CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
It was the closest most of them had ever been to the nation’s highest award for valor – the unmistakable anchor, holding an inverted five-point star dangling below sky-blue fabric. It was the Medal of Honor, and it hung around the neck of one of their own. A Magnificent Bastard.
With Pacific Ocean waves crashing under an orange sky, the Marines of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, had one helluva night.
Retired Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston was the guest of honor at a field mess night here July 16 for Company E, the same company he led into combat 41 years ago.
“Meeting him was an awesome feeling, having read his book and everything he did … it’s a very unique feeling,” said Capt. Chris Stark, the present company commander.
Livingston earned his Medal of Honor as a captain during the battle of Dai Do in Vietnam where, according to his award citation, he “fearlessly led his men in a savage assault against enemy emplacements … Although twice painfully wounded by grenade fragments, he refused medical treatment and courageously led his men in the destruction of over 100 mutually supported bunkers …”
“Before last night, most of the Marines didn’t have an understanding of what those Marines went through,” said Stark, the 29-year-old Springfield, Mo., native.”
As the sun began to dip into the ocean the infantrymen ate, drank and listened to Livingston tell heroic stories of Marines in combat:
“We fixed bayonets one day. We looked at them and said ‘You sons of bitches, Echo is coming. Stand by.’ You could hear 180 bayonets clicking. We penetrated that line and we rolled them up.”
The stories of uncommon valor fell upon a captivated audience. Senior leaders and privates alike were mesmerized by the drive and determination of a few Marines.
“I can’t believe Easy Company fought like that,” said Sgt. Lucas Enos, a squad leader.
Livingston’s words sent a renewed esprit de corps through the company’s ranks. Stark said he talked to his Marines about the night on the beach.
“He left a huge impression on everyone,” Stark said. “They are more motivated and focused on training now.”
As the night wore on, Livingston charged the men to uphold Corps standards, take pride in being a Marine and live up to the hard-fought reputation of Company E.
“At the end of the day, 800 Magnificent Bastards kicked the crap out of 10,000 NVA,” Livingston said. “You have inherited that legacy. I am convinced that you will keep the legacy. You will never let that down. It’s in your blood.”