Looking for help in piecing together Dad’s USMC service

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – Since I can’t find the appropriate venue in which to ask these questions, I’ll ask them here– and ask people to share this around so that I might get some answers for my family and me.

The ol’man having a smoke and wearing flip-flops, but no ribbons to help me identify his proper service awards.

In 1973, my father, an E-4, was honorably discharged from the USMC after 3 years 4 months 20 days of service because of physical disability. He spent time stationed in Camp Lejeune, Cuba, Panama, Okinawa and finally, Walter Reed before going home.

My dad always said he had three ribbons on his uniform as a Marine. His official transcript lists only The National Service Medal– but it also shows he qualified for the Good Conduct medal which wasn’t listed (It was one Dad said he got– but they just gave everyone who hung around long enough.)

The third one is a bit of a mystery. He talked about receiving some decoration after Nuclear/ Biological/ Chemical Warfare School (or maybe for some use of that training). The schooling is listed, but the award isn’t.

Does this sound plausible to anyone who’d know? What award might they have given for N/B/C training (or excellence in N/B/C training… or excellence in use of N/B/C training skills) in USMC in 1970?

The only medal listed on the ol'man's DD-214-- The National Defense Service Medal.
The only medal listed on the ol’man’s DD-214– The National Defense Service Medal.

Also, dad talked about being trained in parachuting… and also training others in the use of parachutes. Again, not mentioned on his DD-214… nor is his rifle expert badge, which he talked about proudly. Having been trained in parachuting, that would have qualified him for the parachuting badge, right?

Anyone know someone who might know these answers if you don’t? Internet research is vague and non-specific here, especially since I’m not entirely sure what I’m asking.

I’m also quite positive that “official channels” won’t offer many answers– I’d just like to ask these questions of someone who might have a good idea of what the truth is, regardless of the form that was filled out hastily and improperly 42 years ago.

Dad’s DD-214 is clearly incomplete– all he left the Marines with was the uniform on his back. All of his belongings were stolen when he was transferred from a base hospital to Walter Reed, from where he was honorably discharged. Because he was sick, he was never given the chance to review or sign his separation papers.

unsigned dd214
His separation papers, Form DD-214, was completed using whatever scarce information they had on Dad, at a hospital far from his unit and far from his belongings. He was so sick, he was unable to sign (and more importantly, verify all the information on the form.)

This is all to say, he never bothered trying to amend his records because he had no proof. His paperwork and medals were stolen with his camera, stereo, 8-tracks, and uniforms.

I’m not looking to amend his records– just for the ability to pay proper respect to his military service, and remember him for the commendations he actually received.

Dad-Marine-editThe few photos of him during his time in the Marine Corps don’t show him in regulation uniform— except his boot camp dress blues head shot, which was taken before any of the awards would have been earned.

He was proud of serving his country, but like many who did so, he didn’t like to talk about it much. I wish I had pressed a tiny bit more or taken better notes through the years.

Please feel free to email me with any insight– steve@buffalostories.com. Thanks.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo's past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News. He's a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon's been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives-- hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.