Ronald McIntosh PFC - USMC 06/14/48 - 02/23/69 Owsley County
a father's day note from a friend:
My Father joined the United States Marine Corps shortly after graduating high school. He’s shared many of the times and events while at Parris Island, Camp Pendleton, or when stationed in North Carolina. He proudly displays USMC insignia on a cap or shirt and drives a Suburban baring a Purple Heart license plate. Yes, he served in Vietnam too--but like many who served there, he doesn’t speak much about that place-- or the events that happened there. And somehow we’ve always known not to ask without having been told. If he does mention “that place” it’s usually as a timeline marker in his life when he’s speaking about a different subject… i.e. “Before Vietnam....” or “When I came back from Vietnam…”
A few years ago, I was surprised when after dinner he talked about “Mac”. He stated he’s always wished through the years that he would’ve called Mac’s parents when Mac got hit in Vietnam. He went on to voice how if he’d been the one that day, Mac would have called his parents. I knew his close friend Jimmy perished there, and his cousin Leo too, but I never heard of the name “Mac” before. I offered that maybe he could still try to call them-- even after all these years. With a nonverbal acknowledgement he then offered that he had looked for Mac’s family once on the computer and indeed found them, but he didn’t call. That was pretty shocking as well-- Dad isn’t a computer person, in fact, he isn’t much of a technology type at all. It was only a few years ago that he finally got a cell phone and I never thought I’d see the day I’d receive text messages. I knew he must have put forth quite an effort into that computer search and to actually have found who he was searching for was monumental. I don’t know why he didn’t dial the numbers he had searched so hard for but I know it wasn’t because he didn’t want to—he just couldn’t.
It was only recently that my Father sent me some photo albums. Two books stuffed of memories he could never forget no matter where he tried to stuff them--just as the scribbled words inside the cover read “Vietnam 1969 I will Never Forget.” Photos adhered to the tattered pages like the memories had adhered in his mind. It was here where I would come to see “Mac” and when I asked my father about him, it was here that I would come to know Ronald McIntosh.
Being fresh out of boot camp and 19, my father landed in the jungles of Vietnam where he met and befriended PFC Ronald McIntosh. Mac was already there and a tad bit older…wiser. Mac quickly took him under his wing and “showed me everything I knew in order to survive over there.” They had not only bonded as brothers in arms but perhaps a sibling-like bond in which my father never had. They served as riflemen with the 2nd Platoon, 1st battalion 1st Marines, 1st Regiment, Delta Company. Delta would be tasked with a dangerous and deadly Search and Destroy Mission: “Booby–traps, tunnels, and snakes while being mortared and infiltrated with sappers but in the a.m. they were hung-up in the razor wire”. Many were wounded and killed but Delta Co persevered to come under heavy fire during the 23rd and 24th of February 1969. But this marked a loss that would be the biggest loss of all for my father. He returned fire alongside his brother Mac during a heavy firefight on Feb 23rd when Mac got hit. The firefight stopped, or maybe it didn’t. Perhaps it never has and never will. But in those moments my father was no longer firing. As the battle ensued around them, Mac lay across his lap on the ground fatally wounded. My father recounted his feverish and desperate failed attempts to save him but he just couldn’t. “He died in my arms. He did not die alone.” And those two short sentences had been the words my father had wanted to convey to Mac’s family all these years-- he just couldn’t.
I’m sorry for the pain this tremendous loss must have caused his family and loved ones to suffer and endure. I pray they have long resolved to find a sense of peace and comfort in their own understandings and beliefs.
Thank you Ronald McIntosh, not just for your ultimate sacrifice but for my own belief that you kept my father alive. Your camaraderie, knowledge and experience of war enabled my father to complete his tour and eventually return home to his family and to be my dad.
And We Shall Never Forget … Semper Fi