SDI WILLIAM H LEWIS PLATOON 264-1959
Now stick with me for this one. It's worth it.
Acting SSgt Lewis was our Senior Drill Instructor (few will remember what the 'acting" part was all about but Mofak and I remember). You'll find his grave out on Point Loma at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in Section A-F, Site C-27D.
MCRD SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA
I was Platoon Guide (sometimes right guide, sometimes left guide) for Platoon 264 (August to November 1959) at MCRD San Diego. One of the functions of the Platoon Guide was apparently to build calluses on his elbows while in the Chinese Thinking Position which is where I ended up every time the platoon screwed up (the "thinking position" kept you on your toes and elbows, rather like an extended push-up, until the drill instructors tired of having fun at your expense). I would, however, go on to graduate with that platoon at the end of our training cycle.
Senior DI, Platoon 264
Ten years later, in 1969, when I was a Captain and the S-3 for 1st RTBn, I got a call from the RTR Adjutant, Capt Frank Waters. He asked me if I had anything to keep some former 8511's (DI's) busy for a while. There were some SNCO's in his office that had been sent down from Balboa Naval Hospital where they were being treated for wounds or other ailments, were bored to death, and needed something to do. Since they were former DI's they came to RTR. I asked my Ops Chief if he had any special projects that he needed to have done. He said he had one but he would only need one man. I told Frank to send me just one and to have him report to me, and I hung up the phone.
Several minutes later I heard foot steps on the wooden deck in the old WWII building that was 1stRTBn headquarters (the other two battalion's headquarters and DI School occupied the other three of these buildings on that block). The foot steps became louder as they got closer to my office. In an instant I heard the sound of heels snapping together and a deep husky voice announcing, "Sir, Gunnery Sergeant #%&@$ reporting to the Captain as ordered, Sir." I missed the name but there are a couple of things a Marine never forgets: his service number and the voice of his senior drill instructor. I looked up to see Gunnery Sergeant Lewis standing at rigid attention, head and eyes fixed straight ahead at the bulkhead above and behind me. I asked, "Gunny, do the numbers 2, 6 and 4 mean anything to you?" He paused for a few seconds with a quizzical look on his face and then responded, "Sir, no Sir". I then asked, "How about Platoon 264"? After a second or two the Gunny glanced down at me and then at the name plate on the front edge of my desk. His head and eyes snapped abruptly up and straight ahead again. I then heard him softly exclaim, "Aw shit, Sir". In His wisdom, G-d had seen to it that our roles were reversed. I was now the senior and there was justice in this world after all.
Captain Jack A. Ruffer USMC
I didn't have time to talk with him just then as the Battalion Commander and I had a meeting to attend at Regiment. I turned the Gunny over to my Ops Chief, MSgt Schlecht, and joined the Colonel for our walk across the street. When I returned an hour or so later, the Gunny was gone. He'd completed whatever task my Ops Chief had given him and that was the last time I ever saw Gunnery Sergeant Lewis.
Several years after my retirement I got a call from a MGySgt acquaintance who had access to the now computerized personnel system and after a brief search he gave me GySgt Lewis' mailing address. Now maybe it's just a coincidence but every holiday season after that phone call Gunny Lewis got an anonymous Christmas card just to let him know that someone was thinking about him. About the time the card sender (whoever that person might have been) was ready to "fess up", he learned that the Gunny had died a few months earlier. His family told me he looked forward to the cards and suspected, correctly, that they came from one of his recruits. The family would later invite me to his grandson's commissioning ceremony and post-ceremony celebration cocktail party/dinner. The young man had just graduated from San Diego State University (unfortunately it was the Air Force that got him). He's now a fairly senior Captain, an experienced F-16 instructor pilot and combat veteran.
I only get to San Diego about once a year now but every time we go I stop by Fort Rosecrans to visit some friends. Among the graves I visit is that of Gunny Lewis. It's fitting that his grave is located where it is, high toward the southwest end of the cemetery. On a clear day you can see MCRD from there and I'm sure he's keeping an eye on things.
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