John Walter Ripley was a Marine’s Marine. His name and his legendary actions at a bridge near Dong Ha on Easter Sunday morning of 1972 are known to all Marines. His actions there against an advancing North Vietnamese force slowed that advance significantly. This very moving video is of his burial ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery.
Ripley was a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and retired from the Marine Corps as a Colonel. He served over his career with the 4th Platoon, 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company, FMFLANT and with Lima Co., 3rd Bn, 3rd Marines, and the 1st Bn, 2nd Marines, 2nd Marine Regiment. During his career he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit two times, the Bronze Star two times and the Purple Heart.
His Navy Cross citation reads, in part:
“On 2 April 1972, while serving as the Senior Marine Advisor to the Third Vietnamese Marine Corps Infantry Battalion in the Republic of Vietnam, upon receiving a report that a rapidly moving, mechanized, North Vietnamese Army force, estimated at reinforced divisional strength, was attacking south along Route 1, the Third Vietnamese Marine Infantry Battalion was positioned to defend a key village and the surrounding area. It became imperative that a vital river bridge be destroyed.
Capt. Ripley located a large amount of explosives…In order to reposition the approximately 500 pounds of explosives, Capt. Ripley was obliged to reach up and hand walk along the beams while his body dangled beneath the bridge.
On five separate occasions, in the face of constant enemy fire, he moved to points along the bridge and, with the aid of another advisor who pushed the explosives to him, securely emplaced them. He then detonated the charges and destroyed the bridge, thereby stopping the enemy assault.”
His actions that day were instrumental in saving a great many lives.
Col. John W. Ripley died in 2008 and this video is of the burial ceremonies that were given for him at Arlington National Cemetery. You will see the incredible dignity and honor that was accorded to this legendary Marine. Watch the precision, the disciplined care and the honor of the Marine units from the 8th and I Barracks as they escort this Marine to his services and then to the grave site. See the powerful, precise, contained dignity of the Marine Body Bearers when they lift him above their shoulders as if to say, “We give him to you, Lord,” before they bear him down for the last time, and fold the flag.
Col. John W. Ripley was a Marine, like all other Marines. He belonged to a brotherhood with life-long ties. This is how Marines honor their own. More often than not, though, it is not with the display of pomp and circumstance you see here in this video.
I have been to a few of these funerals in small, out of the way places in this country to bury Marines I knew personally in Vietnam. Sometimes there were only two or three Marines present in their dress blues representing the Corps at a fallen brother’s funeral. In each case their dignified presence, their handling of the flag folding and presentation to the family, carried the full weight and dignity and love of the entire United States Marine Corps. I have always been very moved by this deep and abiding sense of brotherhood. It is truly something to witness.
The Veterans Site wishes to honor the memory of Col. John W. Ripley. We will never forget what he did in service to this country and the lives he saved on that Easter morning of 1972. Semper Fi, good Marine! Your fellow Marines remain Fratres Aeterni! Rest in Peace.
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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.