny7 ("Duck I says... ")
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To: Kaslin
COL. JOHN W. RIPLEY, U.S. MARINE CORPS (ret.), recipient of the Navy Cross and for years one of my personal heroes, has passed away.

Another fine Virginian added to the long list, some men are born with brass one's.

6 posted on 11/03/2008 5:43:59 AM PST by org.whodat ( "the Whipped Dog Party" , what was formally the republicans.)
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To: org.whodat

RIP, Shipmate.


7 posted on 11/03/2008 5:46:14 AM PST by pabianice (Inexplicable and infuriating.)
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To: Kaslin

8 posted on 11/03/2008 5:47:08 AM PST by usmcobra (There are 665,000,000 reasons why Obama should show his eligibility to be president!)
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To: All

OOHRAH Rest in Peace Col. You are now with Chesty and the best, guard the golden streets.

God Bless and Semper Fi


9 posted on 11/03/2008 5:48:56 AM PST by jleibyUSMC (America, Love her, Defend her, or Leave her......... Semper fi)
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To: Kaslin
Semper Fi, Mac.

I tear up when I read these stories of bravery.

Where do these men and women come from? What makes them strive to be the patriots we hope to be?

Nothing we do in our lives will ever measure up to the courage, sacrifice and love of country men and women such as these show to us.

All we can do is try to live up to their ideals.

10 posted on 11/03/2008 5:49:01 AM PST by Pistolshot (Palin has run a state, city, and a business. NObama has only run his mouth.)
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To: Kaslin; Kathy in Alaska; E.G.C.; GodBlessUSA; darkwing104; LUV W; Radix; HiJinx; txradioguy; ...

R I P COL. JOHN W. RIPLEY,
U.S. MARINE CORPS (ret.)

11 posted on 11/03/2008 5:49:32 AM PST by beachn4fun (Want change? Vote new blood into Congress where the purse-strings reside.)
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To: Kaslin
A posthumous upgrade would be more than fitting.

Read Col. Turley's book, "The Easter Offensive" but ignore the foreward. On second thought, read it and ask yourself what happened to him (Webb).

See pp 177-186. Not only was there small arms fire but tank fire as well! From Ripley's report via Turley:

Successful or not, a 100MM round slamming into a steel stringer beside you pumps up your adrenalin, cleans out your ears and motivates you to a greater speed and efficiency.
The story mentions that Ripley forgot to shed his web gear before heading under the bridge and it would weigh him down as time went on. I'm thinking there was a ton of brass weighing him down as well if you know what I mean.

ISBN 1557508305

12 posted on 11/03/2008 5:57:52 AM PST by NonValueAdded (Sen. McCain brings a lifetime of experience to the White House; Sen. Obama brings a speech)
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To: Kaslin

Another warrior in heaven.....

Semper Fi


13 posted on 11/03/2008 6:02:07 AM PST by Kimmers (Our country is in trouble. Whom do you want to lead, a fighter pilot or a community organizer?)
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To: beachn4fun

BTTT


14 posted on 11/03/2008 6:03:24 AM PST by E.G.C. (I'm E.G.C. and I approved this message. Click on my screename and then "In Forum" to read my posts)
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To: NonValueAdded

I’m friends with one of Col. Ripley’s sons. RIP Brave warrior.


15 posted on 11/03/2008 6:03:56 AM PST by VA_Gentleman (Moshe Plesser - "I think I did what is expected from every soldier and citizen.")
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To: Kaslin

A seat of honor at the USMC table in Valhalla.


16 posted on 11/03/2008 6:04:36 AM PST by yefragetuwrabrumuy
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To: E.G.C.

Good morning, EG

((HUGS))

(says beachy in passing through thread)


17 posted on 11/03/2008 6:07:16 AM PST by beachn4fun (Want change? Vote new blood into Congress where the purse-strings reside.)
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To: Kaslin

Another hero of the Corps reports for duty in Heaven.

Rest In Peace, Marine.


18 posted on 11/03/2008 6:08:26 AM PST by Mr. Jazzy (USMC- Guarding freedom around the world since 1775)
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To: Kaslin

Should of gotten the MOH. A Marines Marine. I have read the story over the years and marveled at the ingenuity and persistence in that operation.


19 posted on 11/03/2008 6:09:34 AM PST by mad_as_he$$ (Nemo me impune lacessit.)
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To: VA_Gentleman

Please extend my heartfelt sympathy and respect. I’m sure it is shared by all of FReepdom.


20 posted on 11/03/2008 6:10:41 AM PST by NonValueAdded (Sen. McCain brings a lifetime of experience to the White House; Sen. Obama brings a speech)
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To: Kaslin

A real American hero...R.I.P. soldier, you’ve done your time in hell...


21 posted on 11/03/2008 6:15:12 AM PST by EnigmaticAnomaly ("Democrats: Seeking an easy life at someone else's expense for 150 years")
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To: Kaslin

Only the Navy Cross?! I feel that he was cheated. I am going to put this on my blog.


22 posted on 11/03/2008 6:19:29 AM PST by 7thson (I've got a seat at the big conference table! I'm gonna paint my logo on it!)
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To: Kaslin

Well done Soldier! Semper Fi!

We can honor these men by keeping the USA a FREE country. I fear some of us would trade our freedom for a few trinkets and beads, and the promise of false salvation


23 posted on 11/03/2008 6:24:32 AM PST by PGR88
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To: Kaslin
More from Ripley's report via Turley's book:
Rather than concentrating their fire on me - and I certainly couldn't have made it through had they done so - they seemed to be watching incredulously as my body would appear, then disappear hanging above the river. The enemy watched in a mixture of what seemed to be humor and amazement.
(and of course, that passage minimizes the fire he was taking, including the previously mentioned 100mm tank shells). The mining of the bridge took Ripley and Major Smock two hours to accomplish.

Regarding Ripley's blasting cap crimping, by mouth, to the fuse:

All the while I recalled the demonstration of the destructive power of a blasting cap I had seen. When inserted into a softball it had blown it to shreds. My mouth didn't seem as tough as the softball. I could only imagine what a mistake would do to me.

24 posted on 11/03/2008 6:28:01 AM PST by NonValueAdded (Sen. McCain brings a lifetime of experience to the White House; Sen. Obama brings a speech)
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To: NonValueAdded
One final piece to add ... while the time fuses were burning, Ripley and Smock discovered a box of electrical detonators. Realizing that if the time fuses malfunctioned after they left the area there'd be no way to get back to fix it, Ripley went back out under the bridge - did I mention the fuses were burning? - and added the electrical detonators.
25 posted on 11/03/2008 6:34:02 AM PST by NonValueAdded (Sen. McCain brings a lifetime of experience to the White House; Sen. Obama brings a speech)
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To: Kaslin
Another Corps legend General Robert H. Barrow passed away last Thursday. Colonel Ripley came very close to death a few years ago.

General Robert H. Barrow 1922–2008

Gen Barrow was born on 5 February 1922 in Baton Rouge, La. He graduated from high school in 1939 and enrolled at Louisiana State University. In March 1942, he enlisted in the Platoon Leader’s Class Program. He left school in the fall of 1942 and went to boot camp in San Diego, Calif., staying on after graduation as a drill instructor. Selected for Officer Candidates School, he left San Diego for Quantico, Va., in March 1943, and on 19 May 1943, he was commissioned a second lieutenant of Marines.

Following officer training, he was assigned to Marine Barracks, Naval Ammunition Depot, New Orleans. He was reassigned in February 1944 to the 51st Replacement Battalion in Camp Lejeune. During the last 7 months of World War II, he led an American team serving with Chinese guerrilla forces in Japanese-occupied central China.

After World War II, he served as aide-de-camp to the Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic. He completed Amphibious Warfare School, Junior Course, in June 1949 and was transferred to the Second Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, N.C. He was given command of “Able” Company, 1st Battalion, Second Marine Regiment.

At the beginning of the Korean War, his company was transferred to Camp Pendleton and redesignated Able Co, 1/1, 1st MarDiv. He led Able Co ashore at Inchon, Korea in September 1950. For his leadership in the fighting on the outskirts of Seoul, he was awarded the Silver Star. During the Chosin Reservoir Campaign he was awarded the Navy Cross for the seizure and defense of Hill 1081, 9-10 Dec.1950.

After the Korean War he was reassigned as Officer in Charge, Infantry Desk, Enlisted Assignments, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps (HQMC). From there, he was detailed out and sent on a classified assignment to the Far East, north of Taiwan. He returned to HQMC, this time to the G–3 (Operations). In February 1956, he returned to Camp Lejeune where he served first as operations officer and then executive officer of 2/6. He joined the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps unit at Tulane University in 1957 and served as Marine Officer Instructor for three years.

Returning to Quantico, he completed a tour with the Landing Force Development Center and attended the Officer’s Senior Course in 1963. He left for another tour in the Pacific where he served as G–3, III Marine Amphibious Force, then G–3 Plans Officer, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific in Hawaii. Attendance at the National War College followed.

Upon graduation in 1968, he arrived in South Vietnam to take command of 9th Marines, 3dMarDiv. The regiment conducted a series of highly successful operations south of the western part of the demilitarized zone and in the Khe Sanh and Ba Long Valley areas. For his valor during Operation DEWEY CANYON from 22 January to 18 March 1969, he received the Distinguished Service Cross.

Gen Leonard F. Chapman, 24th Commandant of the Marine Corps, promoted him to brigadier general in August 1969. Gen Barrow’s first tour as a general officer was as CG, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Okinawa, where he served for three years. He then served as CG, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island for 32 months. In July 1975, he was assigned as Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower, HQMC.

The following year he became CG, Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic, Norfolk, VA. He was Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps from July 1978 until one year later when he assumed the office as Commandant. Befitting his reputation and stature, when Gen Barrow stepped down as 27th Commandant of the Marine Corps on 26 June 1983, President Ronald W. Reagan presided over the ceremony at Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. Gen Barrow returned to Louisiana where he lived in retirement.

Gen Barrow was a three-war Marine with unparalleled experience in conventional and irregular conflict. He commanded at every level. His deep sense of purpose and abiding love of the Corps propelled him from the rank of private to general and the Office of the Commandant. He was the first Marine to serve a regular 4-year tour as a full member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

He was a leader in personnel reform and was instrumental in the decision to make the commanding generals of the recruit depots the two chief regional recruiters. He believed a better quality of recruit led to an increase in performance and retention. As such, he advocated an increase in the percentage of high school graduates and screening programs for recruiters and drill instructors. As Commandant he addressed substance abuse and alcoholism by ending the tolerance of drug abusers and problem drinkers. Under his steady hand the Marine Corps reached a plateau of excellence in attracting and retaining quality men and women.

In the essay he wrote for the book, “Commandants of the Marine Corps,” Brigadier General Edwin Simmons quoted the personal credo of Gen Barrow: “In any institution or undertaking, the importance of people transcends all else.” Gen Barrow maintained, throughout his life, an abiding love and respect for his Marines. We, in turn, will miss him greatly. He was preceded in death by his wife Patty, who passed away on 13 Feb. 2006.

General and Mrs. Barrow are survived by five children, Charles C. Pulliam of Greenville, S.C., Cathleen P. Harmon of Killeen, Texas, Barbara B. Kanegaye of Houston, Texas, Mary B. Hannigan of Oakton, Va. and LtCol Robert H. Barrow USMC (Ret) of Tampa, Fla., eleven grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

A private funeral for family and friends will be held on November 3 at 1:00 p.m. Pallbearers are sons Charles C. Pulliam and LtCol. Robert H. Barrow, USMC (Ret); grandsons Richard S. Bassett, Robert C. Bassett, Collin J. Hannigan, Mark J. Hannigan, Pierce T. Hannigan, S. Denham Turner III, and Scott B. Turner; and nephews Emmette E. Barrow (former USN) and Bertrand H. Barrow (former USMC).

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be sent to: The Grace Episcopal Church Cemetery Fund, 11621 Ferdinand Street, St. Francisville, LA 70775; The Injured Marine/Semper Fi Fund, 825 College Blvd, Suite 102, PMB #609, Oceanside, CA 92057 (note donation made in Memory of General Barrow); and/or The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Donations, Neuro-Oncology Department, P.O. Box 301402 - Unit 431, Houston, TX 77230-1402 (The address for the UT Cancer Center must read exactly as indicated for funds to reach the Cancer Center).

26 posted on 11/03/2008 6:34:55 AM PST by A.A. Cunningham
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To: Kaslin

If the Army and the Navy were to look on Heaven’s scenes.
They will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines.


27 posted on 11/03/2008 7:24:16 AM PST by pjluke (thank you Mr. Kalashnikov!)
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To: Kaslin; A.A. Cunningham; Siobhan; Canticle_of_Deborah; NYer; Salvation; american colleen; ...
From A Story of Exceptional Valor and Faith

...Before serving two tours in Vietnam, he completed scuba, Ranger, airborne and jump master training. He was also an Exchange Officer to the British Royal Marines, during which time he participated in a Northern Malaysian campaign with the famous Gurkha Rifles.

Col. Ripley is most famous for blowing up the bridge at Dong Ha in Vietnam. He accomplished this act of epic heroism after three days of intense combat, without any food or sleep. A few sips of water from his canteen provided his only sustinence. This superhuman feat crippled the 1972 North Vietnamese Easter invasion which ended in defeat. Thus, the government honored Col. Ripley’s leadership, heroism and self-sacrifice at Dong Ha with a Navy Cross, America’s second highest military decoration.

Col. Ripley is also a man of faith. He attributes the destruction of the Dong Ha bridge to the grace of God and the Blessed Virgin Mary. He related how he felt all physical strength evaporate while placing explosives under the bridge. To continue, he composed a simple ryming prayer: “Jesus, Mary, get me there… Jesus, Mary, get me there…” He repeatedly said this prayer on the bridge and a supernatural assistance came to his aid at a much-needed time. He stated: “This aid was tangible. It was all-consuming.” His mission would have been impossible without it....

The most interesting part of our meeting was when Col. Ripley explained the essence of a true leader is one who sets the example and shows his troops how to act, rather than tell them what to do from a desk and ask them to report back. Col. Ripley is one such leader. He never shied away from action, but always preferred to be on the front lines with his men.

In addition to being deadly on the battlefield, this tough marine is also lethal in the realm of ideas. After hearing about the TFP Student Action bebates on university campuses, he described the wonderful time he had appearing on [CNN's former program] Crossfire to debate a female Air Force general defending the need for women in the military. She could not stand up against the bulletproof logic of Col. Ripley’s real life combat experierce.

Col. Ripley deserves our tribute, respect and admiration.

He taught us that to be a true leader one must have faith in God and Our Lady. He explained how being a leader means setting the example. Moreover, his heroic actions at Dong Ha speak even louder than his words.

It was truly an honor and privilege to meet this model soldier, a man with profound zeal for the Catholic Church and high ideals for which he is willing to give his life. My TFP colleagues and I will never forget him.

28 posted on 11/03/2008 7:24:39 AM PST by Pyro7480 (This Papist for Palin asks everyone to pray the Rosary for our country!)
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To: Kaslin
thanks for posting!

In an interview for Americans at War (U.S. Naval Institute), Ripley said, "The idea that I would be able to even finish the job before the enemy got me was ludicrous. When you know you're not gonna make it, a wonderful thing happens: You stop being cluttered by the feeling that you're going to save your butt."

Can you imagine what it was like for him when he finally made it off the bridge, when the thought occurred to  him that he might actually live to see another day?

29 posted on 11/03/2008 7:25:37 AM PST by zeugma (Mark Steyn For Global Dictator!)
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To: Faux_Pas

Ping


30 posted on 11/03/2008 7:28:41 AM PST by Kaslin (If 0bama wants to spread the wealth around, let him start with his own)
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To: Kaslin
My personal unsung hero....Harold G. Schrier, USMC.

http://gunnyg.wordpress.com/2008/08/16/gunny-g-ltcol-harold-g-schrier-usmc-ret-deceased/

Schrier was one of Carlson's Raiders. He fought on Gaudalcanal, Midway, Bouganville, New Guinea and led the Flag Team up Suribachi. He played himself for a one line cameo in Sands of Iwo Jima. He was awarded the Silver Star for action later in the Iwo fight.

Five years later Schrier led a Company of Fifth Marines in the Chosin Resevoir fight. At one point his company was assigned a hill to hold. The fighting was so close that the company used over 1,000 grenades in one afternoon.

He died in 1971 having played a part in three of the four most famous USMC campaigns of his lifetime.

31 posted on 11/03/2008 7:45:58 AM PST by wtc911 ("How you gonna get back down that hill?")
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To: Pyro7480

Thanks, Pyro.

It helps greatly to remember there were and still are great people in the country.

May angels sing him to his rest.


32 posted on 11/03/2008 7:48:09 AM PST by OpusatFR (Neither Republican or Democrat. Monarchist with allegience to The Only One.)
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To: Kaslin

God Bless Our Heroes!


33 posted on 11/03/2008 7:49:37 AM PST by Faux_Pas ("If I know the answer I'll tell you the answer, and if I don't, I'll just respond, cleverly." ~R.)
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To: Kaslin
In an interview for Americans at War (U.S. Naval Institute), Ripley said, "The idea that I would be able to even finish the job before the enemy got me was ludicrous. When you know you're not gonna make it, a wonderful thing happens: You stop being cluttered by the feeling that you're going to save your butt."

The interview with the above quote is on YouTube: Col. John W. Ripley, USMC (Ret.)

(I found this thanks to Amanda Carpenter's post here.

34 posted on 11/03/2008 7:50:57 AM PST by Pyro7480 (This Papist for Palin asks everyone to pray the Rosary for our country!)
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To: Pyro7480

May this noble man rest in peace.


35 posted on 11/03/2008 7:53:25 AM PST by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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To: Kaslin

Thank you for posting that.

We must remember to appreciate our heroes - now more than ever.


36 posted on 11/03/2008 8:01:46 AM PST by islander-11 (Save Nantucket - Vote Republican!!!)
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To: Kaslin; beachn4fun

TAPS

RIP COL John W Ripley USMC


Eternal Father Strong To Save

37 posted on 11/03/2008 8:15:21 AM PST by Kathy in Alaska (~ RIP Brian...heaven's gain...the Coast Guard lost a good one.~)
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To: A.A. Cunningham; Kaslin; beachn4fun

TAPS

RIP GEN Robert H Barrow USMC


Eternal Father Strong To Save

38 posted on 11/03/2008 8:17:25 AM PST by Kathy in Alaska (~ RIP Brian...heaven's gain...the Coast Guard lost a good one.~)
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To: Kaslin

39 posted on 11/03/2008 8:23:21 AM PST by Donald Rumsfeld Fan (Sarah Palin "The Iron Lady from the North")
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To: Kaslin
May God Bless Col. John W. Ripley!



Rest In Peace Marine...
40 posted on 11/03/2008 8:34:18 AM PST by rottndog (Freedom IS NOT FREE--Let us NEVER FORGET those that have paid the highest price for it!)
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To: PGR88
Well done Soldier!

Colonel Ripley was a Marine, not a soldier.

41 posted on 11/03/2008 9:34:53 AM PST by A.A. Cunningham
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