Newsletters & Information > Sergeant Major Louis Rountree passed
Sergeant Major Louis Rountree passed

Jul 8, 2004

Fellow members, friends;
It is with great sadness that I report to you that Sergeant
Major Louis Rountree passed earlier this morning. Sergeant
Major Rountree was widely recognized as the most decorated
Montford Point Marine. His widow Famie is currently making
the funeral arrangements and that information will be
passed as soon as it is available.

I'd like to again thank our friends at the Education
Highway who mentioned some of the Sergeant Major's exploits
in their Black History Month edition of their publication
which can be viewed at:

http://www.eduhwy.com/publishers_focus/03082003.html

Additionally, here is an article written by Lietenant
Colonel (ret) Zumwalt to help give you a background of this
great American Hero.

The Real Survivors
By: Lieutenant Colonel James G. Zumwalt (USMCR, Retired)
As one reads through the list of combat medals - three
Purple Hearts, three Silver stars, four Bronze Stars - one
wonders how a single Marine could have seen so much action
and managed to survive. But, through two wars, Korea and
Vietnam, Sergeant Major Louis Rountree has proven to be a
survivor.

In Korea, Rountree found himself outnumbered at the Chosin
Reservoir. Cut off form any escape route, his regiment,
commanded by Marine legend then- Colonel "Chesty" Puller,
was surrounded by eight North Korean divisions. Breaking
out of the encirclement, carrying their dead and wounded
with them, the regiment fought its way back forty miles to
friendly lines.

One would have thought his Korea experience would have been
enough excitement for this gung-ho Marine, but Rountree
wanted to serve again. In Vietnam, as an advisor to South
Vietnamese army during the early days of the war, his unit
was wiped out. Rountree escaped into the jungle where he
evaded North Vietnamese forces. Friendly reinforcements
arrived to recover the dead. Initially listed as a KIA,
when a body count came up one short, his status was changed
to MIA. Days later, he emerged from the jungle alive and
well.

During a career that spanned four decades, Sergeant Major
Rountree experienced both the highs and lows of military
service. The "highs" included his service to country: the
"lows" the loss of friends and comrades who served with him
on Hell's battlefields. Through it all, Rountree was true
to his country, true to his Corps, and true to himself.

Today, Rountree continues to demonstrate he is a survivor,
but on a much different battlefield. Living in a VA
hospital, he receives medical attention for a profusion of
life-threatening health problems. Considering his personal
achievements, this tough, combat-hardened Marine seems out
of place confined to his bed and wheelchair. Time seems to
be accomplishing what no enemy soldier ever could.

To his credit though, time has proven incapable of
diminishing Rountree's fighting spirit and zest for life.
This became apparent to me during a personal visit with him
last month. Compassion in Action's Chairman Dannion
Brinkley led a fire team of visitors to see the Sergeant
Major at the Washington, DC VA Medical Center. Rountree
greeted us with a smile that lit up the room. As Dannion
and I shared that we too were former Marines, an immediate
bond formed among us.

Other visitors included my mother, recently widowed by the
passing of my father, Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr. The
visit brought back memories of time she spent in military
hospitals during the Vietnam war thanking our young men for
their sacrifices and encouraging them to get well. This
visit was different, though, for veterans such as Rountree
would not be going home.

Despite the camaraderie that ensues whenever former Marines
get together, Rountree clearly wanted to spend time with
the ladies in our group; so they escorted him to the
recreation center. Dannion and I followed in trace.

As we reached the recreation room, veterans Morris Moore,
Joseph Thomas, Jr. and Benjamin Saunders, sat aimlessly
watching TV. Dannion immediately sprang into action. He
began moving wheelchairs around and engaging the veterans
in conversation. Everything happened so fast it must have
been reminiscent to them of their first firefight.
Appearing to quickly recovering from shill shock, they
began sharing stories, telling jokes and recalling
memories. Smiles replaced blank stares as laughter was
heard throughout the center.

In his own dynamic way, Dannion clearly sent an important
message to these four veterans. He told them, "We have not
forgotten you. We still remember the sacrifices you made on
our behalf. We love you."

In a serious moment, Dannion asked each man what message he
would want to convey to Americans. Upon reflection, each
spoke of patriotism, teamwork, and about doing what was
right for America. "What humility and selflessness," I
thought to myself, "that men receiving so little attention
and love in the twilight of life would respond only
positively about their country and their military service."

As it came time to depart, we hugged each man. I felt a mix
of emotions--jubilation over making four special, new
friends yet immense sadness at having to leave them to face
the future - and, perhaps, the end of life - alone.

One veteran, missing both legs, looked up as we started to
leave and said, "You've made my heart glad today." His
comment left me searching for a response that never came.
Not until later did I realize there was but one appropriate
response to give. "No, sir, it is you who made my heart
glad today."

Author's Note:
For two days last month, I accompanied Dannion as he walked
the halls of Congress promoting, Compassion in Action and
the need to care for our dying veterans. No sooner had we
completed our second day on the Hill when Dannion raced us
off to visit veterans at the VA hospital. That done, we
went to tape an interview with the Learning Channel in
which Dannion emphasized that America is losing 44,000
World War II veterans a month- many of whom will not
receive the care and medical attention they deserve for
lack of funding. I learned one thing by Dannion's example -
there are enough hours in the day to volunteer time to CIA.
We all need to recognize the importance of committing
ourselves to finding that time rather than making excuses
for why we cannot. A smile on the face of a lonely veteran
makes it all worthwhile.

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SERGEANT MAJOR, YOU WILL BE
MISSED................................

JOE GEETER

Joe Geeter
27 Red Tail Court
Limerick, PA 19468

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JOHN TILLMAN VICE PRESIDENT

Historical advisor Byron Stewart PhD

 

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