Vietnam vet from Marion Heights reuinites with fellow Marines
Marine Staff Sgt. Paul Choclis, of Marion Heights, was reunited recently with comrades from the Lima Company 3rd Battalion 26th who served in the U.S. Marines during the Vietnam War.
The reunion was held at corpsman William "Doc" Miller's cabin deep in the mountain forests of Potter County, known as "God's Country," where, as Choclis said, bear and deer outnumber the residents and cell phones are useless.
Better known in Marine circles as "The Filthy Few" because of their contact with the enemy and length of time spent in jungles and on battlefields, these Marines endured and survived a real life "Dirty Dozen" experience in the Vietnam War.
In the spring/summer of 1966, due to the escalation of the Vietnam War, a specially trained regiment of Marine Corps (Spearhead 5th Division) was activated at Camp Pendleton, Calif. The 26th Marines special landing force was one of the legendary units to fight and die at the bloody battle for Iwo Jima in 1945.
In 1946, the 26th Marines were disbanded and remained dormant for 20 years before rising from the ashes like a mythological Phoenix to answer the nation's call in the Vietnam War.
Before entering the Pacific Theatre of Operations, the 26th Marines and "C" Battery 1st Battalion 13th Marines encountered a violent typhoon off the coast of Okinawa in 1966. The storm contained wind speeds between 100 and 200 miles per hour. The USS Lemawee weathered the storm for hours while dealing with 20 to 30-degree rolls to port and starboard. Typhoon Ida then hit the coast of Japan and claimed 300 lives.
The Marines endured a baptism under fire during the Christmas season of 1966 in an ancient battlefield called Co Bi Thanh Tan Valley. After a five-day battle engaging Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army soldiers estimated at 4,000 men by Marine intelligence, the area was named Camp Evans after Lima Company's first member killed in action. The Marines went on to endure the harsh punishing monsoon season of 1966-67 and survived the mortar/rocket attacks and firefights at places known as Dongha Hue/Phubai and battles at Hill 689, Contien and Khesanh.
Several of the Marines also served with units of the 9th Marines such as 2/9 Marines or "Hell in a Helmet" and 1/9 Marines known as the "Walking Dead."
For extraordinary action against enemy forces in the Republic of South Vietnam, the Marines of Lima Company 3/26 and its main artillery support unit "C" Battery 1/13 received Vietnam's Cross of Gallantry and the nation's highest combat unit award - the Presidential Unit Citation.
Happy to be alive and having survived a multitude of traumatic events in the Vietnam War, Choclis said these sons of World War II heroes remain Semper Fidelis to our nation, the Marine Corps and each other.