A Marines' Marine and an American Hero > > > His orders were to "Hold and Die" on >> Easter Sunday, April 2, 1972 > > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdpQY_sCL7I&feature=related[/URL] >> >> >>> Part of Col Ripley's Funeral on you tube: Col. Ripley Funeral Report : >>> >>> Farewell to a Legend >>> Written by Norman Fulkerson >>> Friday, November 14 2008 >>> >>> The family and friends of Col. John Walter Ripley said their final >>> goodbyes during a moving funeral ceremony on November 7, 2008 at the U.S. >>> Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He was laid to rest with full >>> military honors in a ceremony that left most attendees either teary eyed >>> or speechless. Among the honorary pall bearers was Lt. Col. Le Ba Binh >>> who fought with Col. Ripley in Vietnam and actually witnessed the >>> destruction of the Dong Ha bridge; the 30th Commandant of the Marine >>> Corps, General Carl E. Mundy; Lt. Gen. Sir Henry Beverly of the British >>> Royal Marines, a long time friend of the deceased; and Congressional >>> Medal of Honor recipient Col. Wesley Fox. >>> >>> As the polished black hearse carrying the body of Col. Ripley approached >>> the steps of the main chapel two Marine infantry platoons in dress blue >>> uniforms with rifles and fixed bayonets snapped to attention. The >>> seriousness of their demeanor was a clear indicator that they were just >>> as capable of fighting a battle as they were of paying tribute to a war >>> hero. Moments later, six more Marines, looking like they were carved out >>> of marble, approached the hearse in a slow cadence and solemnly removed >>> the casket. They then carried it up several flights of steps and gently >>> placed it on the bier in the back of the chapel. >>> >>> "Out of the Depths I Cry to Thee" >>> >>> The afternoon sun filtering through the stained glass windows illuminated >>> the incense that wafted through the air, creating a blue haze that seemed >>> to hover over the top of the flag-draped coffin. All of this created an >>> ethereal ambiance that was truly unique. The people I met on the previous >>> night at the wake made up part of the crowd who packed the chapel to say >>> farewell. As I entered that blue haze, I saw a sea of 2500 mourners, many >>> of whom were forced to stand for the entire mass. Row after row of >>> academy cadets, dressed in formal attire filled the balconies above, >>> while military officers, adorned with medals of gold and silver, sat in >>> the pews below. As the coffin was brought forward, the Naval Academy >>> choir intoned the mournful and soul stirring lines of the De Profundis; >>> "Out of the depths I cry unto thee, O Lord." The plaintive chant was >>> originally composed as an appeal on the part of the disincarnate soul >>> pleading for mercy before the throne of God. On this day, it produced an >>> atmosphere of added grandeur considering the stature of the man whose >>> funeral mass we were now witnessing. >>> >>> Funeral Eulogies >>> >>> In his homily, Fr. Peter McGeory chose to bypass the stories of "Col. >>> Ripley at the bridge." He preferred to focus his words instead on the >>> personal and religious side of the man. Col. Ripley was a Marine who went >>> to mass on a daily basis when he was in town and did so with humility. >>> "He was living proof that serving both God and country can be done with >>> equal fidelity," he said. His faithfulness to his wife Moline, who was >>> diagnosed with Alzheimer's, was equally intense. Moline was an archetypal >>> Southern lady who had been reduced to a wheel chair because of her >>> illness. Father McGeory told of witnessing Col. Ripley at an Academy >>> event one day kneeling on one knee next to his wife's chair, gently >>> speaking to Moline as he spoon fed her. Seeing his wife reduced to such a >>> state caused Col. Ripley more suffering and required more strength of >>> will than his superhuman efforts in the destruction of the Dong Ha >>> Bridge. It would be one of the last bitter gulps from his chalice of >>> suffering. Captain Tom Ripley gave an equally stirring eulogy of his >>> father after mass and also touched on his father's religious side. He >>> surprised the audience by telling them the proper way to use a kneeler >>> during mass. You should not let your bottom touch the seat. "If you are >>> going to sit, sit" he quoted his father saying. "If you are going to >>> kneel, kneel, but don't do both." He then outlined some of the essential >>> qualities of a Marine Corps leader. He must have the spirit of the >>> attack, boldness and a receptiveness for risk taking. "If you are not >>> comfortable operating with risk," Col. Ripley would say, "then you need >>> to get into a new line of work." Academy midshipmen leaned with elbows >>> against the pew in front of them soaking in every word as Captain Ripley >>> finished with an anecdote that illustrated the loyalty of his father. In >>> 1985, Col. Ripley lost a good friend when the commandant of the Naval >>> Academy, Leslie Palmer died. When Col. Ripley went to pay his final >>> respects to his friend, he was shocked to find there was no honor guard. >>> He remedied the situation with a sacrifice that was as noble as it was >>> arduous. "As the Senior Marine at the Naval Academy," Capt. Ripley said, >>> "our father stood at parade rest by Capt. Palmer's body for ten hours. It >>> was only after our mother called another Marine to replace him that our >>> father would leave his friend's side." >>> >>> A Legendary Marine >>> >>> The Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James Conway began his eulogy >>> with a reference to the long history of the Marine Corps and legends such >>> as Joe Foss and Chesty Puller. "We read about their stories," he said, >>> "but we did not have the chance to know them." "We were honored to know >>> an authentic Marine Corps legend," he said, "John Walter Ripley." General >>> Conway knew him for over 30 years and defined Col. Ripley as "a >>> commander, a mentor, a friend" and "a consummate Southern gentleman." A >>> man who never got angry and the closest he ever came to using a bad word >>> was "dog-gonnit." "John was direct," he said, "and you didn't need to ask >>> him something if you couldn't stand the answer." A good example of this >>> was the politically incorrect testimony Col. Ripley gave against women in >>> the military in June of 1992. Regarding women in combat, the Commandant >>> quoted Col. Ripley as saying: "There are sheep and there are wolves and >>> the wolves always win. So in the end political correctness has no place >>> on the battlefield. There are generations of young Marine officers out >>> there today, defending this country with that thought process in mind." >>> After the Commandant finished his comments, the choir intoned the Marine >>> Corps hymn. The audience joined in and the words of this song never >>> seemed so meaningful, since they seemed to define Col. Ripley so well. >>> "We fight our country's battles.for freedom.and to keep our honor clean." >>> >>> Sublime Symbolism >>> >>> At the conclusion of the funeral mass, the 2500 mourners followed behind >>> the coffin as the body of Col. Ripley made one last trip across the >>> academy grounds to the cemetery a mile away. The Marine Corps band, >>> playing a drum beat, and two infantry platoons led the way followed by >>> the hearse, the immediate family and friends. As the coffin was put into >>> place over its final resting place, the sorrowful crowd looked over their >>> shoulders at what sounded like a plane taking off from a nearby airport. >>> As the sound grew louder, four AV-B Harriers in a missing man formation >>> flew directly over the flagged-draped- coffin. While the audience >>> experienced a prideful chill, Captain Ripley choked back tears of >>> gratitude for the enormous tribute on behalf of the United States >>> Marines. He was unaware that his father would receive such an honor and >>> explained for me the deeper meaning behind the gesture. Col. Ripley's >>> older brother Mike was a fighter pilot who flew three, thirteen-month >>> missions in Vietnam and was considered by many to be the most tested >>> pilot of the time. When he returned to the United States in 1971 he was >>> asked by the Marine Corps to test fly the Harrier and was killed on one >>> of the first runs when his plane crashed into the Chesapeake Bay. He left >>> such a mark on the Marine Corps however that the top Marine test pilot in >>> the United States every year is presented the Mike Ripley Award in honor >>> of him. It was one of the many symbolically beautiful gestures witnessed >>> during the day: one Ripley hero honoring another. >>> >>> As the band played the Marine Corps hymn off in the distance, there was >>> another symbolic gesture. In every other branch of the armed forces there >>> are eight body bearers, who carry the coffin of the deceased. The Marines >>> pride themselves in using only six. Unlike the others branches who carry >>> the coffin at waist level, Marines carry their dead at chest level. After >>> the fly over of the Harriers, we witnessed one more thing that makes a >>> Marine burial unique. In a display of extraordinary strength, the six >>> Marine Body Bearers raised the coffin of Col. Ripley to chin level as a >>> symbol of the final respects being paid to a fellow Marine. After >>> lowering the coffin, the body bearers slowly grasped the American flag >>> and pulled it taut over the top of the coffin while Father McGeory said >>> the final prayers for the soul of Col. Ripley and sprinkled the coffin >>> with Holy Water. The grave-like silence which had descended upon the >>> audience was briefly interrupted by the traditional 21-gun salute. The >>> three volleys, during wartime, were a sign that the casualties were taken >>> care of and the fighting could resume. The painfully sad conclusion to >>> the burial was the moment when the six Marines ceremoniously folded the >>> American flag and presented it to Col. Ripley's only daughter Mary: yet >>> another symbolic gesture of thanks on behalf of a grateful nation. >>> >>> >>> Col. John Walter Ripley >>> June 29, 1939 - November 1, 2008 >>> * * * >>> Our sincere and heartfelt condolences go out to the family of Col. John >>> Ripley. May he rest in peace!