My children and I were watching "The Patriot", and out of curiosity, I googled the Swamp Fox. The resulting four hours at the computer was definitely time well spent. Somehow, through the magic of the internet, I was able to go from Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox, one of the key military Founding Fathers, to Col. John Ripley, who I knew as a kid. I never really thought of him as a hero, until one day my father, who I always considered a hero, told me that he never met a braver man than John Ripley. What he did under that bridge at Dong Ha is absolute proof that truth is stranger than fiction. If the story wasn't true, it would be unbelievable.
Col. John W. Ripley was a contemporary of my father's in the Marine Corps. An amazing man, with an amazing story. He had two brothers who were also outstanding Marines, and the first person I met when I checked into the First Battalion, Eighth Marines was his son, who, for a second lieutenant, was also a pretty good Marine. The Ripley family has given a lot to this country. And they are just one example of a family with a tradition of defending the freedom of their fellow citizens.
In the Marine Corps, we have a term: Marine, Junior. That is a term used to describe a man who has followed in his father's footsteps, very often against the father's advice. As a Marine, I ran into lots of young men who had famous last names. And I ran in to lots of Marines whose fathers had been Marines, famous in their own minds, if not in the rest of ours. I guess the point is, a very few families have carried the burden for a great many families. I hope they all at least understand that, if not appreciate it. Those same families will more than likely continue to pay the heavy price of freedom, so that the protected will never know just how much it costs.