What is precious is to Never Forget
Was stationed with Frank at Lejeune and in Cuba. He was a fine Marine and Leader. He will never be forgotten. I post the following poem in Honor of Frank's Valor and Sacrifice.
I Think Continually of Those
Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields
See how these names are feted by the waving
And by the streamers of white cloud
And whispers of wind in the listening sky.
The names of those who in their lives fought
Who wore at their hearts the fire’s center.
Born of the sun they traveled a short while
Towards the sun,
And left the vivid air signed with their Honor.
-from a poem by Stephen Spender-1933
In Remembrance of Frank Clark Fisher
"If you are able, save for them a place inside of you, and save one backward glance when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go. Be not ashamed to say you loved them, though you may or may not have always. Take what they have left, and what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own. And in that time when men feel safe to call the war insane, take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind".
BY: Major O'Donnell,
1 January 1970, Dak To, Vietnam
I did not know Frank Fisher, but feel as if I did know him through the wonderful postings by his cousin, Mario, to The Virtual Wall website. I would have been honored to have known such a fine young man. May God bless him and his family.
38 Years in Heaven
THE GOLD STAR
EDGAR A. GUEST (1918)
T'he star upon their service flag has changed to gleaming gold;
It speaks no more of hope and life, as once it did of old,
But splendidly it glistens now for every eye to see
And softly whispers: "Here lived one who died for liberty."
Here once he walked and played and laughed, here oft his smile was known;
Within these walls today are kept the toys he used to own.
Now I am he who marched away and I am he who fell
Of service once I spoke, but now of sacrifice I tell.
"No richer home in all this land is there than this I grace,
For here was cradled manhood fine; within this humble place
A soldier for the truth was born, and here, beside the door,
A mother sits and grieves for him who shall return no more."
"Salute me, stranger, as you pass! I mark a soldier who
Gave up the joys of living here, to dare and die for you!
This is the home that once he knew, who fought for you and fell;
This is a shrine of sacrifice, where faith and courage dwell."
Frank Clark Fisher
May 8, 1947 - August 27, 1967
On That Day
I sent an immediate reply to Sgt. Clark with my telephone number attached. Then I sat by and waited for the phone to ring. My 10 year old daughter answered the phone quickly, as most kids do. "Dad, it's Sgt. Clark" she said. I took the call in my room where I wouldn't be disturbed. The voice on the other end of the phone seemed frail, uncertain and somewhat uneasy. "Hello Sir. This is Sgt. Clark. I've waited almost 38 years to talk about Frank..." With the respectable tone that one gets with time served in the military, and a distinct Oklahoma accent, Sgt. Clark went on to tell me about the day that my cousin Frankie was killed.
Frankie was the Squad Leader on this particular patrol. There were a dozen or so men with him. Sgt. Clark was a machine gunner who was along because of the shortage of machine gunners assigned to the unit. He was cross-training some of the riflemen with the machine gun. Bravo Company 1st Battalion, 1st Marines was located at a base camp known as "The Island". Also on "The Island", a couple of miles away was an ARVN (South Vietnamese Army) base camp. As Frank led the patrol into the jungle and through several rice paddies on "The Island" that day, they came upon a semi destroyed house. They noticed several carambola trees in front of the house loaded with fruit (star fruit). So, since it was around noon, the patrol took a break and the Marines sat and ate the fruit. It was during this time when Sgt. Clark began to chat with Frank. It seemed that Sgt. Clark had spent some time at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan before his deployment to Vietnam. He had only been "in country" for 2 months before this patrol. Frank had just returned from convalescent leave in Japan where he had undergone surgery to correct a dislocated shoulder he had suffered earlier on his tour in Vietnam. The two Marines talked about their common interest in Japan for the time that they sat in front of the house. After the men on the patrol ate several star fruit each, they resumed their duty. Frank led the patrol into the jungle toward the ARVN camp. At one point the path split with one part leading around the camp and the other leading more directly toward the camp. Frank took the most direct path. As they approached the perimeter of the ARVN camp, Frank unknowingly wandered into an ARVN mind field. Since the South Vietnamese Army were considered our ally in Vietnam, the mines used to fortify their base camp were supplied by the United States. Frank tripped a mine commonly called a "Bouncing Betty" which is designed to pop up to crotch level and blow the legs out from under the enemy. Sgt. Clark was the fourth one in line in the patrol. He recalled seeing the explosion and the Marines going down as they were hit with the flying shrapnel. The only way he was able to describe why the 3 men in front of him were hit and several behind him also hit, but leaving him without a scratch, was that "God must have been with [him]". Sgt. Clark explained that he pulled back one or two of the wounded men and ordered the other men in the patrol to stay put because of the mine field. He could see Frank ahead and for almost 38 years he has been haunted by his cries. "Mama!" "Mama!" Frank called out to his mother. With his left hand gone, traumatically amputated in the explosion, and severe head wounds, Frank continued to call out to his mother. With the mine field still very much a threat, the Marines on the patrol were helpless and could do nothing to help. Sgt. Clark recalled that his cries lasted for five to ten minutes before Frank succumbed to his wounds. Sgt. Clark and the other men on the patrol called back to the base camp requesting a reactionary force to respond to the incident. At that time there were several Marines wounded and two were killed. Along with Frank, a kid from Baltimore, a Lance Corporal named Bill Mignini was also killed. When the reactionary force arrived it was led by a young 2nd Lieutenant, just married, named Cliff Robertson, a California native just shy of his 23rd birthday. Sgt. Clark recalled how Lt. Robertson's young bride would send care packages to the men of the squad. Despite warnings by Sgt. Clark and the other men on the ill fated patrol to stop and wait before proceeding, Lt. Robertson and his reactionary force proceeded in to the mine field to assess the situation and evacuate the wounded.
There was a pause in the telling of the account at this point by Sgt. Clark. Choked up and trying to hold back tears, he apologized to me and asked me to forgive him. He again explained that he hadn't spoken of this incident in almost 38 years and was finding it difficult. He composed himself and continued.
He related that the Lieutenant's advance into the mine field had caused several other mines to detonate. Lt. Robertson had been killed along with two Marines from his reactionary force. Corporal Ray Fort, from Carlisle, Arizona and Corporal John Jensen from Espanola, Washington were also killed. Sgt. Clark recalled that is was at this time that the Hospital Corpsman responding with the reactionary force, a young black Sailor who's name escaped him over the years, began running to the wounded Marines, pulling them away from the mine field and rendering first aid. However, this caused several more mines to detonate, wounding the Corpsman.
Sgt. Clark paused at this point. After several seconds, I asked "Is everything OK?" I was prepared to give Sgt. Clark as much time as he needed to tell his account. "You know what was so ironic that day?" he asked. "While all of these mines were going off, and all of these Marines were being killed and wounded, I remember laying in the berm of a rice paddy and looking up at a nearby hill watching as several ARVN soldiers rolled around pointing and laughing while our men tripped the mines." "They were pointing and laughing!" "It took everything I had to not kill those guys where they stood."
It was late in the afternoon when the CH-47 (Chinook Helicopter) arrived to remove the wounded. As the men prepared to load the wounded onto the aircraft it seemed odd to Sgt. Clark that they would load Lieutenant Robertson aboard first. It was protocol to load any wounded before the dead. He recalled that shortly after seeing the Lieutenant's body brought aboard the aircraft, he observed the crew unload the body, sort of dumping it off the litter like it was trash. While he agreed that there was no disrespect intended by the crew of the Chinook, it was something that stuck in his head ever since that hot day in August of 1967. After all of the wounded were removed, the dead were also removed. The patrol was over. Five good Marines were dead and a dozen or so were wounded out of the 21 Marines present. At least one Marine would carry that memory inside of him for almost 38 years. "I tried to think of ways to get in touch with Frank's family for years" Sgt. Clark explained, almost apologetically. I just couldn't get it out of my head how he kept calling out for his Mama." "It really bothered a lot of us that heard him that day." I was horrified at the way my cousin was killed. And to know that he survived long enough to feel the immense pain that I'm sure matched the wounds he sustained, was even more disturbing. But despite all of that, knowing that his mother was the last thing he thought of, and that his last words were the cries "Mama" was somewhat bittersweet because I happen to know that Frank and his mother were exceptionally close. My aunt loved her only child with an adoring love and pride that was envied among anyone that knew them. And Frankie would do anything for his mother. For years after Frankie's death my aunt never disturbed his room. She kept everything in it's place. The high school letter, the varsity jacket, the picture of his girl, the assorted books and comics that lay on his dresser all remained intact for some time. I recall going down to her house to visit as a kid and it was almost as if Frankie was going to appear from behind the door of his room to throw me onto the couch and give me a "noogie" on my head.
Sgt. Clark ended his telephone conversation by thanking me for allowing him to get these memories out into the open. He seemed relieved and I was thankful to him for the closure that he was able to give to me. I hope to keep in touch with this man who last spoke with my cousin as they both sat under a tree and sucked on star fruit. I'll forever love and admire my big cousin, Frankie Fisher...well, just because he was my big cousin and because he was my best friend. It's because of this man, Sgt. Doyle Clark from Oklahoma, that I will never forget the other men who lost their lives that day. L/Cpl. William D. Mignini of Baltimore, 2nd Lt Clifton B. Robertson of Los Angeles, Cpl. Raymond Fort of Arizona and Cpl. John A. Jensen of Washington State. I'd like to thank the un-named Hospital Corpsman who tried valiantly to save the lives of the wounded Marines that day.
Godspeed to all the brave men of Bravo 1/1 who fought in the name of liberty and freedom on that hot August day in 1967. Semper Fi!
Mario De Lucia