By Phil Hosier
This is a story about a very good friend of mine, a Vietnam veteran who eventually became 100 percent disabled from wounds suffered in combat.
Roger D. Flood had enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1965. I think all of his combat wounds shaped his personality and his outlook on life. He was a great supporter of the Corps, the American flag and the American way of life; his beliefs were carved in stone, and he lived by them. When Roger made a friend, it was for life. His friends knew where he stood on subjects, and so did his detractors.
At work breaks, veterans tended to gather together, and each would tell war stories, no matter the branch or where they served. Roger would tell about all the ways he was wounded in combat -- by a bullet, a grenade, artillery and the last time being overrun by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). An NVA woman soldier shot Roger, and as he lay on his back, she jumped over the ditch he was in and then saw he was looking at her in his wounded state. She turned around, came back , bayoneted him in the stomach, smiled and ran on. Roger always said his other wounds stung some, but that bayonet really hurt. He said he needed more than a year recovering before he knew he would survive.
As Roger told his combat stories, he repeatedly said he wasn't very lucky in Vietnam. One day, I looked at him and told him with veteran humor, "Roger, you weren't unlucky, You were just slow." A big laugh went up around the group, and a few choice cuss words followed. He was affectionately called Slow Roger after that, but only by a select few.
We knew Roger had stared at death too many times. We not only loved him like a friend but a brother, a brother in arms, who had worn the uniform and had seen too much war up close and personal.
Roger was with the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines in Vietnam, known as "The Walking Dead." This wasn't a handle that unit was given by other Marines or even the American press corps. "The Walking Dead" handle was coined by none other than Ho Chi Minh. The casualty rate for the 1/9 was the highest in Marine Corps history.
By the time Sept. 11, 2001 happened, Roger had been classified as 100 percent disabled by the VA. A week after 9/11, Roger went down to the local Marine recruiter and asked to be placed back on active duty. The recruiter listened to Roger's reasons but told Roger that at 65 years of age and 100 percent disability, there was zero chance of him being accepted for duty as an active Marine. Roger looked at the recruiter with those steely eyes and said, "Just give me a uniform and a rifle, I'll show you who's disabled."
Roger wanted to go back on active duty so he would be sent to a combat zone, willing to give his own life in combat, thus saving the life of another young Marine. This is the kind of men America raises, and it is why America will never run out of Marines.
Roger now lies with his comrades in Arlington National Cemetery.