One heck of a Veteran.

By:  mrfrost  •  7 months ago  •  17 comments

By:   MrFrost

One heck of a Veteran.
"It's About To Get A Lot Harder."

Alfred M. Gray Jr. was the 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps. 

I met him in 1988 while I was in the Marines. Despite his tough outer shell, one on one, he was a damn nice guy and a phenomenal leader. He spoke to the entire battalion and one of the things he said was, "I have to go to DC from time to time, to shake hands with politicians and listen to them run their mouths. I am not a politician, I am a warrior, just like all of you, so I politely follow the politicians around and I keep my mouth closed". 

I think we all got the impression that he kept his mouth shut because had he not, he would have been out of a job. 

He is not a big imposing man, he is actually quite short, but his voice and presence leaves no doubt that his is, and was, a formidable Marine. 

After the speech, he spent over two hours walking around talking to the enlisted folks, mostly young Marines like myself. As a Commandant, he always had a "crew" of Marine officers following him around. It took him all of 30 seconds to tell these "lower ranking officers", "I have been a Marine for a long time, I don't need a fucking escort". 

He eventually found his way over to me, where I saluted, he returned the salute and told me to, "rest". Which means to relax and not stand at any form of attention. I did.

He talked to me for about 5 minutes. Asking me various questions about boot camp, did I think the Marine training was tough enough, what my MOS was, (MOS= Military Occupational Specialty). 

About half way through our, "chat", he put his hands in his pockets. I glanced down and looked up again, he responded...

"Son, if your hands are cold, put them in your pockets and if anyone gives you shit for it, tell them to call me."

One of the things Marine Recruits are told is that your pockets are for storing items, you can put your hands in your pockets to add or remove things, not to warm your hands. And yes, it really does get cold in SoCal. 

At the end, he said that he enjoyed our chat, (like I am sure he told everyone he talked to), shook my hand, smiled, and walked away. 

My respect for the man went way up. It was a moment in time I will not ever forget. A tough as nails Marine, but not so much he didn't lose sight of the heavy burden that he held in that he may have to order his Marines into a battle where many of them may die. He understood that responsibility and I don't think anyone thought that he took it lightly. He is and was a good man and he was one of my first hero's. 

Some statistics:

Born June 22, 1928   (age 91) Rahway, New Jersey
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1950–1991
Rank General
Commands held Commandant of the Marine Corps Marine Forces Atlantic II Marine Expeditionary Force 2nd Marine Division 33d Marine Amphibious Unit 4th Marine Regiment 2nd Marine Regiment 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines 1st Radio Battalion
Battles/wars Korean War Vietnam War
Awards Defense Distinguished Service Medal   (2)
Navy Distinguished Service Medal   (2)
Army Distinguished Service Medal Air Force Distinguished Service Medal Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal Silver Star Legion of Merit   (2)
Bronze Star Medal   (4)
Purple Heart   (3)

The 60 minutes video listed is well worth watching." target="_blank">


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1  author  MrFrost    7 months ago


1.1  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  MrFrost @1    7 months ago

As a Navy Hospital Corpsman, I met him briefly in the late 80's myself and he asked me if I had ever been with the Marines? I answered affirmative and he told me something I never forgot. He said "Doc, don't ever forget the Marines can do a lot of things, but the one thing we cannot do is do them without our Corpsmen. We as a fighting force are a no go without you!". I felt incredibly humbled to hear a Marine general tell a lowly Corpsman that. Made me even more proud of my time with the Green Side, as corpsmen referred to their duty with the Marines.

1.1.1  author  MrFrost  replied to  Ed-NavDoc @1.1    7 months ago

He had that effect, he made everyone feel like part of the "team". All around great guy, I am glad I am not the only one here to have met him. Thanks Ed. 

1.1.2  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  MrFrost @1.1.1    7 months ago

My pleasure. Semper Fi!

2  Kavika     7 months ago

That is the type of moment in life that no one would forget. 

One hell of a Marine.

2.1  author  MrFrost  replied to  Kavika @2    7 months ago
That is the type of moment in life that no one would forget. 

To us young Marines, he was larger than life. Even though he was promoted to the highest rank possible, he never forgot what it was like to be a low ranking Marine. 

2.1.1  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  MrFrost @2.1    7 months ago

Yep, one of the few CMC's, if not the only one one, who started out at E-1 at the bottom and worked his way to the top. A true Mustanger!

Paula Bartholomew
3  Paula Bartholomew    7 months ago

My father was once considered for that position, but I was a baby and he didn't want to loose the time with me.  Although the USMC was family, his own family came first.  He went on to be quite successful as a civilian, but kept the haircut all of his life.

3.1  author  MrFrost  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @3    7 months ago
He went on to be quite successful as a civilian, but kept the haircut all of his life.

I still have the same haircut as well, 30 years later. I did grow it out once for my daughter but shaved it all off after a year. 

3.1.1  1stwarrior  replied to  MrFrost @3.1    7 months ago

Frostie - when did you go through San Diego?  What was your Platoon #?

I went through 10/4/64 - 1/12/65 - Plt 392.

3.1.2  author  MrFrost  replied to  1stwarrior @3.1.1    7 months ago
Frostie - when did you go through San Diego?  What was your Platoon #?

Little later.. LOL 1987, platoon 1083. Yes, San Diego. Still have pictures of our graduation...somewhere. 

3.1.3  1stwarrior  replied to  MrFrost @3.1.2    7 months ago

You didn't get a "yearbook"???  Hell, we paid $5.00 for ours and they shipped it to us 'bout six weeks later.

Yup - funny as hell to look at now.

Semper Fi.

Paula Bartholomew
3.1.4  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  MrFrost @3.1    7 months ago

I only saw it not high and tight once.  It was when he was hospitalized just before his death.  He was there a month and could not get to his barber.

4  CB     7 months ago
Respect those you are about to lead. Alfred M. Gray Jr.

'Nuff said!

5  NV-Robin6    7 months ago

HI Mr. Frost, I love that you and Kavika are bringing us this knowledge about these great men. I honor all Veterans even if I disagree with warring, for the most part. Having a military family myself, I know the sacrifice. One of my husband's best friends was a Navy Seal and did 4 tours in Nam. He rarely talked about it but when he did, it was pretty hard to know what he and everyone in that war had to deal with. I'm so opposed to creating enemies for the war machine but I also know having highly trained warriors is vital to our best interests. 

I commend and curtsy to all of you Veterans. I apologize if I don't say it enough here. You are all heroes! 

5.1  author  MrFrost  replied to  NV-Robin6 @5    7 months ago

Thank you very much for the kind words! It was an honor to serve, truly, and I would do it all over again in a second. 

And for everyone visiting this article, please visit Kavika's as well.

Trout Giggles
6  Trout Giggles    7 months ago

He sounds like a pleasure to talk to


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