Bravo Co 1/26
Son of Jim Melanson
My Dad, Jim Melanson was
born April 30, 1946 of Wilson and Helen Melanson in Manchester NH.
He was 61 when he died on December 15 with my sister Karina and I by
He graduated from Weare
High School in 1964 where he played basketball. My Dad loved
basketball, and actually was a huge fan of the Boston Celtics during
the Larry Bird era. I remember watching those games with him and
enjoying every moment.
He served as a Marine
from 1966 to 1968. Upon his dispatch to Khe Sanh in Vietnam he
served with Bravo Company, First
Battalion, 26th Marine regiment. He reported in July of 1967 and was
an Infantryman in the second platoon. To quote his commander Ken
Pipes “His service during the 77 day Siege of the Khe Sanh combat
base exposed him to the single most intense, sustained, extremely
dangerous and stressful fighting of the Vietnam War”.
Over time my Father
learned to be proud of his Vietnam service and later in life you
would almost never see him without one of his Vietnam caps perched
on his head. Once a Marine, always a Marine To say he saw active
combat would be an understatement.
For his service he
received the following medals:
Purple Heart with 1 Gold Star
The Combat Action Ribbon
The Presidential Unit Citation with one Bronze Star
The National Defense Service Medal
The United States Vietnam Campaign Medal with at least two Bronze
The Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm and Frame
The Republic of Vietnam Civic Action Ribbon with Palm and Frame
and the Republic of Vietnam Service Medal with Device
His commitment to our
country, the Corps and to our freedom is incontestable.
On August 30th 1969 he
was wed to my Mom, Donna who is here today. What a hope for the
future she would bring into his life. The hope she supplied would
always light his life. Thanks Mom.
He graduated from the NH
Technical College and began a career as a welder. He fathered two
children, Karina on September 7 1972, and I on April 16 1971.
He moved to Oregon for a
few years in 1987, returned to the New Hampshire around 1992 where
he would live in Belmont, and then Concord for many years. For a
brief time in the final two years he lived with Karina and her
husband Robert where they lovingly cared for him as his health was
becoming increasingly fragile due to liver disease. He then lived at
Epsom Manor Nursing Care facility in Epsom NH.
For those of you who knew
my Dad you saw many facets of a man.
His humor was really
special. Jump up and sit down sort of funny. In fact it was only a
few days ago that I connected with a combat marine who served with
my Dad and his humor was one of the things he mentioned with
emphasis. Combat and funny don’t usually mix. I remember seeing him
make other people laugh with dry side-stepping wit. Even my friends
found my Dad’s humor contagious.
He was charming. I think
his genuine gentle spirit, appreciation for people, and his humor
endeared him to those he met. This
was so true at
Epsom Manor Nursing Home. You should have seen the way they loved my
He was creative. Did you
know my father has a patent to his name? We had dropped ceilings and
wood paneling in our house…necessity being the mother of invention
he patented a special picture hanging device that would clip to the
frame of the dropped ceiling to keep us from banging holes in that
really sacred and special wood paneling…that wood paneling is still
there…with holes I might add.
He was an outdoorsman. He
would fish for just about anything. Have any of you sat on a 5
gallon bucket at night with a flashlight fixed to a bobber waiting
for a catfish – or hornedpout as we call them - to bite while
listening to the hiss of the gas lantern and the only thing between
you and the swarm of mosquitoes was the smoke from your dad’s
stogie? Ok. That was a family outing.
Have any of you stayed up
in the evening getting your ice fishing traps untangled so you could
go out at dawn on a winter morning, cut through 30 inches of solid
ice with a chisel and wait for the flag to spring up? Ok. That was a
retreat. Have any of you been struck by lightning…twice at different
times…while camping? My Dad was…and I am not exactly sure what that
was all about…but twice??
He was a thinker. He
loved poetry. Some of his poetry was published in the Union Leader.
He loved art and things that were delicate and beautiful.
He was creative. In fact
I credit him with my innovative spirit. I also remember this
picnic-basket-with-pulley contraption he set up. We lived on the
second floor of a duplex and he rigged this thing up so we could
have BBQ’s outside without carrying all the stuff up and down the
He was content. He never
was one to complain. He found pleasure in the simplest of things.
Give him the Boston Herald, a Stogie, a few diet cokes, a front
porch, sunshine and a scratch ticket…and he was in the lap of
luxury. His favorite meal was a fried fisherman’s platter. He loved
a fire in the fireplace on Tremont street in Concord and later at my
home in Vermont.
He was a survivor. Oh my
goodness. The stories we can tell. He was a survivor to the very
end. Even on December 14th as he was dying he said to me OH MAN
TONE…IM HAVING A BAD DAY. He was a master of understatement too.
He was troubled. He
struggled with debilitating mental illness, no doubt a result from
his experience in Vietnam. He was a drinker much of his life and
nearly all of mine. It took a little piece of everyone, but it
certainly cost him the most. God’s grace has been alive in the
people who loved my Dad. Thank you for loving him.
You know, he was a man
chasing freedom. Freedom for his country, freedom in the outdoors,
freedom of expression, and freedom from pain and mental anguish.
That pursuit of freedom made the man we know, and took the man we
love. Surrounding us here are symbols of freedom. The first time I
drove in I was struck by the rows of American flags waving. I was
impressed with the beauty of this place. It is an honorable and
fitting place for those who have fought for freedom.
Many of you here have
served in the military. Some of you have seen active combat and have
fought for our freedom in foreign places. Some of you have
experienced personal sacrifice in some way because of this noble
pursuit. Perhaps others of you are a child, brother, sister or
spouse of one of those who have put themselves on the line for
freedom. We thank you and are grateful for your service, sacrifice
and support and that you have come to honor a good soldier and a
My Dad was captivated by
this thing called freedom. He fought for freedom, He hoped for
freedom as he began a new life with Donna after his tour in Vietnam.
He lived it out through his love for the outdoors. He saw freedom
born in new life through his children Karina and I.
Ironically, he is more
free now than he ever was while here on earth. This is often used as
a trite cliché. But I can assure you it is not trite, nor a cliché.
It is the most powerful truth known to human kind. True freedom is
everlasting, breaks bonds and lets you discard the baggage of life.
That’s what my father wanted more than anything - to drop his own
baggage and live a life of freedom.
I want you to close your
eyes for a moment. When I say the word freedom what comes to you
mind first? Maybe it’s an American Flag waving against a bright blue
sky, a peak athletic experience, financial freedom, a 4th of July
parade, an adventure to the deep wild, or the Statue of Liberty.
These are all good things. But for each of us, including me, freedom
can be just a symbolized concept.
Sometimes those things
that we think will make us most free make us most captive.
What does true freedom –
the kind from God himself - What does that look like in our lives?
Where does our freedom come from? Can you count on it? Is it
infallible? Because my father made a profession of faith in Jesus
and chose to believe in Him, our hope rests in God’s promise that he
is now experiencing true and complete freedom in eternity.