The sun peaks up with the morning mist clinging to the grass. With solemn steps and the National Ensign held proudly in his arms, former Marine Staff Sergeant Bill McCormack, wearing the dress blue uniform moves toward the flag pole in front of his house. With majestic protocol, colors are set and raised to the top of the mast. Another day has begun in Ingleside, Texas.
He looks a bit old and maybe the uniform isn’t as sharp as it once was, but the man wearing the uniform is just as proud as the day he graduated form recruit training. He also maybe a little bit proud of something else, having been awarded an unprecedented four silver stars within a 30 day period while serving Corregidor in 1942. (Located in the Philippines).
“Corregidor looks like a tadpole. I was on the tail of it. My platoon did pretty good. And I’ll tell you something, it was the closes thing to hell that I know of, without going there.” And as the gentlemen is relating his experiences, his voice gets a little rough and his eyes have a gleam that is unexpected in someone who has been out of the Marine Corps since 1946.
“The longest period I was in the hospital was 24 hours. I got 83 stitches for that, a bullet hit my helmet and went around my head under my skin, it scalped me. They could feel it and the corpsman cut a hole near my left temple, squeezed and it popped out. That’s when they sewed me up. The next day I earned another silver star.”
With quiet dignity, Mr. McCormack kneels in front of the flagpole and points to a stone marble monument. The monument is for the “China Marines.”
“As far as I know,” quietly relates to Mr. McCormack, “This is the only monument for those Marines.” With a finger faded with age, but with amazing steadiness he points out to two rose bushes, one on the right and one on the left of the marble stone.
“These roses represent something too; the white one on the right stands for those Marines who died, and the red one on the left stands for the living.” And then Mr. McCormack is standing upright again. He points to an evergreen located behind the stone but in front of the flagpole. “That is the tree of life,” he explained. “It will always be green and will stand as a symbol of eternity. This is my tribute, it means a lot to me. I may not have much, but I did the best I could with what I had. Just like on Corregidor. This stands as a tribute to those who have been, and those who will be. What I’ve done I’ve done for the good of America. I didn’t fight for you or for her (his wife), I fought for America.”
“We in the Marines are the greatest there ever was, and if someone doubts that, let them read the history books,” he spoke loudly. And then quietly he resumes again, “I limp a lot, but when I put on that uniform and you see me limp, you better catch me because I’m on my way down. When I put on that uniform, there’s no one any prouder.” On that uniform I saw, four Silver Star medals, 2 Legions of Merit, a Bronze Star, 11 purple hearts and more.
When I walked away, many hours later, I knew that the marble stone in the front lawn of Bill McCormack’s home may be a tribute to those “China Marines,” but Bill McCormack, the man, is a tribute to America.