The story of the 16 year old U.S Marine in Vietnam

Reads: 1953  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 1  | Comments: 1

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic
The real story of my Dad, the 16 year old Marine

Submitted: April 14, 2012

A A A | A A A

Submitted: April 14, 2012



The story of the 16 year old U.S Marine in Vietnam

By A loving Son

Being a 16 year old boy is a fruitful and wonderful age to experience in the path to adulthood.  At this time you are midway through high school, driving your first Mustang, and getting your first taste of earning a wage so that someday you can take care of your family.  If you were my father back in 1969, you were becoming a Marine in the United States Marine Corps.  My father was affectionately called Steve, my uncle; amongst other names they commonly called new recruits.  He was aware of the conflict in southwest Asia, like most, engulfing young men out of high school and sending them to Vietnam.  This did not phase the 6’7 giant David Whitmer from wanting to serve his country and become a respected Marine.  He had realized that if he was able to join, then he would have to prepare himself in only the way warriors do.  Train to kill.  Be a Rifleman, a grunt.  Now, this boy was prepared to walk in the valley of the shadow of death.Will he emerge this daunting task unscaved and overcome the horrible sigh of war?


I met my father May of 1985.  He was a slender built man, with dark hair and beard that tower over me like a tree.  Having been home for 747 weeks when we met, he had ample time to think about the 10 months and 12 days in Vietnam.  Like every child, I was new to this surrounding world and did not understand anything.  I knew I was loved in a family with a Mom, Dad, and 3 sisters.  It would take almost 27 years to know them all. 

I can’t remember the first time my father struck me in anger, but I do remember being hit in front of my sisters and mother very frequently.  I didn’t understand why this man was doing this but it must have something to do with what he is drinking.  He drank pretty much on a regular basis and I didn’t understand anything he spoke of.  I had no Idea what a war was.  I didn’t have a clue where Vietnam was located in respect to me.  I didn’t know why he always told me “he has walked though the valley of the shadow of death and fears no evil for he is the baddest mother fucker in the valley.”Now this 6’8 man speaking to me was a curse and a blessing in life.  Not only do I get to hang out with my dad, but he can tell me all there is to know about life.  Although I would anger him over nothing, the “ass beatings” were not comparable to his drunken lectures that could last for hours and late in the night.  We didn’t have much money growing up, so this was almost my entertainment, but soon grew old knowing school was the next morning.  It was hard to relate with his experiences and wisdom as a child I could not understand the toll paid.  I however loved him unconditionally even thought things got worse as I grew up.  I can only explain that getting to know my father was like an infinite enigma.  I could never tell what would happen next.  The man’s temper was unquenchable and unpredictable.  I knew that this was going to be a challenge for me to keep my head and sprits together no matter what.  As our relationship progressed, I started looking at him as a Marine.  I knew that there was nothing he was more proud of other then having this title.


 Being a 16 year old boy I was angry about the events of 9/11 and what it had done to this beautiful country we live in.  That my father, like others, served to defend, and protect what we all cherish deep in our hearts.  I asked my father to let me join the Army early my senior high school year.  I didn’t know how he would react as the War in Iraq was escalating and Afghanistan war raging on for 2 years already.  I figured I had a shot.  At the time I was working landscaping and learning how to drive.  I figured I needed to get away from him and do something constructive with my life.  He protested that wasn’t an option I had unless it was with the Marines.  Train to kill. Semper Fi!  Being a Marine Recruit my entire life, this did not just sit well with my plans after school.  I had no desire to witness the things I most certainly know affected his life negatively.  I wanted to get away and this was an out.  I had no idea that the next 8 ½ years would change me to the person I am today writing this to you.  Learning how to maneuver my words in such a way, my father signed for me to enlist for 6 years active duty Army, March 2003.  I was excited for this adventure.  At the time my father and I were not on speaking terms, he kicked me out.  I eventually move back several months later, because of my caring mother wanted me to spend time with the family before I embarked on this arduous journey to undoubtedly war. 

My father was diagnose with Lung cancer May of 2005.  I drove across the United States to see him for I knew I didn’t have much time left with him.  That time I spent with him has been amongst the most cherished I can recollect.  It turns out that while my dad was in Da Nang, Vietnam, as a Marine grunt, he also had been exposed to high levels of dioxin.  Dioxin is an ingredient used in defoliation of the jungles so that troops and equipment can move. Ironically enough, I would join the Army as a Chemical Operation Specialist.  He died two days after I found out I was to be a father for the first time.  I knew it was going to be a boy, like my father always told me, “wait until you have a son of your own, then you will understand why I act this way towards you.”  I thought to myself about how my father was obsessed with numbers and the lottery, and when he told everyone he met that the best birthday present he ever receive, was his twin daughters.  So adding his birthday May 11th and May 7th, mine, ultimately meant I would have a son on May 18th.  My son, Jacob David Whitmer was born the morning of the 18th of May.  My son now is turning 6, and we have a wonderful relationship together.  I am out of the Army after serving almost a decade, encompassing 27 months of combat in Iraq.


Sharing my experience with you, there was a man, called David Larry Whitmer, Steve, maggot, private; the not so gentle 6’9 giant, 16 year old Marine, but we called him Dad.  Serving 12 years honorably and being exposed to a horrible environment, he struggled in life with demons few people can only fathom. He lived with psychological problems that I only now am I beginning to understand.  Never once was he approached for help by the government, even though they knew he was an underage Marine killing people in Vietnam, when he should have been in high school.  My family paid a hefty price because of this.  Although his debt to his county was paid in a mere 10months12 days this sadly cost him his life in the end.  I love and respect that man more than any words I can type and in the end he didn’t know any better.  That’s ok! “The few and the proud.”  He made me strong enough to adapt, improvise, and overcome obstacles in my life that he somehow knew I would face, inadvertently or not.  He believed in his country despite its shortcomings.

Now I share with my son, the same privilege my dad had of being a Father.  I have had a tough life thus far, yet it is incomparable to the sad truth my dad went though.  I honor him as a patriot, father, and Marine.  He made me understand that there is a reason for everything; you just need to look real deep to figure it out.  You were right, I do understand.  Thank you Dad, I love you!

© Copyright 2018 Joshua Whitmer. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:


More War and Military Short Stories