Four Marines, almost 40 years later, together again

by Keith Barber

Friendship, like the immortality of the soul, is too good to be believed. Sonny Mitchell, BobLuebke, John Morgan andLeroy Meeks understandthat war is hell. It candestroy you mentally,physically and emotionally.But every hardship has itssaving grace, and for threeyears in Vietnam, they hadone another.When the four members of the 5thMarine Regiment, 1st Marine Divisionserved together at An Hao 38 years ago,they didn’t fully understand how muchthey would rely on each other for the restof their lives, Mitchell said.“Looking back, I think our relationshipwith each other — I don’t really think weknew we were doing it, but it helped makeus more stable,” Mitchell said.Stability wasn’t easy to find when aMarine returned home after serving in avery controversial war, Morgan said.“We went over as an individual andcame back as an individual and yousometimes got spit on or called a ‘babykiller’ when you came home just becauseof what went on over there,” Morganadded.Meeks admitted he felt a great deal ofbitterness after he returned home fromVietnam.“I feel slightly betrayed by our owngovernment that we didn’t accomplishwhat we were sent out to do,” Meeks said.“A lot of people lost their lives — a lot ofyoung people like myself to free people….We lost so many good people.”Meeks said there’s an old saying inthe Marines that the readjustment periodgoing back to civilian life is five years tonever.“I’m probably still sitting somewherebetween that never and five years,” Meekssaid.Luebke said his experience of returningto his hometown of Petoskey, Mich. afterhis tour of duty underscored the veracityof Thomas Wolfe’s famous observation,“You can’t go home again.”“What I left wasn’t there no more,”Luebke said.So Luebke went to visit his dearfriend Sonny at his Greensboro homeand essentially never left. Luebke andMitchell see each other all the time butwhen the quartet of war buddies reunitedat Mitchell’s home earlier this month,it represented the first time they had allbeen together in nearly four decades. Theylounged by Mitchell’s backyard pool,looked at old photos and reminisced aboutserving their country in a foreign land.“The camaraderie like these fellas righthere — it’s a bond that will never bebroken,” Meeks said. “These men righthere mean more to me than anything inthis world. It’s an experience I wouldn’ttake anything for but I would never do itagain.”All four Marines drew parallels betweenpage 24