“I have your name tattooed on my arm.” – Jim O’Brien
At the corner of 23rd and Price Road in Pampa,Texas is the grave of Marine PFC Rickey Marson. A small military marker competes with thick bermuda grass to remind us a hero rests there. The dates on the sides of the dash say he died young (19) and has rested a long time (since 1968).
Rickey Marson was a party animal. After he finished basic training he came home on leave before going to Vietnam. I met up with Rickey at Caldwell’s Drive In one night and he asked me to go partying with him at the club in the basement of the downtown Pampa Hotel. I couldn’t believe they would serve alcohol to minors, but who was going to turn down a US Marine in the late sixties in Pampa? “Old enough to die . . . old enough to drink.” Right?
Well, maybe not, but he also was good friends with the female bartender. Rickey had a lot of good friends who were females. He was like a big brother looking out for his little sisters . . . and he looked out for them well.
He was proud to be a US Marine. He told me story after story of his training. He related how he was repeatedly asked “Why are you here, Private Marson?” and how he was expected to stand at attention and shout out as loud as possible “To go to Vietnam and kill Vietcong, Sir!”
Four weeks later he was killed in action.
Rifles rang out 21 times. The bugle echoed taps. An honor guard folded the flag with precision. His decorated body was lowered into the ground.
A few years later we lost the war.
They placed his name on a memorial in our nation’s capital. There, by proxy, we continue to salute him and the 58,177 others (as of 1997) whose names line those marble walls.
Caldwell’s Drive In is gone. The Pampa Hotel was closed and reopened decades later as the Schneider House providing assisted living to elderly.
Hero Marine Rickey Marson still rests.
I recently visited TheWall – USA, an online complement to The Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I searched for Rickey Joe Marson. Amidst many messages from friends and relatives who have paid their respect over the years I found one particularly touching.
“I was there with you that day 04-07-68. I was by your side when you slipped away. I think daily of you my friend. I have your name tattooed on my arm with in memory of. I will never forget you and that day.One day we shall meet again. Semper Fi my friend.- Jim O’Brien
Hometown hero Rickey Marson from Pampa, TX rests at the corner of 23rd and Price Road. His Marine friend Jim O’Brien wears his name.
Day is gone. gone the sun.
from the lake from the hill. from the sky.
All is well. safely rest.
God is nigh.