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Medal of Honor Recipient General Patrick H. Brady

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Medal of Honor

Comments of Medal of Honor Recipient, General Patrick H. Brady US Army (Ret.) on Colonel John W. Ripley and the book “An American Knight.

“I have never known anyone with enduring repetitive courage who was not also a person of faith. In combat my faith was for me a substitute for fear; it was a source of comfort, calm and courage — it allowed me to do things that for me would have otherwise been impossible. John Ripley was also a man of faith. It was clearly the source of his extraordinary physical and moral courage. He was a true hero, not a celebrity. Not only a person who performed acts of courage, rather he was a good person who performed acts of courage. Only when you combine courage with goodness do you have a true hero.  His goodness crowned his courage and defined his character which marked him as an extraordinary example for those who follow the warriors path.

“It is for this reason that I highly recommend Norman Fulkerson’s book on John Ripley, An American Knight, to all who seek to understand heroism.

General Patrick H. Brady, US Army (Ret.)

Medal of Honor Recipient

John Ripley (left) earned the nickname Baby Buck at an early age. His mischievous eyes transmitted a boundless energy to all those around him. The affectionate bond between him and his brother, Michael, was evident early on.

John Ripley (left) earned the nickname Baby Buck at an early age. His mischievous eyes transmitted a boundless energy to all those around him. The affectionate bond between him and his brother, Michael, was evident early on.

“Every man dies. Not every man really lives.”
— Unknown

Excerpt from “An American Knight”.

It was evident at the time of his birth on June 29, 1939, that John Walter Ripley’s life would not be easy. Francis and Verna Ripley were living in Keystone, West Virginia and no sooner had they arrived home with their newborn when he had to be rushed back to the hospital because of an illness that almost took his life. Although no one remembers what the ailment was, it seemed appropriate that a man, who would endure every imaginable hardship on the battlefield, should begin his life with a struggle.

This natal fight in no way dampened his vivacious spirit, and his fight for life might have been what led his father to give him the nickname Baby Buck. Coupled with his rambunctious nature, the image of a wild horse immediately comes to mind with this fatherly pet name.

Francis Droit Ripley was described by those who knew him as possessing one of those unique personalities that are so lamentably rare in the modern world. He was rarely seen without a cigar in his mouth and then, only temporarily for Sunday Mass, which he never missed. The presence of this cigar and his gruff, straightforward way of being earned him several nicknames of his own. The one he most disliked was FDR and the one that most fit him was Bulldog. Most people just called him Bud, a name so frequently used that his own grandchildren often inquired what his real name was.

Francis Droit “Bud” Ripley (left of center) was all smiles as a Naval Academy midshipman with his friends. His joy was later turned to sorrow when he was expelled for missing his boat in Hawaii.

Francis Droit “Bud” Ripley (left of center) was all smiles as a Naval Academy midshipman with his friends. His joy was later turned to sorrow when he was expelled for missing his boat in Hawaii.

Bud Ripley was keenly aware that his ancestors had fought in every American conflict since the Revolutionary War, including some who fought on different sides of the Civil War. There was something distinctly military about him, although his own military aspirations were cut short when he, much to his father’s chagrin, was expelled from the United States Naval Academy. It was not because of poor grades. In fact, his younger brother Louis, who went on to become a renowned orthopedic surgeon, considered him to be one of the most intelligent men he knew.

Bud’s expulsion occurred because of his curious nature. As a midshipman serving in the fleet, he went to visit a volcano while his ship was docked in Hawaii. As he was returning from his excursion, he realized that he had missed the boat—both figuratively and literally—and along with it the chance to be a commissioned officer. This missed opportunity left its mark on Bud Ripley and from that point forward, he always carried himself as a military man. He was well-groomed, well spoken and, above all, disciplined.

After this disappointing affair, he followed in the footsteps of his father, Walter Starr Ripley, and pursued a career with the railroad, became a mechanical engineer and later manager for the Norfolk & Western (N&W). He was determined, however, that his sons would not make the same mistake he had and cultivated in them the virtues so important for a military career. Foremost among them were a fanatical drive never to waste an opportunity, the tenacity to never quit and diligence in one’s duty.

This same spirit of determination is what must have animated Baby Buck one day as he crawled across the living room floor. He was only eighteen months old at the time, yet he approached the family sofa with a look of resolve that

became so much a part of his personality. When he reached the sofa, he pulled himself up to a standing position and then attempted, with great effort, to climb onto the couch, but his little legs were unable to fulfill the task. Verna was moved by the scene and approached in order to help. Francis Droit stopped her cold in her tracks.

“No, don’t help him, let him do it on his own,” he said, taking the ever-present cigar from his mouth. “He will learn.” After several attempts, Baby Buck did in fact achieve his goal and was no worse for the effort. It was a valuable lesson in perseverance… Read more.

An American Knight: The Life of Colonely John W. Ripley USMC

First biography of legendary Marine Corps Colonel John W. Ripley.

by Norman Fulkerson

On November 1, 2008, Ron Darden was watching the evening news when an item, scrolling across the bottom of the screen, caught his eye. He was shocked to find out that his former company commander, Colonel John Walter Ripley, had died at his home in Annapolis, Maryland.

On that same day, I decided to write An American Knight, The Life of Colonel John W. Ripley, the first biography of this great man.

*                       *                       *

Sergeant Darden admitted that he was afraid when, as a 19-year-old lance corporal, he first joined Lima Company. He drew guard duty on his first night in Vietnam and described how his fears were put to ease when he received an unexpected visit from Captain John Ripley, Lima Company’s fearless commander, who jumped into the foxhole next to him.  The solicitous captain asked Darden where he was from, if he was married and how his parents were getting along without him.

During this night visit, John Ripley spoke to Ron Darden with the gentleness of a father and told him it was okay to be afraid, but that he should not let his fears dominate him. Sergeant Darden would go on to earn a Silver Star when he ran out into the middle of a firefight to save the life of a wounded Marine who lay helpless on the ground. He is a man who has seen the worst of war while serving under the best of battle field commanders.

As Darden related stories about John Ripley during a phone interview, I sensed that this Silver-Star-recipient was fighting back tears as he remembered this remarkable man and that unforgettable night so many years ago. He could not believe the lack of news coverage of this great man. His surprise quickly turned to frustration and then anger as he searched for more details about the passing of a man, who, long before his untimely death had already been revered as a “living legend.”

The news of Colonel Ripley’s death did in fact begin to hit the airwaves and his obituary eventually appeared in

Painting by Col. Charles Waterhouse of John Ripley dangling above the Cua Viet River as angry North Vietnamese soldiers fire upon him.

Painting by Col. Charles Waterhouse of John Ripley dangling above the Cua Viet River as angry North Vietnamese soldiers fire upon him.

The New York Times. What the Times and so many others newspaper articles recounted was the story of a man who blew up the Dong Ha bridge on Easter Sunday in 1972. This is understandable considering that Colonel Ripley almost singlehandedly halted the largest Communist offensive of the entire Vietnam War. This amounted to stopping 30,000 enemy troops and 200 tanks. He was successful in this task and would later sum up in actions in a succinct way:

“The bridge was there, the enemy was there, and I was there.”

Desiring to Tell the Whole Truth

What he did on that day defies belief and I could not fail to narrate the Dong Ha story in An American Knight. There is so much more to Colonel Ripley, however, that has been conveniently overlooked or glossed over by those either unable or unwilling to tell the whole truth. Colonel Ripley was a rare type of warrior who willingly and, his sons told me, enthusiastically addressed a number of politically incorrect issues of his day.

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Ashley Gonzalez of the United States Air force. No comment!!!

I saw the importance of one of the issues he addressed when I was “mugged by reality” in an airport some years ago by the sight of a young lady about to board a plane. She was a picture of femininity, in every way, except for her battle fatigues and the rucksack thrown over her shoulder. Moments later, her tearful parents said their final farewells to a daughter being sent off to do a man’s job.

It was only natural, therefore, that I drew an enormous consolation when I first read the heroic testimony of Colonel Ripley against sending women, like this one, into harm’s way. While others paid homage to the “god of equality,” he chose to defend the noble ideals of womanhood and femininity. This, and his care for children, were the things which caused me to see in Colonel Ripley a modern-day knight.

Since justice is the virtue whereby man renders to each what is due to him, I could do nothing less for this great man. This was one of the motivating factors which urged me to write his life. Mysteriously enough, I was egged on in this project as much by Colonel Ripley himself, as anyone. In a letter to a friend he said something which struck me like a voice from beyond the grave: “If a young officer or Marine ever asks, what is the meaning of Semper Fidelis, tell them my story.” After reading such a thing, I could not fail to tell this man’s story?

“I Walked with a Hero.”

There was another motivating factor which urged me on and that was my desire to console hero-seeking-Americans who yearn for a role model like Colonel Ripley who they can admire and emulate. During the researching of An American Knight, I took time to read numerous website commentaries and was inspired by the eulogies posted by average Americans.

One man, no doubt inspired by the Marines’ Hymn which speaks of Heaven being guarded by U.S. Marines said the following.

“We claim Semper Fidelis as our motto, but it was Col. Ripley’s life. His loyalty was complete, in all directions. The earth is less today without his soul, but the heavens are a safer place tonight.”

Another comment was even more impressive but demands an introduction.

Colonel Ripley was an outstanding officer who took great pride in the position he earned. This can be seen in the picture I chose for the cover of An American Knight. Yet he was a man that had a profound humility and never wanted attention drawn to himself. Colonel Ripley was not a man who tried to impress others with his Navy Cross or his legendary status. In fact he would often point out the achievements of those of lesser rank and frequently expressed his unbounded appreciation for the common Marine Corps grunts that “get the job done.”

He did this in a very refreshing way without ever adopting the “one of the guys” egalitarian attitude, so lamentably

John Ripley (right) as a Naval Academy midshipman with his brother Michael who died while test flying the Harrier.

John Ripley (right) as a Naval Academy midshipman with his brother Michael who died in 1971 while test flying the Harrier.

common among many people of higher station. Colonel Ripley was, from top to bottom, a serious Marine Corps officer and was not ashamed of it. Yet he never missed the opportunity to challenge those around him to reach higher. It is for this reason that towards the end of his life he gave himself wholeheartedly to mentoring. He loved to counsel young men starting out on their military careers, especially those of the United States Naval Academy, his alma mater, which he loved with his whole heart.

All of this helps in understanding better a comment of a midshipman after Colonel Ripley’s death:

“This is the same man who sat at dinner with me and asked me, a first class midshipman, about to be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, to sign his program for the evening because he was going to read about me in the papers and all the great things I did for the Marine Corps. I walked with a hero. Semper Fidelis.”

Rest in Peace Now!

I saved the best eulogy for last. It came from a mother of four, who defined herself, even if inaccurately, as a simple American women.” I pray that she someday know how moved I was to read her words.

“I never had the honor of meeting Col. John Ripley. In fact, before a dear friend suggested that I look him up, I had never heard his name. But I have sat here and read stories of his life and countless postings by the people that loved him and will miss him dearly. I am a simple American woman enjoying a world that Col. Ripley dedicated his life to protecting. I am humbled by the recounts of his heroism and tireless dedication to his country. I suppose I’d just like to say thank you. Thank you from the core of my being and on behalf of my four children. When the time is right, I will tell each of them of this great man, Col. John Ripley. May God bless your soul.”

I thank you also Colonel Ripley. Rest in peace now, I will them your story.

Back cover Marine

Back cover of An "American Knight". A solitary Marine pays his final respects beside the coffin of Colonel John Ripley.

Colonel Ripley with Members of TFP Student Action.

Colonel Ripley with members of TFP Student Action.

A Story of Exceptional Valor and Faith

by Cesar Franco

An old adage states that you only meet two great people in a lifetime. After visiting Col. John W. Ripley, I can say I met my first one.

As Col. Ripley politely invited my colleagues from Tradition, Family and Property Student Action and me into his office on October 31, I felt tremendously honored to meet one of America’s greatest living war heroes — a man who served on active duty for thirty five years in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Before serving two tours in Vietnam, he completed scuba, Ranger, airborne and jump master training. He was also an Exchange Officer to the British Royal Marines, during which time he participated in a Northern Malaysian campaign with the famous Gurkha Rifles.

One Marine Cripples North Vietnamese Invasion

Diorama depicting Colonel John Ripley’s exploits in Dong Ha. It is located in Bancroft Hall at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

Diorama depicting Colonel John Ripley’s exploits in Dong Ha. It is located in Bancroft Hall at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

Col. Ripley is most famous for blowing up the bridge at Dong Ha in Vietnam. He accomplished this act of epic heroism after three days of intense combat, without any food or sleep. A few sips of water from his canteen provided his only sustenance. This superhuman feat crippled the 1972 North Vietnamese Easter invasion which ended in defeat. Thus, the government honored Col. Ripley’s leadership, heroism and self-sacrifice at Dong Ha with a Navy Cross, America’s second highest military decoration.

Members of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition Family and Property (TFP) present Colonel John Ripley with a rosary. "This rosary will not collect dust," said Colonel Ripley in response to this gift.

Members of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition Family and Property (TFP) present Colonel John Ripley with a rosary. "This rosary will not collect dust," said Colonel Ripley in response to this gift.

Col. Ripley is also a man of faith. He attributes the destruction of the Dong Ha bridge to the grace of God and the Blessed Virgin Mary. He related how he felt all physical strength evaporate while placing explosives under the bridge. To continue, he composed a simple rhyming prayer: “Jesus, Mary, get me there… Jesus, Mary, get me there…” He repeatedly said this prayer on the bridge and a supernatural assistance came to his aid at a much-needed time. He stated: “This aid was tangible. It was all-consuming.” His mission would have been impossible without it.

After this operation, Colonel Ripley’s mission was far from over. Unlike Hollywood movies, in which a bridge blows up and everyone lives happily ever after, the North Vietnamese found an alternate route. During the next days of fighting, Life Magazine published a famous picture of Colonel Ripley running as a mortar round blows up nearby. He showed us this amazing photograph during our meeting and many other war relics.

Chivalrous Behavior for a Fallen Soldier

Pointing to his picture, he recounted its exciting story. As the enemy approached within yards, he loaded the dead bodies of five news correspondents into an armored personnel carrier, putting himself in harm’s way. Then the armored personnel carrier left without him.

He was stranded with the limp, lifeless body of his radio man. As the enemy drew closer, he refused to run for cover. Like the knights of old, he preferred to die rather then abandon his fellow soldier’s body. He would not leave his radio man behind even though he was in clear view of the advancing enemy.

He picked up the body of his radio man and walked away very slowly, expecting a bullet to hit him at any moment. Suddenly, some South Vietnamese bodyguards or “cowboys,” as he called them, popped up over a ledge about 100 meters away and addressed him by his Vietnamese nickname, which meant “Captain Crazy.” They told him to duck while they sprayed cover fire allowing him to make a desperate 100-meter dash for safety. Smiling, Colonel Ripley recalled how he ran those 100 meters in 3 seconds!

The Four Bullets

TFP member holds the four bullets that nearly took the life of Colonel Ripley.

TFP member holds the three bullets that nearly took the life of Colonel Ripley. The fourth one he found on the Island of Iwo Jima.

While showing us some of his war relics, he pulled something out of his pocket. It was a brass-colored safety pin that connected four bullets. Grinning, he said: “I am personally acquainted with three of these.” One bullet pierced through the deck of the chopper in which he was flying and struck a magazine clip on his ammo belt, barely stopping its entry into his abdomen!

“When I’m having a bad day,” he said, “I pull these out of my pocket and say to myself, no, it’s not that bad… I’m not having such a bad day.”

He also showed us a neatly arranged collection of stamps he had acquired from a captured North Vietnamese postal worker.

What Is True Leadership?

The most interesting part of our meeting was when Colonel Ripley explained the essence of a true leader is one who sets the example and shows his troops how to act, rather than tell them what to do from a desk and ask them to report back. Colonel Ripley is one such leader. He never shied away from action, but always preferred to be on the front lines with his men.

In addition to being deadly on the battlefield, this tough marine is also lethal in the realm of ideas. After hearing about

TFP member John Miller debates the Traditional Marriage issue with a student at Mount San Antonio College in Walnut California.

TFP member John Miller debates the Traditional Marriage issue with a student at Mount San Antonio College in Walnut California.

the TFP Student Action debates on university campuses, he described the wonderful time he had appearing on Crossfire to debate a female Air Force general defending the need for women in the military. She could not stand up against the bulletproof logic of Colonel Ripley’s real life combat experience.

Tribute, Respect and Admiration

Colonel Ripley deserves our tribute, respect and admiration.

He taught us that to be a true leader one must have faith in God and Our Lady. He explained how being a leader means setting the example. Moreover, his heroic actions at Dong Ha speak even louder than his words.

It was truly an honor and privilege to meet this model soldier, a man with profound zeal for the Catholic Church and high ideals for which he is willing to give his life. My TFP colleagues and I will never forget him.

Sergeant Kenneth O'Donnell and his wife Bucky

Sergeant Kenneth O'Donnell, a gentleman and a warrior, with his wife Mary Jane

On the evening of October 8, 2009, Marine Raider, Sergeant Kenneth O’Donnell died as his home after a valiant struggle with brain cancer. Although his name might not mean much to most people, he was a member of a very special group of Marines who fought in World War II. They were the ground breakers for our modern day special forces. It was their job during the first weeks of the war to conduct surprise attacks behind enemy lines. The men who formed this unit were simply known as “The Raiders”.

“They were the first American combat forces to wear camouflage, to operate at night and to be trained in martial arts and knife fighting…Although the Raiders were in business for only two years as specialized units, their actions became the stuff of legend. A look at their decorations for individual acts of valor tells the tale.”[1]

In their brief existence, seven Marine Raiders earned our nations highest award for bravery, the Medal of Honor and another 138 were awarded the Navy Cross.

If the reader will take the time to watch the videos I have provided on the these unique group of Marines, you will see clips of Sergeant O’Donnell. What impressed me most about the man was that, although he was a true warrior, he possessed a refreshing unpretentiousness.

Lieutenant Colonel Joseph C. Shusko, Director of Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP)

Lieutenant Colonel Joseph C. Shusko, Director of Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP)

Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Shusko, USMC (Ret.), director of the Marine Corps Martial Arts program at Quantico, was with Sergeant O’Donnell before he died and took the took time to speak with me by phone. Shusko said he looked upon the late warrior as a grandfather, then went on to tell me how he would describe the man for those who did not have the pleasure to know him.

“I tell folks that if they look in the American dictionary for the definition of the word gentleman, they will find a picture of Ken O’Donnell.” On this day we should all remember Sergeant Kenneth O’Donnell, a proud member of the Marine Corps Raiders; a gentleman and a warrior.

Sergeant O’Donnell was 85 at the time of his death. Our sincere condolences to his wife Mary Jane.

May he rest in peace.

Marine Raiders Part 1

Marine Raiders Part 2


[1] Marine Raiders Honored at Quantico with Bricks, Museum   http://www.wjla.com/news/stories/0809/651685.html

BookIn today’s increasingly troubled society, there is a desperate need for role models, especially among the youth. Colonel John W. Ripley, USMC is an authentic American hero and a true role model, whose life is worthy of admiration and emulation.

Known for his impressive heroics during the Vietnam War, Colonel Ripley earned the Navy Cross, along with numerous other awards. His legendary career in the United States Marine Corps is well-known, but now, for the first time ever, a new book that covers his whole life — from his adventure-filled boyhood in rural Southwestern Virginia to his days at the U.S. Naval Academy, his tours of duty in Vietnam, his post retirement years and finally, the final days before his death — is soon to be released.

* * * * *

In An American Knight: The Life of Colonel John W. Ripley, USMC, TFP author Norman Fulkerson succeeds in telling the fascinating story of this legendary Marine, whose ancestors fought in every American conflict since the Revolutionary War.

In An American Knight, Norman Fulkerson shows:

**Colonel Ripley’s deep Catholic Faith, his love for his children and his devotion to his wife, Moline.

**His many struggles, one of the last being his liver transplant, described by his surgeon as the “most dramatic” one in history.

**The ultimate warrior whose Faith, discipline and morals provided him the strength necessary to vanquish enemies in battle.

**The gallantry of a man who faced public opinion and political correctness when he opposed homosexuals in the military and women in combat.

**How he transformed youthful energy into a determination and ultimately success at the US Naval Academy.

**How he stopped a Communist tank column and 30,000 NVA dead in their tracks.

This makes An American Knight a splendid and inspiring tribute to one of America’s greatest fighting men, whose legacy will deeply mark the souls of all those who love the virtues of the medieval knight: Faith, honor, heroism and integrity.

* * * * *

From the foreward by General James Livingston:

“He [Colonel Ripley] saw accepting risk as part of his job as a Marine. He expressed this while speaking to a group of young men considering a career in the Corps. “Risk comes with the job,” he told them. “If you are not comfortable with risk, you need to get into a new line of work.”
“These and many of Colonel Ripley’s other qualities are enumerated in An American Knight. Thus, I recommend it strongly. I hope my thoughts will help its readers to gain a better appreciation for this Marine who will doubtlessly be remembered as one of the greatest men ever to honor the Corps.”

General James Livingston General James Livingston

Medal of Honor Recipient


———————————————————————————————————————————————

Here’s what they’re saying about An American Knight:

“I knew Colonel John W. Ripley like a brother for 42 plus years, but the facts are that I learned still more about my Marine buddy from Norman Fulkerson’s book… Norman goes into family and early life details that started this Marine on his most successful Marine career as well as John’s perception of the obligation and performance of his duties in uniform. This is a “must read” for all desiring to be a leader, especially those desiring to lead Marines.”

Colonel Wesley L. Fox Colonel Wesley Lee Fox, USMC (Ret.)

Medal of Honor Recipient

Author of Marine Rifleman: Forty-three Years in the Corps and Courage and Fear

——————————————————————————————————————————————–

“In his new book An American Knight, Norman Fulkerson has vividly captured the extraordinary active journey in life of Colonel John Ripley. In this first ever biography of a truly legendary Marine, the reader will see a man of many images; a gentle person who was comfortable with people of all stations of life, a caring father, a faithful husband, and a Marine capable of doing the seemingly impossible when I ordered him to destroy the Dong Ha Bridge.

“Because of his compelling and uncommon level of service to this great nation, Colonel John Ripley truly deserves to be held up as a role model for all to follow. Norman Fulkerson’s book will help to insure this.”

Col Gerald TurleyColonel Gerald Turley, USMC (Ret.)

Author of The Easter Offensive

—————————————————————————————————————————————-

“An American Knight by Norman Fulkerson is an outstanding tribute to one of the finest men to ever wear a uniform of the United States of America.”

Paul Galanti HomeCommander Paul Galanti, USN (Ret.)

POW for seven years


*                     *                   *

To pre-order your copy of An American Knight: The Life of Colonel John W. Ripley, USMC, by Norman Fulkerson, visit www.americanknight.org or call 1-888-317-5571.

Col. Ripley often referred to Moline as his "queen."

Colonel Ripley often referred to Moline as his "queen."

Burial of an American Lady

by Norman Fulkerson

On September 25, 2009, a small group of family and friends said their final farewell to Moline Blaylock Ripley. She died at her home in Annapolis, Md., on Saturday, September 12, 2009 at the age of 68.

Moline was born in Bluefield, W.Va., on Pearl Harbor day, December 7, 1941, to Arnold Vincent and Edna Pais Blaylock. Her family eventually moved to Radford, Va. where she attended Radford High School and later went on to graduate from Madison College. Upon graduation, Moline Blaylock married John Walter Ripley a Marine who went on to earn legendary status during two tours of duty in Vietnam.

Moline’s burial was actually the same day that the first biography of her husband was going to print. Although I had only met Moline on one occasion, I somehow felt I knew her through the writing of An American Knight, The Life of Colonel John W. Ripley USMC.

“Female Version of John Ripley.”

There were two distinct sides of Moline Ripley. She was truly a strong woman who lived up to the distinction some bestowed upon her of being the “female version of John Ripley.” During the frequent deployments of her husband, she ran the house. This entailed taking care of difficult problems that arose as well as entertaining house guests. Many people described her as a “gracious hostess and the consummate Southern lady.”

(l to r) John, Stephen, Moline, Thomas and Mary. This photo was taken while John Ripley was in Okinawa for a year. It occupied a prominent place on Col. Ripley's nightstand up until his death.

(l to r) John, Stephen, Moline, Thomas and Mary. This photo was taken while John Ripley was in Okinawa for a year. It occupied a prominent place on Colonel Ripley's nightstand up until his death.

“Her flexibility enabled her to throw a tea party,” I pointed out in An American Knight, “as skillfully as she could do house repairs, if the need arose.”

Moline’s strength can be seen in a story related to me by Anne Devine, whose mother Patricia was Colonel Ripley’s older sister. As a battlefield commander, John Ripley experienced the horrors of war and dealt with the stress that often accompanies such a life.  This entailed bad dreams which would wake him in the middle of the night. It was for this reason that Moline would meet her husband on his return trips from deployments and stay with him some days during his process of adjusting back to normal civilian life.

In the last years of her life, Moline would have her own personal struggles when she noticed, as did other family members, that her memory was fading and suspected the cause. She showed rare courage in the face of what the problem might be and spoke with Miss Devine, whose mother, Patricia, died from complications due to Alzheimer’s disease. Moline was not seeking pity when she talked with Anne. Rather she wanted to know, not only, how the sickness affects the patient, but more importantly what impact it would have on the family members who would have to care for her. Mrs. Ripley was concerned about the burden they would have to endure and knew Anne would tell her the painful truth. Stephen Ripley, the oldest of the children, described how his mother faced Alzheimer’s disease with humor and dignity which was likely meant by Moline to ease their burden.

Stalked Beautiful Things Like a Big Game Hunter

Colonel John Ripley and wife Moline in England during his tour with the British Royal Marines with (l to r) sons Thomas, Stephen and daughter Mary.

Colonel John Ripley and wife Moline in England during his tour with the British Royal Marines with (l to r) sons Thomas, Stephen and daughter Mary.

The other side of Moline was the compassionate side that worked hard to alleviate the suffering of those in need. Shortly after she was married, her husband was sent away for numerous training programs and deployments. While he was away, Moline acquired a position with the local school teaching first graders. The children under her care were from poor white sharecropper families. Some were so destitute, they lived in homes that were former tobacco barns with dirt floors. Seeing their unfortunate condition, Moline took it upon herself to prepare food baskets for the poorer families which she delivered during Christmas.

Being the wife of an officer in the Marine Corps was not easy. Although the family moved a lot during the war years, Stephen Ripley made a point of saying that “wherever mom was, that was home.”

Moline shared not only her husbands toughness but also his love of elevated things. During his funeral eulogy, Stephen depicted his mother as a woman who possessed a strong attraction for beauty and a person who possessed “refinement, determination and strength.” He illustrated this in an amusing way. Moline stalked antiques and beautiful things, he said, “like a big game hunter.” On one occasion he told how she spotted a truck full of leaves passing her on the highway with an oriental rug carelessly used as a tarp, thrown on top. She engaged in a high speed chase, stopped the truck and closed the deal to buy the carpet on the sidewalk.

Her appreciation for such things is most likely the reason she chose to become an interior decorator. One of the more noteworthy houses she helped decorate was that of the celebrated home of the Marine Corps Commandant located at the historic barracks at 8th and I streets in Washington DC.

What shown through most in Moline was this latter aspect of being a person of refinement and delicacy of soul. I had always seen her husband as a true American Knight, as I learn more about Moline, I am consoled to find in her the ideal counterpart, a true American Lady.

Marine Corps Body Bearers for Moline Ripley

Marine Corps body bearers carry the coffin of Moline Ripley up the front steps of the Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis Maryland.

Marine Corps body bearers carry the coffin of Moline Ripley up the front steps of the Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis Maryland.

What impressed me most about the funeral of Moline Blaylock Ripley, were the Marine Corps body bearers assigned to carry her coffin. To have the honor of being in this group, I was told, they must be able to carry a coffin at chest level for two miles without stopping. That means each Marine is carrying about 100 pounds. The other requirement is that they be at least six-feet-tall. When I approached them, I felt like I had wandered into a land of giants; gallant men dressed in noble uniforms. Three of them had also carried the coffin of Colonel John Ripley to its final resting place and now they would take his wife to be placed by his side. They were men –I described in an article about Colonel Ripley’s funeral– who looked like they were carved out of granite.

I watched these burly Marines, gently carry the coffin up the steps and could not help contrast their militant manners and fierce determination in their eyes, with the mental image of Moline, a gracious Southern lady. They were not carrying the coffin of a warrior this time, but that of his fair lady. As they entered the Church I stepped off to the side and gazed on in awed silence. The scene was an image of the chivalrous spirit, so lacking in the world today, of the respectful way men should treat women. I imagined someone trying to approach Moline’s coffin with disrespect and took delight in what I knew would be the response of these gigantic men.

It was noteworthy how they did not carry the heavy coffin in a begrudging way but with pride and loyalty. Moline was as much an American Lady as her husband was a an American Knight. The Marine Corps body bearers were making sure she reached her final resting place with dignity. One would expect nothing less from the Marine Corps.

Vaunted on High

Upon arriving at the burial sight the body bearers carried the coffin to its final resting place. Before laying it down, however, they raised the coffin of Moline on high as they had done for her husband before Father McGeory gave his final blessings for the deceased.

It could not have been a more appropriate conclusion to this fine lady’s funeral, considering the battle waged by her husband against sending women into combat. The reason Colonel Ripley so strongly opposed such a ludicrous proposition was because of his respect, not his disdain for women.

“The mother of the American family,” his son Thomas quoted him as saying, “is a person that should be vaunted on high and should never have to deal with the nasty job of doing the ditch digging of our nation, fighting wars, protecting our country.”

Marine Corps body bearers raising the coffin of Moline Ripley before the final blessings. "Vaunted on high" as Colonel John Ripley would have wanted it.

Marine Corps body bearers raising the coffin of Moline Ripley before the final blessings. "Vaunted on high" as Colonel John Ripley would have wanted it.

On this day Moline Blaylock Ripley, a Southern lady, and devoted wife of “An American Knight” received the treatment Colonel Ripley would have wanted her to have as six Marine body bearers raised her up and “vaunted her on high.”

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Our sincere condolences to Stephen, Mary, Thomas and John Ripley.

May her soul and all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in Peace. Amen