BOC family, I would like to tell you all about a Hero of mine. I dont know yet how long this post will end up being since I am typing this as it comes to me. I can only ask that you read this post through to the end at some point. I would like to tell you about my grandfather (on my dad's side). My relationship to him has always been limited throughout my life since my dad left my mom and I when I was very young. My grandfather has always attempted to be in my life but as many times as I have seen him, things just always seemed awkward and too uncomfortable. Many years after I joined the Marine Corps, I took my wife and first two children home to Cleveland, Ohio to meet him. On this particular visit, he began to talk to me in a manner that I had never heard from him. He opened up to me and began talking about his younger days and told me that he was actually in the military. This was the first time that I had seen him since I became a Marine. Not only was he in the military, but he also had participated in the landing at Iwo Jima!! At first I was a bit skeptical because I am the first Marine ever in my family (both grandfathers were in the Army, a few uncles in the Navy and even one in the Air Force). All Marines are taught all about that battle. Never had I been taught anything about other branches of the military being there. May grandfather was with the 471st amphibious truck unit which was a "negro unit" operating in a different Army at a different time. His job was to deliver guns and fresh ammunition from the Navy ships to the Marine's on land. During the assault, on one mission his DUKw (amphibious truck) was riddled with bullet holes as he tried to make way to the shore. Instead of abandoning his truck and its cargo that he knew were desparately needed, he decided to stay with the truck and get as close to shore as possible before it sank. Before his truck sank, my grandfather was rescued by a passing Naval vessel along with his cargo and taken back to his ship. Once there, he transferred his cargo to another DUKw and went back out. On his second attempt, he found the defending fire to be so thick that he ran out of fuel while searching for a spot to reach shore safely. Again he was picked up and taken back to his ship. After taking a third DUKw out, he finally got ashore and delivered his cargo. My grandfather was awarded for his actions that day. He showed me his medals and he even gave me a copy of an article that was printed from back then in his home town news paper. In addition, he also showed me a unit citation that the 471st along with other "negro units" recieved many years after the war when black units began to be viewed in a more civil manner by the Army. Im telling you all this story because my grandfather, William Hugh Hawkins, passed away yesterday as a result of a massive stroke he suffered. I cannot tell you that I am hurting very much because we had such a distant relationship. While I will never know very much about him, I do know that I am very proud to be his grandson. Today my family on that side are traveling from as far as California for the funeral services. I am not going to go. I have been assigned to operational commitments here in Arizona anyhow. I pray that he will understand. I would imagine that the number of remaining survivors from Iwo Jima grows smaller each passing year. If you have made it though to the end of this post, I thank you for reading a little about a hero of mine. God bless you all.