Posted by StreetWise in Latest News
By Chinta Strausberg StreetWise Contributor
Paying the ultimate sacrifice always brings death but it also has its rich rewards and no one exemplifies that more than my 18-year-old cousin, Milton Lee Olive III, who on October 22, 1965 during a search and destroy mission in Phu Cuong, Vietnam, grabbed a live grenade, placed it on his stomach and allowed it to explode—an act that one of the survivors, Capt. Jimmy B. Stanford, Father Michael L. Pfleger and two-time Bronze Star recipient Attorney Ernesto D. Borges said was a gift of life for generations to come.
Olive’s heroic act saved the lives of his four comrades who were behind him. Skipper, as our family nicknamed young Olive, knew he was facing a life-and-death decision, yet he never hesitated before grabbing that live grenade. Already the recipient of a Purple Heart for an injury he sustained as a paratrooper, Skipper told his father, Milton B. Olive, II, he had to go back to Vietnam and finish his job. Skipper loved his country and was very proud of his uniform.
Because of the blood Skipper shed on that infamous day, today the survivors, Capt. Jimmy Stanford and Sgt. Vince Yrineo have grandchildren and great- grandchildren, but so does the Lionell Hubbard and John “Hop” Foster, both of whom have since died. I recently spoke to Mrs. Hubbard not too long ago and she too gave thanks to Skipper. If he had made a different choice on that day she would not have had the opportunity to marry her beloved husband.
Reached in Texas, Stanford, 75, who is the father of two, grandfather of nine and five great-grand children, said: “As I approach my golden years, as some would say the twilight years, I sometimes wonder what and why do I have the opportunity of growing old, of seeing my son and daughter grow up and prosper in life.”
Stanford said it is a blessing to be able to see his grandchildren “grow up, marry and to provide me with great-grandchildren. I say today as I say most every day, Thanks, Skipper for giving me this opportunity.”
While Borges, who also served in Vietnam and is the recipient of a Purple Heart and two Bronze Stars, one for heroism the other for meritorious service, did not know Skipper, he vividly remembers that incident. “At the time, I did not know I too would end up in Vietnam as a soldier,” said Borges. “I have seen many men sacrifice their lives
Congressional Medal of Honor winner Milton Olive III is a name- sake of Olive-Harvey College and of a lakefront park near the Jardine Water Filtration Plant.
for their fellow soldiers. It’s a great sacrifice.” Looking back on his experiences in Vietnam, Borges said Skipper’s act of heroism “is the ultimate sacrifice that cost him his life, but we’ll always remember him…. War is a terrible thing. It stays with you forever” and
said that experience is “life changing.” “To all the soldiers, all the veterans who served our country, I salute you for your service, and I thank the people of America who now recognize what many of us who served and went through,” said Borges. “When I returned from Vietnam, it was an unpopular war. We were not welcome as soldiers are now. I’m grateful that the public now has raised its consciousness to realize the sacrifice that our men and women in uni- form give and make for this great country of ours.”
Father Pfleger said of young Olive: “Skipper, like so many young men and women, sacrificed their lives to protect us and give our children a chance to grow up and reach their dreams. Yet today we sadly find our- selves in a war at home where too many of our youth are picking up weapons to take innocent lives. We are desperately in need of people with the values of Skipper.”
I agree with Father Pfleger because Skipper, who was born a breech baby on November 17, 1946, was a young man who read his Bible even while at war. Skipper, who was raised by Jacob Augustus and Zylphia Warhead Spencer, never cursed, never dated and never owned a car, but he always knew what he wanted and that was to lead by example.
When Skipper grew bored of school, he dropped out and went to his paternal grandparents’ home in Lexington, Mississippi. Skipper had joined the Mississippi Freedom Riders who were registering blacks to vote. When his father found out where he was and what he was doing he gave his son three choices: go back to school, get a job or join the military.
That choice haunted his father until the day he died in 1993, but it serves as a stark reminder of how our youth today have changed. Pfleger was right when he said we need more Milton Lee Olive’s III. We need our youth to lay down their weapons of mass destruction used to kill innocent children and to transform their minds and hearts so that our children can also one day be proud of their grandchildren just as the four survivors of that infamous day in Vietnam.
To all veterans of war, I salute you. I thank you for your commitment to serve our country, and I pray that peace will soon come in countries that are engaged in war. Happy Memorial Day to you.