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Uniform made an impression on young future Marine

Uniform made an impression on young future Marine

November 9th, 2018 by Greg Bischof in Features

Vietnam War veteran Max Taylor poses for a portrait in his Texarkana, Texas, home with a photo of him from his boot camp days. Taylor served in both the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Army.

Photo by Hunt Mercier /Texarkana Gazette.

While looking back on growing up as a child in Childress, Texas, during the early 1940s, Max Taylor said he saw something that would set a permanent pathway for his life.

"I was about 8 years old, waiting to get a haircut inside a barber's shop right there in Childress," Taylor, now a Texarkana, Texas resident, said. "I asked my dad about two other guys in the barber shop, standing there dressed in real sharp looking uniforms and he told me they were Marines."

For Taylor that sparked his interest and for the first time, he considered the Marine Corps as a possible future career.

"At that time (early part of World War II), one of those Marines was the father and the other his son. I found out later that both gave their lives while fighting in the war on Saipan and Tinian in the Mariana Islands. I can still remember to this day, both of them standing there in their uniforms really looking impressive. That's when I first thought to myself that I wanted to be a Marine and that I was going to be one when I grew up."

Born in Childress in May of 1933, Taylor initially went to the University of Texas at Austin but decided to drop out after the first year or so.

"I wasn't much of a student and the people there told me that I needed to take a speed reading course because I was getting behind in my studies," he said. "I eventually got to where I could read fast enough to keep up with my studies, but I was also having to work three or four hours a day. I was trying to graduate on time with everyone else, but because of my grades, I was put on probation and I had to drop out of college."

With Cold War tensions in the world brewing at that time, the country already had a peacetime military draft in place and for those who dropped out of college—the draft was waiting, Taylor said.

Faced with being drafted, Taylor joined the Marine Corps on April 3, 1953.

"At the time, if you dropped out of college, you would be drafted," he said, "so I joined the Marines."

After his enlistment, Taylor went to San Diego for 13 weeks of Boot Camp before moving on to Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, Calif. There, he went through advanced infantry training before being sent on a 14-month deployment to South Korea, starting in November 1953—four months after the Korean War ended.

"We did a lot of physical work there," Taylor said. "I spent two winters there in the snow, digging trenches and foxholes as well as building fortifications. Just before leaving South Korea, I was able to come back and briefly visit my hometown. When I got back, 33 guys saw how good I looked in my uniform so they ran out and enlisted."

Following his first enlistment, Taylor, who started out as a private and went on to be promoted to sergeant, went back home in 1955, with two possible career choices on his mind. He considered either re-enlisting or going into the pharmacy business. As it turned out, it would be an off-hand critical comment made by one of his mother's friends which prompted Taylor to stay with the Marines.

"When I got back home, this lady asked me 'Why don't you do something with your life?' and that really set me off so I immediately left and told my recruiter that I wanted to re-enlist."

Upon making his choice to stay in the Marines, Taylor went on to train as a Marine recruiter and recruited hundreds of other men into the Corps for four years while being stationed first in Oklahoma then in Georgia. He then trained to be a drill instructor and served in that position for two years.

Around late summer of 1964, Taylor became part of a floating Marine Corps battalion aboard transport ships, cruising between Okinawa, Hong Kong and the Philippines, ready if need be to deploy anywhere needed in the event of war with North Vietnam.

"For 93 straight days we were a floating battalion, just sailing back and forth across the South China Sea," Taylor said. He left the Marines as a gunnery sergeant by the end of 1966.

As one who served a total of 13 years and eight months in the Marine Corps, Taylor said he took one of the most memorable trips he's ever had earlier this year.

Taylor and his wife Joyce set out on a trip to Virginia to visit their grandson, Capt. Kris Clampitt, who also serves in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Taylor added that Campitt works at the Marine Corps's Basic School, which is near the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Va.

"This Basic school is where all newly commissioned and appointed warrant officers are taught the basics of being an officer of Marines," Taylor said. "The Basic School is at Camp Barrett in Quantico, southwest of the Marine Corps Base there. Capt. Clampitt is the infantry officer in charge of teaching tactics at the squad level. The particular classes he teaches in the classroom are rifle squad tactics, scouting, patrolling and ambushing."

Regarding his grandson, Taylor said Capt. Clampitt's primary Military Occupational Specialty (his job) is being an infantry officer, with a secondary MOS as a light armored reconnaissance officer.

"While visiting Kris and his family, we went to the Friday Evening Parade at the U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters located at the intersection of Eight Street and I Street in Washington D.C. Taylor said. "We also visited the Center House before the parade. The next day, we watched Kris deliver a lecture on the Ghost Patrol, which is a historical patrol that took place during the Vietnam War in February, 1968

The visit then took the couple on to Virginia's Quantico Marine Base.

"There Kris showed us the Marine One helicopter, which takes the president from the White House to Andrews Air Force Base," Taylor said. "From there, the president flies where he needs to be. Kris also showed us the Marine Corps' Officers Candidate School (which is where all potential Marine officers go to Boot Camp). From there we then went on to tour the U.S. Marine Corps Museum—which was absolutely life-like and breath-taking. The final event of our stay was a trip to Mount Vernon, to see George Washington's home. While we were there, we had the chance to go back in time and see how George Washington lived. We walked around his property, toured the inside of his house and learned about the little details that he focused on—details which lead him to be one of the wealthiest presidents in U.S. history—or at least up until now."

Joyce Taylor said the timing of this tour of Washington's home seem absolutely directed by God, considering the fact that it lead to the couple meeting another tourist that happen to be there at the site.

"Me, Max and Kris, all of who are from Texas, met another Texas native there named Bill McCoy from Sherman, (Texas) she said. "Bill McCoy read a copy of the official prayer that George Washington wrote and Max had the honor (an honor that only veterans are allowed) to walk inside the tomb of George Washington and set a wreath next to his casket."

As for the Parade, Taylor said the event, the first of which started being conducted July 5, 1957, proceeded near the front of the Marine corps barracks of the "Oldest Post of the Corps," which goes back to 1801. Other types of military reviews and ceremonies have been performed there since post's founding 217 years ago.

"The traditional reveille and morning muster parades were conducted with varying frequency at the post and these events resulted in more formalized ceremonies." Taylor said. "In 1934, when Maj.Gen. John H. Russell Jr. became the 16th Marine Corps Commandant, the barracks at this post started its first season of regularly scheduled weekly parades. Using the resplendent setting of these barracks and the Marines' flare for showmanship, the parades were to be a showcase for the ceremonial prowess of Marines, as well as the musical eminence of the U.S. Marine Corps Band."

As for the Center House, presently home of the Marine barracks commissioned officers mess hall, it began its long tradition as the Marine officers' quarters—built in the center of the range of original barracks constructed there in 1801. Presently, the Commanding officers quarters now stands where these original barracks use to be, Taylor said.

"The Center House received its first notoriety when Aaron Burr was held prisoner in the Center House, in the 1800s, while awaiting trial," Taylor said. "He had been charged with treason for attempting to establish himself as a leader of an empire in the wastelands called 'Texas.'"

Besides being impressed with the Center House, Taylor added that he also admired the Corps Officer Candidate Basic School.

"There, Boot Camp for officers lasts 28 weeks, during which young officers (candidate officers) not only get both classroom and field training, they also receive application training on weapons, tactics, leadership and protocol. The field events consist of realistic blank-fire training and live fire ranges."

Upon leaving the Marine Corps in late 1966, Taylor then served as a professional Boy Scout executive for two years before joining the U.S. Army as a staff sergeant (owing to his prior military service in the Marine Corps). There, Taylor served for six years and five months in order to qualify for military retirement.

During his stint in the Army, the government deployed Taylor to Vietnam in 1970-71, but by this time in the war President Richard Nixon started making large troop withdraws, while air strikes and artillery assaults were stepped up—hence making ground combat less prominent.

"By this time in the war, the fighting was more sporadic," said Taylor, who retired from military service as U.S. Army Special Forces captain in 1974.

However, while in Vietnam, Taylor did help prosecute seven members of his unit who were selling heroin and marijuana to other servicemen.

After leaving the Army and retiring from military service altogether, Taylor took a job as a GED instructor for the Arkansas Department of Corrections' Trucker State Prison for five years. After that, Taylor continued his federal service by working for the U.S. Postal Service for 23 years before retiring from his second federal service career in 2001.

However, as one who went on to earn a Meritorious Service Medal, along with two Bronze Stars, Taylor said his military service, particularly with the Marines, wound up being one of the best decisions of his life.

"This trip that Joyce and I took back in June was very satisfying for me and it was very good to be around Marines again," Taylor said. "My decision to join the Marines transformed my life in a very positive way. I would say it was the discipline that became the most important thing I learned—as well as being at the right place at the right time."

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