Serving in the military is a dangerous business, and civilians tend to forget that even in times of peace, even in places where nary a hostile word is spoken, our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines risk life and limb on a daily basis simply by preparing for the day that they may be called upon to fight. I would wager that not a month goes by without an incident similar to the one my friend Pete Reiser lived through... some make the paper, many do not, and often just a paragraph on middle page in a second r third section of the paper.

Let us not forget the heroism of those who showed enough courage to take the oath to serve and defend our country and its Constitution. Let us remember how they lived, take note of how they died, and live OUR lives so that their service and sacrifice shall not be in vain.

Phil Cohen
November 5, 2014

Pete's Storyr

I joined the Marines on June 23, 1973 MCRD San Diego. An 18 year-old long haired country boy, didn't have a clue what was going to happen. 

13 weeks of boot camp changed that. Hard work, lots to learn but worth it. Felt good when my Drill Instructor first called me a Marine.

Went to Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, California. Learned how to drive a LVTP-7, it was a blast hitting the California surf at 20 miles per hour. Learned a lot in a short time. Shipped out to Camp Schwab Okinawa on December 24, 1973, crossed the dateline at midnight. What a strange place for that now short haired 19 year-old country boy. 

Got to drive and swim my trak in Okinawa, Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, and Australia. I was six months on float, six months on the island. Did a lot of good and hard training kept busy. Saw a lot of great sights, good people. Learned how to depend on the men around you. 

I got my E-3 in May, and my shellback card in June on the USS Bristol County, five days out of Philippines on the way to Australia. Grease in all the wrong places, crawling through garbage tunnels, and the worst of all having my face rubbed in the fat greasy belly of a Navy Chief. Damn Squids, good taxi drivers, but not much else.

Went back home on December 24, 1974, another midnight dateline crossing. Bought a 1972 Dodge Demon, red with black racing strips. Slicks on the back, 318, 2-barrel, headers, glass packs and megaphone pipes out the back. You could hear it a mile away. Headed back to Camp Pendleton. 

Trained there for another 6 months. Good training even got to train boot Lt's. It was a blast messing with them. Started getting into trouble, hot car in California, what did I expect. Decided to try another place, Hawaii. 

Got Kaneohe Marine Corp Air Station in July 1975, fun in the sun. Nice place to visit, etcetera, but boring. Couldn't train on base, the civilian neighbors complained about the dust. First 6 months didn't get to drive off the ramp. Scraped rust off the same bolts once a week. Did get to go to the Diamond Head Crater Festival. December 31, 1975 to January 1, 1976. Ten of the top world rock bands, 250,000 people, for a two-day New Years party. What a time. 

Did a little training at a local WWII ammo storage. Small but at least we could maneuver. 

In May we got word we were going for four weeks training in June on the big island. Wide open Pohakuloa training area. Finely get to do what we get paid for. Worked hard maneuvers all day and night remembering what I'd learned, I was an E-4 now, so it was my turn to train others. 

On June 24th I went on a morning recon flight, scout the area for the afternoon run, getting ride in a UH-IN. The pilot was a three-tour Nam Vet, in Cobras. I later learned he had three shot down under him and still came back alive. He was good. 

We had eleven men onboard, five from my platoon and four crewmen and were out for about two hours. Lots of fancy flying, he picked up a running goat with the skid and flipped it through the air. One of my men got airsick and we landed to let him off, refueled, changed seats, and took off again. 

I send up a prayer for all of you. Thank you for standing on the front line so I can do my thing here. 

More of the fancy flying. About 10 minutes in we were coming around a hill and developed a 1500 foot per second sink rate, 10 feet off the ground at about 100 knots. Hit a tree and then a rock then the ground, hard. The next thing I remember I was ten feet away facing the chopper and it exploded. Of the ten men aboard two survived. We were both burned badly and couldn't move. There was a Marine Med chopper in the air ten minutes away, they got there and got us both back alive. Keep an eye on those medics, there good Squids. 

Spent the next three months at Fort Sam Houston Burn Center. Good Docs there, put me back together again. More hard work but I was tough enough now I could handle it.

Got Medically Retired in April 1977, Corpus Christi Texas Navel Hospital. Out of the Marines but never forgetting what I learned. All in all a good but short tour. 

I learned most of all to depend on the people next to me. Keep them alive and they will do the same for you. 

I never saw combat, in that I think I was lucky. I know what violent death is like, but it was unexpected. Until then I didn't have a care in the world, enjoyed what was there. 

You live with death each day, I will never understand what it is like to get up each morning wondering who will try to kill me today. You make me Proud to be a Marine. 

Semper Fi

Peter J. Reiser



Dallas Morning News - June 25, 1976

San Diego Union - June 27, 1976

Many years later, Pete Reiser returned to Hawaii with his wife Cindy to visit the crash site and
pay tribute to those who were lost that day. The photographs were taken by Cindy Reiser.


First Lieutenant Brian Armstrong

First Lieutenant James Miklovoc

Corporal Victor Eckloff

Corporal James Ford

Lance Corporal Lonnie Thomas

Lance Corporal Charlie Mann

Lance Corporal Thomas Stramt

Lance Corporal Frank Anderson Jr.


Corporal Peter Reiser

Private First Class Pedro A. Rodriguez

Peter & Cynthia Reiser, 1996