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Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA 92007
voice - (760) 497-0211


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Some Great Stories
Below are some great stories we have received, and we just wanted to share them.
If you have a story you would like to share [  click here  ]


received via email
Hello Jerry,
My name is Mark Fitzgerald. My father, US Army Lt. Mark J. Fitzgerald Sr. was killed in Vietnam in 1972 when his Huey helicopter crashed. I was about 5 months old at the time and left in the arms of my 21 year old mother. Well, many years have passed and have never really had much advantage to be involved in enough memorial for the passing of my father.
It would be a pleasure and honor to be able to join in your event on Sept. 30 in Oceanside. I have been surfing for over 20 years and live in Carlsbad. Please give me more info and how I can become a part of this event. Thank you kindly,

received via email
My Story:
I'll paddle for Joe Cisneros (Jose B. Cisneros)... Joe and I served together through Boot Camp and AIT, we met at the Draft center in L.A. Joe was from LA, I was from Del Mar and we were both better suited for civilian life than the military but Joe said he wanted revenge for a family member already lost in VietNam. We arrived on 20 January 1969 and by late Febuary I was WIA and home ward bound,a year and a half later I called his home and was told he didn't make it...killed in a huge booby trap while serving with the 199th Light Infantry July 12th 1969... his autopsy drawings show the outline of the radio on his back, and says he lived for 45 minutes until KIA...
Howard Fisher

received via email
My Story:
My name is Ralph. I started surfing in 1964 in New England and I still surf every swell (year round) today, in 2007. Including our Cold ass winters. I don't really have a story to tell, (unless me skateboarding on board the USS Okinawa LPH3 (Helicopter Assualt Ship), during a Typhoon, in the South China Sea, just off the coast of Vietnam, warrants a story.
I just thought I'd weigh in about the Vietnam War being the first "Surf War". By that, I mean Nam was the first war where thousands of surfers either enlisted, or were drafted. There were three surfers in my platoon alone. One from California, one from Florida, and myself (New England). I used to get Surfer Mag sent to me over there. I was a grunt in the Corps (0311)and anytime I could look at a photo of a wave, or a surfer, well, that was all I needed to get through the day. That monthly magazine meant the world to me. That, and letters from my surf buddies back in the world.
We lost a lot of surfers in Nam.
I never surfed in Nam but one of my best friends did. Joe Somogyi. We met at the beach here in NH after our tours were up. 1969-1970. He in the Army and me in the Marine Corps. We had a lot in common. Music, War and Surfing. He was awarded the purple heart, and the Bronze Star with a "V'device. He was the real deal. MACV RECONDO School..he was a bad ass Ranger. Deep in Indian country. Joe saw some heavy shit. Including some hairball hand to hand combat. He died from exposure to Agent Orange back in 1978. He was a great surfer and he and I surfed many spots together before the war finally caught back up to him, and took him out.
When I paddle out on Sunday September 30th, it will be for Joe, and a few other Marine buddies of mine who didn't make it back. And, I will paddle for all the surfers today serving in the Global War on Terrorism.
We can't let another generation of Veterans, serving our country, go through what we all went through. That should never happen again.
I'll see you all on the beach at Oceanside.
Semper Fi
Ralph Fatello

received via email
On September 30th I'll be paddling out for Terrance Lee Mercke...The best friend I had in high school. We called Terry "Mercury Man"..He was a gentleman and a good surfer..who had a lot of friends that admired him. I was in the Marine Corps in the sixties returning from my tour in Vietnam in 1968. I attended Terry's sisters wedding just before he departed for Nam. He was all smiles and proud to be going when I talked to him. He served as a 11B40 in the Army. One year of service, he attained the rank of SGT/E5. On December 3, 1968, at the age of 21, Terry perished in the service of our country in South Vietnam, Phuoc Long. For nearly 40 years, not one day has passed without me thinking about him. In my high school year book Terry wrote "To a real nice guy that I hope will take me surfing someday" Every time I surf, Mercury Man is with me.
Thank you for giving us the chance to remember and honor these fallen hero's!
Steve Irvin,
Huntington Beach CA

received via email
My Story:
I'm paddling out for 5 of my best friends that I served with in Vietnam and also the many others in my battalion and brigade that were killed in action:
When I got off the bus at Fort Gordon, Georgia, reporting for A.I.T., I met my best Vietnam friend, Jim "Moose Mechanic" Cowell. We went through 8 weeks of A.I.T., went home for 30 days, then reported to Fort Lewis, WA. We rode the plane to Vietnam together. We landed at Cam Rahn Bay for a 5 day stay. From there, we were airlifted to Chu Lai and spent 9 days together in a training camp. Then we were assigned to our units and arrived at that location together in a jeep. We were both assigned to the 1/6th, 198th LIB of the Americal division. On May 30th, 1968, we arrived in the morning and were given our infantry supplies; a pack, grenades and an M-16. Jim was assigned to C Co. and I was assigned to E Co. Recon. Again together, we were taken to the helipad for our trip to the Que Son Valley or the Valley of Living Death. The helicopter took us both to LZ Bowman where I was dropped off. At this point we were separated, as the helicopter took Jim into this valley. It was an NVA stronghold. On May 31st, Jim volunteered to walk point on his second day in the field. In the early afternoon, Jim was shot in the chest by a sniper and fell backwards on his rucksack in a sitting position, where the NVA sniper used him for target practice. Another soldier, Bruce Anello, who was in D Co., 1/6th, was walking second man when Jim was hit. He jumped toward him to save his life and was also shot and killed. Now he is my best friend also.
June 25th, 1968, I lost another great friend, Anthony "Tony" Mancuso, from New York City, New York. This guy was the funniest guy I had ever met. Tony was killed at sunrise on a mountainside in a night logger. When going to take a pee, he stepped on a land mine that blew Tony in half.
A few days later, on July 9th, 1968, Recon was ambushed. The gooks got the high ground on us and started throwing hand grenades into our 14 man Recon platoon. One grenade landed on the chest of Ellas "Bummer" Mihalakis. We also had 8 wounded in action that day from shrapnel. Bummer carried in his pack a cassette music recorder and tapes. He was our music man.
William "Spanky" Stocks, another one of my great friends, was killed on February 13, 1969. He was in a terrible helicopter crash on a re-supply mission. You can read about Spanky in the book "Letters Home From Vietnam". This book was also made into a movie on HBO, also called "Letters Home From Vietnam". In the movie, his mother reads a letter she wrote to him that she left at the Wall in Washington, DC. It is the last letter read and it is heart-wrenching.
Some of my friends were shot and wounded in ways that you will never know. I remember them all today as I did then. They were unbelievable kids. I love them all.
Kurt McFadden

received via email
My Story: By Henry Trulson
I had joined the Navy with hopes of being able to be married and raise a family while learning a trade. Well, as luck would have it I recieved orders to serve on a repair ship USS Sphinx ARL-24 on the rivers of Vietnam.
I will never forget the day I had to board the plane to leave for parts unknown overseas.
My family came to the airport to see me off. I hugged and kissed everyone good-by, then borded the jet plane. When I sat down in my window seat, thoughts of never seeing any of them again ran through my mind.
Then as the plane taxied out to the runway it turned and allowed me one more view of my whole family including my 18-year old wife Karrie holding our 6-month old baby girl Angie in her loving arms. It seemed to all go in slow motion like in a movie. Except it was real. I was thankful for that last glimpse of hope, that things would be ok and I would return home.
The whole time I was gone that last view of my wife and baby stayed etched in my mind and it was what helped me get through the hard times while I was gone.
When I came home they were all there once again to welcome me home.
For all our troops overseas protecting peace and justice for all mankind, I hope my story will help you while you are serving your country and to my Karrie Anne, THANK YOU and I LOVE YOU.

received via email
My Story is my poem for my loving protective brother. My son Randy K. Riley and son-inlaw Michael Lopez will be participating in the paddleout in his memory. My brother loved surfing and he will be there and you will be able to feel his gentle spirit. 
For Terrance Lee Mercke

in flight
from hot rain monsoon
through the trades,
to semi-arid
Santa Ana winds
he returned
honored soldier.
Kings horses
Kings men
rebuilt him.
in coffiin,
hands gloved,
crossed over
his chest
the beautiful
draped, folded,
handed to the
who trembled
at the echo of
twenty- one guns,
a salute, a bullet
for each year
of his life.
America the beautiful
handed to the
who remained
more wounded
alive than
her dead son
in the tomb.
The son,
who like
some small bird,
fell short of
the living tree.
Oh, scarlet
bleeding bird
I miss you, my brother.
And the days we spent
in the sun
on the shore
of the sea
before the world
taught us
it's emptiness.
Before that
hollow voice
took us
by the hand,
led us through
dark corridors
of what must be.
Before the light
of your eyes turned
from slate blue
to twilight gray.
And you grow
old in your coffin.
As I, on the shore of elusive time,
wait to see you, again.

I emailed Donna to make sure her poem which came to me via email was presented exactly the way she wanted it to read. The following was her reply...
Thanks, Jim Clark

Dear Jim,

Yes, the poem is exactly correct. Thank you for including it as one of the stories. You know, time does not seem to heal all wounds and the older I get the more I realize how that war impacted all of us. And how a healing process was suppressed and needed to be contained. At my brothers funeral I was told I needed to by strong for my parents. How does one carry pain for forty years ? I am so grateful to the organizers for this beautiful event and another chance to heal.

received via email
My Story: Is also about Terrance Lee Mercke. Terry was a good friend, good surfer and a Great American that gave his life for his country. My brother Steve and I walked to High School many mornings with Terry and surfed the weekends. Terry was a soft spoken, well mannered and gentel being.
Our daughter and her family live in the D.C. area. Every time we get a chance to visit the Wall I get another chance to visit with Terry. I miss you buddie!
Stan Irvin

received via email
My Story: I will be paddling out for Terry "Mercury Man" Mercke and Bobby Ocampo.
Bobby Ocampo and I were like brothers in high school. We used to go to the beach in his uncle's '59 Chevy. Bobby and I enlisted on the same day. When we went to Viet Nam he went south and I went north. He was killed (shot thru the neck) 3 months in country. I will always regret not being able to attend his funeral.
Terry and I surfed with the Irvin brothers Stan and Steve. One surf trip to San Diego we had to all pile into my '57 Volkswagen Bug. The fenders dragged on the tires and we looked like a clown act when we got out at Sunset Cliffs in San Diego.
So many memories. Bobby and Terry are always included in the good ones.
Jim Weander

received via email
My name is Joe Giannini. I was born in Brooklyn. I live in East Hampton and surf Montauk all year round. I joined the 1966 for the following reasons. I believed I was going to Vietnam and would have a better chance serving with Marines. I also thought Marines would be around water. Waves. I could surf. I was a grunt with the First Battalion Third Marines in 1967/68. When I joined 1/3 they were part of the SLF, Special Landing Force. In August 1967 and September 1967 1/3 went to China Beach to have a beach party. I surfed there during our second party. I will paddle out for two machine gunners: CPL Joseph Listordi killed in "Happy Valley" on 8/12/67 on the morning he was going to rotate and his replacement CPL David Calabria killed on 8/17/67 in "The Valley of The Living Dead."
Semper fi,

received via email
I was born David William Heep on August 13, 1968. At the time, my father, Lt. William A. Heep was a Navy fighter pilot with squadron VF-143 stationed in the Gulf of Tonkin aboard the USS Constellation. He learned of my birth via telegram and wrote back how excited he was to be a father and to meet his new son. Sadly, he never had this opportunity. On August 24, 1968, my father was killed off the coast of Vietnam when his F-4 Phantom crashed into the sea.
My mother would later marry Tom Lecours, a Top Gun Navy fighter pilot, who would eventually adopt me. My name is now David William Lecours and I grew up in Rancho Bernardo as Tom was stationed at Miramar Naval Air Station. I've been surfing since 1982 and now live in Encinitas. I'll be paddling out in honor of my father, Bill Heep. I miss him deeply.
David Lecours

The next 4 comments are in responce to an article posted in San Diego's North County Times
Read the article [  North County Times  ]

No. County Reader wrote on Sep 26, 2007 11:40 AM: " What a wonderful way to honor our fallen heroes and for those that survived and fought for our country !!! My heart goes out to the family and loved ones they left behind. "
Jane wrote on Sep 26, 2007 10:07 PM: " Wow! Mark Fitzgerald, Jr....I am so proud of him for honoring his father in this way. It does my heart good and I shed tears I do not hide when I see the troops returning from Iraq and Afghnistan to the AFB that I live near. It was something my very young and idealistic husband, and Mark's father could never do from Viet Nam and I know if he looking down from heaven, he is smiling on those homecoming troops and on his son who is honoring him and all of his fallen comrades as well. God Bless our troops and America!- "
Karl wrote on Sep 26, 2007 11:06 PM: " I think what Jerry has put together is really great...I send my very best wishes out for this Day of Rememberance for the brave young men who went through hell for their country...I will be thinking of you guys on Sunday too ...all the way from nine time zones east in Kiel, Germany. God Bless... "
son of a vet wrote on Sep 27, 2007 12:30 PM: " This is going to be great. Let's remember our troops and show up in force to Mr. Anderson's paddle. "

received via email
Hi Jim,
When in Viet Nam after being hit twice, leg and stomach, I was at Cam Ramh Bay in the hospital. One day I walked to the beach and saw a group of five guys way down the beach with a surfboard. Surf was four or five feet and really close intervals. One by one each person tried to paddle out but could not get past the shorebreak because of the short interval and or lack of experience. I limped my way down there, no small feat there because I was sewed up with safety wire in my leg because they had run out of thread at the field hospital. The five guys had given up on surfing and were walking away. I asked to borrow the surfboard, guy who owned it said no. I then begged, and he said no. I begged more, he said ok. I then was able to paddle out easily beyond the shorebreak and then to the outside break. I caught one wave and rode pretty much straight off (couldn't much feel my damaged leg, actually its still numb in spots) all the way to the beach. These guys were then jumping up and down asking me to teach them how to surf. LOL, they're tune had changed dramatically. But the Army then sent me to an Air Force doctor who took one quick look at me and sent me to Japan, then to Fort Ord for healing . So after a brief tour in Viet Nam, (five months, shot down 3 times) I was back stateside.
Stephen Brown
If you look closely at the picture, where my index fingers are an AK 47 round went in one side and out the other, and then made the gash in my pilots helmet.
(a larger version of this image is in our Photo section # 62)

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Voice: (760) 497-0211 * P.O. Box 1177 Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA 92007