|Don Grathwell on the USS Tripoli.
Don was located in early 2001. He was excited about coming to the reunion and looking forward to
seeing old friends again. But a few weeks before the reunion he was found to have lung cancer and
had to undergo surgery. He died on July 21, 2001 while the reunion was going on.
Below is P. J. Ronzo's account of his first meeting with Don.
I was following that long line of Marines going to rescue those unfortunate Recon Marines on Hill
744. All the others that went before me went over the same in the flooded rice paddy. Being
different, as I usually am, I said to myself that I would just go a few feet to the left of everyone so as
to not slide over the dike in the mud. So I did. Now, I remember going under water and looking up
and was very aware that I was in trouble. I could see a light above me, all I had to do was move
over a little and I would be okay.
As soon as that thought went through my mind a hand reached in to pull me up and out of the
water. I thought it was the hand of God letting me know it wasn't my time to go. Of course it was
Don's hand that pulled me out of the water. He asked me if I was okay and I told him yeah. Then I
asked him how far under water I had been. He replied that he could just see the tip of the antenna
of the radio I was carrying. That meant I was two feet under water. That was my first conversation
|Charlie Mayo and Ellie Huggins.
|Charlie Mayo on Hill 22.
|Charlie Mayo and Vinh Awang.