Photo: © 2008 Jupiterimages Corporation
My First Casualty
General Peter Pace, United States Marine Corps, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
I was 22, a rifle platoon leader in Vietnam. It was a great platoon, great guys. Chubby Hale, Whitey Travers, Little Joe Arnold—everybody had a nickname except Guido Farinaro. Having Guido for a name was good enough.
I was lucky: In my first six months, we had folks wounded but not killed. It was a blessing to make it that far without losing anyone. But one day, 35 or 40 of us were walking through rice paddies and small villages, patrolling. There was an exchange of fire, and Guido Farinaro was shot by a sniper.
He was the first marine I lost. We were waiting for the medevac chopper to come in and pick him up, and he died while we were waiting. I had rage inside me. We did a sweep through the village, trying to find who shot him, but we saw only women and children.
Guido had a great smile and a great sense of humor. He was born in Italy and came to the United States. He lived in Bethpage, New York, out on Long Island, and went to Chaminade High School. Most, if not all, of his classmates had gone on to college, but he determined that he was going to serve his country—his adopted country—first.
After he was killed, I wrote to his family, but I didn't try to contact them further. I figured if they wanted to be in touch with me, they would. I didn't want to impose myself on their grief. Then about two years ago, I found out that Guido's parents had died but that he had a sister out west. I wrote to her, but the letter came back, and the phones had been disconnected. I just thought that if there was anything she wanted to know about her brother and what a great marine he was, I would have been happy to share it with her.
I keep his picture on my desk at the Pentagon, to remind me of the cost of war. But I don't need the picture to see Guido's face. You don't forget. I decided that I would stay in the Marine Corps as long as I could, as long as I was adding value, because I felt I owed more than I could ever repay to Guido and the other young men who followed their second lieutenant into combat and died doing so.