Daniel Keech listens to veteran Colonel Bob Helmlinger describe his memories of China.
Thursday, October 4, 2012
Harry S Truman once stated, “The Marine Corps is the
Navy's police force and as long as I am President that is what it will
remain." In 1945 a group of men uprooted themselves and moved to China as
part of a group known as the “China Marines.” These same men, who were once a
police force in China, are the heroes I am honored to return to China with
Today we returned to the racetrack where Colonel Bob Helmlinger played football in 1947 and 1948. The colonel said, "I was the one who did most of the ball carrying." As I watch my veteran interact with those on our trip, his love of Texas and football is only rivaled by his love for the United States Marine Corps. I couldn't ask for a better role model and friend.
The same place where the Colonel played football eventually became the historical ground on which the Japanese presence in China surrendered in August of 1945 at the end of World War II. William Marsh, another veteran accompanying us, witnessed the Japanese surrender while standing in formation. Mr. Marsh was one of 18,000 in an entire marine division. As Mr. Helmlinger answered our questions, he managed to orient himself from what is now just a soccer field, to find the exact place the Japanese surrender took place.
Aside from reliving his history in China, Colonel Helmlinger is soon to celebrate his sixty-third wedding anniversary with his wife, Denise. He fills the gap in our conversations with her mannerisms and routinely reminds me of how beautiful she is. "She looks 30 years younger than she actually is,” he says. Today we had some more free time and we spent the afternoon scouring a department store for the perfect gift for Denise. Tonight was a brooch; tomorrow night we will look for a silk scarf. His love for his wife, his fellow marines, and the Corps itself gives me both a glimpse of the past and hope for my future in the Corps.
The day concluded in our hotel where we visited and reminisced about our day. Amongst an array of tofu, fish, and mussels, our group is once again preparing ourselves for another day of education and life changing experiences with our veterans.
Daniel J Keech