Mark Ryan BlackLance Corporal
CA CO DELTA, SUB-UNIT 4, HQ BN, 3RD MARDIV
United States Marine Corps
10 April 1945 - 14 August 1967
Panel 24E Line 108
The database page for Mark Ryan Black
It's been thirty-three years Mark. I can't believe it. I was in Chu Lai when I received that letter from my Dad. I can close my eyes right now and see the first line of that letter; " I don't know how to tell you this Tom, but I received word a few minutes ago that Mark has been killed." Man, it was like getting hit in the chin and the groin at the same time. I felt responsible; you and I had concocted this idea to enlist in the Marines after we received our draft notices. You know, by enlisting we could stay home another 120 days before we left for boot camp. Remember? We could party for four full months before we had to go.
When I told my dad of our plan I thought he was going to cry. He had been in the Navy in WWII and knew exactly what the Marines were all about and the types of campaigns they usually got involved with in a war. Although, you never came out and said it, I always felt that your mom and dad were not real happy with me and the influence I exerted on you about our enlistment. I have carried guilt about our decision to join the Corps my entire life.
When I returned home just before Christmas 1967 I went to see your dad at the barber shop. I felt like I had somehow been a cheat, my very presence was unfair. Inside me it seemed that I disappointed him; I had left Sweetser with you, but I had not returned you to him. It broke my heart, I felt like I had let your mom and dad and everyone else down. My dad had been transferred to another state while we were in Nam. Our town wasn't my home anymore. Nothing seemed fair, I was the one that really wanted to join the Marines and you thought, what the Hell, why not. I get assigned to the Air Wing and you go as a grunt to some CAC outfit up in Quang Tri. None of that was in our plan. Our plan had us fighting and returning together, sharing our stories, finding the right girl and getting on with our life.
My God, you would be fifty-five now. You would laugh your butt off if you could see what the years have done to me. The old home town looks pretty much the same, however, your dad's barber shop is gone and so are the tracks. Your mom and dad erected a monument at Oak Hill High School to you and the other guys who gave it all in Viet Nam (Edmund (Bill) Travis, Steve Poe, Terry Weaver, Kenneth Richie and Mike Travis (Bill's brother). It's fun to walk out on the football field and remember some of your heroics. I can still see number 40 racing down the sidelines for another TD. Remember all those track records you had? Well, kids today are stronger and faster and those records have become history. But, none of the kids in the last thirty some years could ever have a bigger heart than you; you were a winner, you didn't know how to give up, you were loyal and you were one Hell of a Marine.
The last time I saw you was at the air strip in Phu Bai. I watched a small group of Marines walk across the tarmac and noticed one guy hauling all his gear. God, he looked pathetic, the funny thing was that he walked just like you. Walks are like fingerprints, there are no two alike in the world (especially with those bowed legs of yours). I jumped up and started screaming at you (taxiing C130's make a lot of noise) and finally you recognized this idiot galloping toward you. What a reunion. What fun slapping, hugging and laughing. We only had thirty minutes, but somehow I've always thought that God wanted me to have another chance to see you. We were half-way through our respective tours and we both were very optimistic about the future.
We lost you the night of August the 14th, you were the only one killed and several of your buddies were wounded. I go to the cemetery every year. Bill and Mike Travis are buried just a few feet from you. I miss you. I miss what you could have been and who you could have been with. I miss the haircuts that you gave me, I miss watching you get drunk, I miss pissing off Donna and Karen by singing 'Where Have All The Flowers Gone', I miss waiting for you to comb your hair (you'd be bald by now), I miss acting totally outrageous and I miss the times that we just talked.
Your life was far too short but you had an impact. Many people loved you including me. You will never be forgotten, I've told my son and daughter and I'm sure they will tell their children about Grandpa's dear friend Mark Black. "He was a brave Marine, children." "He gave everything that he could for us." "God Bless Him."
Cpl Thomas Lobsiger, USMC
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14 Jun 2000
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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Last updated 04/18/2005