“Honoring LCpl Guido Farinaro – And All Who Paid the Ultimate Sacrifice”
General Peter Pace served this country for 40 years, from Vietnam to the Pentagon, where, as the first Marine to be named Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he advised the President and Secretary of Defense on American military operations around the globe.
On the day that he retired, once the speeches were concluded and the bands stopped playing, the first thing Pace did in civilian life was pay a visit to the Vietnam Memorial – “The Wall.”
He didn’t notice that a passerby had watched him as he walked from panel to panel and solemnly placed his own tribute on the ground next to The Wall. Only after the retired General had left did anybody see what it was he’d placed there.
It was a simple index card with four silver stars attached – the stars that mark the highest rank any American military member can achieve and, for Peter Pace, the crowning achievement of a lifetime of military service.
Thanks to this anonymous bystander, we now know what was written on that index card – a note penned in Pete’s handwriting. It read, “1 October, 2007: For Guido Farinaro, USMC These are yours – not mine! With love and respect, your Platoon Leader, Pete Pace.”
The bystander took a picture of Pace’s card and stars, and posted it on the Internet, where it quickly was circulated from veteran to veteran, all across the globe.
On July 30, 1968, 19-year-old Lance Corporal Guido Farinaro had been in Vietnam for less than 7 months when he was killed by a sniper’s bullet in Quang Nam Province. His Platoon Leader was a 22-year-old Peter Pace, then just one year out of the Naval Academy and fresh from The Basic School at Quantico.
Farinaro was the first Marine under Pace’s command to sacrifice his life in combat, and Pace never forgot him. Even at the pinnacle of his career, he kept a photograph of Farinaro under the glass on his desk in the Pentagon, to remind him that his service in Washington should remain focused on the young troops in harm’s way. Pace never forgot Guido Farinaro – or any of the other Marines who made the ultimate sacrifice following the orders of 2dLt Pace.
Throughout our history, Marines have served bravely, knowing that their fellow Marines would never leave them behind. Semper Fidelis, says the Marine Corps motto: “Always Faithful.”
Today, a new effort is underway to keep their memories alive and, of course, retired Marine General Peter Pace is an important part of it.
It’s an undertaking to build an “Educational Center at The Wall” – a living memorial to all Americans who served in uniform, from Bunker Hill to Baghdad. For example, the more than 6,500 men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan will be honored at the Education Center for what they did for America and the price they paid for freedom
At the Education Center, there’ll be permanent, rotating displays of some of the thousands of items that loved ones have placed at The Wall over the years: the teddy bears, the high school diplomas – even General Pace’s four stars.
Most inspiring will be a multi-media “Wall of Heroes” featuring photographs of the 58,272 men and women whose names appear on The Wall. The display will share their images and their stories for all who come to visit. We will learn so much more than just their names carved on granite.
Like The Wall itself, the Education Center is conceived, designed, and funded by veterans and ordinary citizens who want to honor the memories and sacrifices of those who served.
With groundbreaking for the new Education Center rapidly approaching, General Pace is asking all of us – veterans and non-veterans alike – to join him in supporting the effort by taking part in the “Service Branch Challenge”, more a tribute than a contest.
As Pete recently told me: “Etched in Panel 50W, Line 37, is the name Guido Farinaro – the first Marine who died following my orders in Vietnam. Each name carved in that black granite represents a life sacrificed in service to something greater than self. The Education Center at The Wall will share the stories and honor the memories behind these names. Marines throughout the ages have served bravely, knowing their fellow Marines would not leave them behind. This is our chance to pay tribute to Guido and thousands of others, and to preserve their legacy for future generations.”
The Service Branch Challenge is an opportunity for each of us to honor the centuries-old tradition of the American military service – the same one General Pace was keeping the day he laid his stars at The Wall – never to leave the memories of our fallen brothers and sisters behind.
Scruggs is the founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. Find out more about the Education Center at The Wall at www.BuildTheCenter.org