The Catholic Defender: In Honor Of A Brother

Posted by John Benko - October 23rd, 2013

(Editors note) in honor of the 30th anniversary of those who gave their lives defending our Country who were killed this day.) I was in the United States Army for more than 26 years and during that time I have had many close encounters with the enemy.

It was a daily occurrence as anytime we went outside the wire there was always a risk.

This weekend my wife and I were doing some spring cleaning and I found an old newspaper clipping about my Brother, Randy when he was in the Marine Corps.

The story was written by Louise Whall for the Humansville paper called, “The Daily News”.
I want to share this story because it reflects heros in American life:

“Cpl. Randy Hartley joined the Marines after high-school graduation in 1979 because the United States honor was at stake a half a world away in Iran, where 52 Americans were being held hostage.


On Monday, his mother, Mary Ann McKinney, mailed her son a package of cookies and tobacco, trying her hardest to believe he survived Sunday’s bombing of a Beirut Marine compound– an act the government says may be linked to Iran.

“I almost feel like ‘yeah, go out and blow up Iran’ if that’s who did it,” Mrs. McKinney said. “That’s how come Randy decided to join in the first place. He was furious about the Iranian situation. He’d be sitting here watching TV and he’d be so mad”.

Hartley, 23, went to Beirut in May and was scheduled to leave sometime after Nov. 6. All he complained about in letters home was the heat and the flies. Occasionally, he asked for cookies and his favorite snuff, which was not available in Beirut, Mrs McKinney said.

Hartley suffered a knee injury during a training exercise that could have prevented him from joining the multinational peacekeeping force in Lebanon. But he said the rest of his 800-man outfit was going and he wanted to be with them, Mrs. McKinney said.

When he decided to enlist after high school, Mrs. McKinney said she tried to discourage him. Now she’s proud that Randy and an older son, David, who died in 1976, joined the Marines. Still, she said, she doesn’t completely understand the political dynamics that require a U.S. presence in Lebanon.

“I tried to talk him out of it, but I don’t know our political situation”, she said. “But I’m behind every one of them 100 percent. He told me he knew what his job was. Mostly, when he writes home, he wants to know how his horses are”.

Since about 8 a.m. Sunday, when she and her husband, Henry, learned of the bombing from a television news show, she and family and friends have kept a vigil by the phone waiting for some word about Hartley.

They scan news programs hoping to catch a glimpse of him and glance nervously at the window each time a car drives down the dirt road in front of the comfortable rural Humansville trailer home.

Mrs. McKinney said she thinks her son is living in a tent, but his address is listed as the destroyed barracks. She is hoping the mail is simply routed there and then distributed in the area. 

She said she was even more panicked recently when snipers killed four Marines. This time, the tragedy is almost too big to comprehend, she said.

Attempts by another son, Donald, of Harrison, Ark., to get information about Randy for the family were futile, she said. Donald did telephone Monday morning, though, with the news that his wife had given birth to their second son, Joshua.

Hoping that the birth is a positive omen, family and friends continued to wait and pray that the longer they don’t hear anything, the better the news.

Outside the trailer, the American Legion flag the family received upon David’s death (Viet Nam Vet) wafted at less than full mast to express sympathy for the families across the nation sharing the same sorrow.

“I put it up for all of them”, she said. “Whatever Marine is killed, it could be my Marine”.

In remembering this terrible event, there were 220 Marines, 18 Navy, and 3 Army Soldiers that died in the explosion. My Brother would survive the blast and our family did move on. 

I would deploy to Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War and subsequently a number of times during Operation iraqi Freedom.

I have three immediate family members that are in the Army and all three of them served in Afghanistan and iraq. Please keep our Soldiers in prayer as our Nation is in much need of God’s presence.



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