Ron LaRochelle, Charlotte
In 1969, Fox Company, Second Battalion, 1st Marines was assigned to protect the air base at Danang from Viet Cong mortar and rocket attacks launched in the low coastal plain to the south. This meant day-time patrols, heavily loaded with munitions and weapons and night-time ambushes in various remote locations in an attempt to thwart the enemy.
We would routinely be issued four C-ration meals for two days of mission and carry two canteens of water. C-ration meals contained a soup can sized main meal like beef and potatoes, a packet of instant coffee, a plastic spork, two chicklets, and four cigarettes, a heat tab, matches, and a few sheets of toilet paper. Some meals also included a small can of fruit in juice such as pears, or apricots or peaches. The fruit was especially treasured in hot weather...and the weather was especially hot. Every third day, we looked forward to being resupplied by helicopter in the field, but in extremely hot weather, the ability of helicopters to gain lift can be drastically reduced, and for safety reasons, our resupply was canceled. I and the three other members of the machine gun fire team would have to make do without food or water for the next 2 days while we carried out our mission. By late in the second afternoon, we were all suffering badly from dehydration and exhaustion. Just when we felt that we had no energy to continue, my fire team leader, a tall lanky 19 year old kid from Texas, named John Davis, called us team members together and produced a can of peaches from his knapsack that he saved just in case. He then shared the contents equally with the rest of us. He didn’t have to do that. He easily could have consumed that entire can while on watch, in the dark, by himself and no one would have been the wiser. Instead John shared what little he had with his fellow Marines. I have worked under many managers in the 48 years since I enjoyed that quarter can of peaches, some good, some not so good, but none have displayed the level of selflessness that I witnessed that day. That was the day that I learned the difference between someone called a manager and someone who really was a leader.