Gilbert Ellis McDanielHospitalman
3RD BN, 5TH MARINES, 1ST MARDIV
United States Navy
05 January 1948 - 22 March 1969
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The database page for Gilbert Ellis McDaniel
What I can tell you of my uncle is that he was one of fourteen children. My mom was the oldest surviving (the child before her I believe was stillborn or died shortly after birth) and Gilbert was 8 years younger than my mom. Having been raised around so many children he had a natural affinity for them. Gilbert was raised basically in McCurtain County, Oklahoma - most of it in Battiest - a tiny little spot that for years was put on the map because it had a post office (that was run out of the small store which was in front of the high school) but they never showed any roads going to it - in other words if you didn't know how to get there you weren't likely to go there and if you blinked on your way through you missed 90 percent of the town.
Being raised in that sort of environment he learned how to fish and hunt but usually took his sketch pad along with him rather than actually hunt for anything - his gun was more protection against the odd rattlesnake or bobcat that he'd encounter than it was for actual hunting. He had a ready smile and laugh and both were almost always seen and heard. During the year that my dad was serving a one year tour in Thailand, Gilbert lived for part of the time with mom and my three siblings and myself. He'd drive us up from the drafty old house where we were living, up to see my grandparents and uncles and aunts who were still at home. He and two of my uncles who were right around his age each spent time there with mom and us kids so that she had help and they weren't so crowded as they would have been at home. And when he'd go on his dates with his girlfriend the two of them would include me. And they never made it seem as though it was a chore although I'm sure they would have loved to have had some time alone. And when he needed to go someplace and he'd loaned his car to one of his brothers, he'd ride my dad's scooter that my dad had left behind when he left for Thailand. Many is the time that I can recall riding on the back of it, holding on to his waist and laughing at the dust clouds that little scooter would kick up on the road (I was all of six going on seven and it was funny to see that red dust fly).
Gilbert got married to his girlfriend and they'd had a baby right before he went to Vietnam. And he so loved being a dad to his daughter that he'd get up and take care of the feedings and changing diapers at night (and this was during a time when that wasn't the norm). The next thing that I really remember is that Gilbert, Henry and Wilbert (3 of my uncles who were all right around the same age) had gone into the Navy. Gilbert and Henry were corpsmen and Wilbert served as a cook on a ship.
Henry came home with shrapnel in him that is there to this day. Wilbert came home and settled down to a life stateside. Gilbert returned to us in a coffin.
I remember the call that my aunt made to my mom to tell my mom about Gilbert's death. Mom went ash-white and she sent me to get my brothers from their T-ball games - I can still recall screaming "NO" as loud as I could while I rode as fast as I could to go get my brothers. Managing to arrange for the whole family (Dad, Mom and us kids) to fly back to the states from Hawaii was something that still amazes me -I don't know how dad managed it - dad was only a sergeant in the Air Force and I don't know how he managed to get the time off! But we came home for the funeral.
Gilbert was laid to rest in an extremely small graveyard that has mostly family and kinfolk and at the time was surrounded by a thick grouping of trees on 3 of the 4 sides of it. It reminded me of a tent without a top, and on the day that he was laid to rest it was rather gray and cloudy. Just as they were lowering his casket, his daughter's baby bottle fell on it and shattered, spilling formula everywhere. I remember all of the people and how hard it was to believe that he truly was gone. I knew that he'd gone not carrying a gun, but a medical kit and that he'd been killed by an explosive device. I hadn't realized until the other day that he'd only been in Vietnam from December 8, 1968 until his death March 22, 1969.
There's none better in the business than a Navy Corpsman ..."
-- Lieutenant General "Chesty" Puller --
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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Channing Prothro, former CAP Marine
Last updated 08/10/2009