It is with great regret that I must announce the death this past weekend (Nov1-2) of one of our early recon pioneers. Col. Joseph Z. Taylor USMC(Ret). He was my XO in 1st Force when we first formed and then became the first CO of 2nd Force Recon. Naval Academy class of '50. Burial service at Arlington in about one month. As details develop, will provide. Colonel Bruce Meyers sends.
In a way, I have been composing this tribute to Joseph Zachary Taylor for nearly fifty years. The words I write here about him, I always meant to write to him. Now, to my deep and profound regret, it is too late for that.
I met Capt. Joe Taylor when I was a barely 19 year old Pfc. with a little over one year in the Marine Corps. He was the second OIC of the Recon Platoon formed in Marine Corps Test Unit 1. The first only lasted a few months.
Capt. Taylor brought an entirely new attitude and leadership style to the Unit. He was always first through the door, so to speak, setting an example for the rest of us. He always had a grin on his face; a funny remark; an encouraging or reassuring word. Everyone in the small Unit responded in kind and quickly formed a cohesive whole under his careful guidance.
Joe Taylor was a man who was comfortable with himself. He never seemed to feel a need to prove himself to or impress anyone. Whatever he did, I am convinced, he did for the satisfaction of knowing he had given his best and the intrinsic reward of a job well done. He was what he seemed to be and more; without pretension, affectation or artifice. As might be expected, he despised mindless bureaucracy and pomposity, and, when warranted, took delight in gaming the system and deflating the officious.
He had a way of making unit members feel capable, competent and confident even when we sometimes doubted our own abilities. I still repeat to myself one of his favorite admonitions: "Just remember, nothing is ever as good or bad as you think it will be." Somehow it never failed to raise my spirits and reduce my anxiety. It still does.
Joe Taylor was exactly the right man to lead a small unit that was engaged in writing the book, if only a primer, for follow-on Force Recon units; or as he would say in his usual self-effacing way, "making it up as we went along." He demanded much of himself and expected much of others. At the same time, he was forgiving of normal human frailties and honest mistakes made in the course of a best effort. He was flexible without being permissive. He was smart, imaginative, resourceful and creative; but, while he did not suffer fools easily, understanding of those not possessed of those qualities in the same measure. He welcomed and would consider seriously suggestions or comments from any member of the unit, never disparaging anyone. He encouraged everyone to let their reach exceed their grasp. He did it all with an unflagging, puckish sense of humor.
He was, in my opinion, an exemplary human being. I have emulated him with, I fear, indifferent success. Nonetheless, much of whatever I have achieved in life I credit to him and his ability to set an example for and instill confidence in a callow, young Marine. I wish I had told him that. Rest in peace, Skipper.
Dennis W. Dickinson
Eulogy for My Father
All of you who trained hard, fought hard and no one had the illusion that you had a right to come back.
We are here today to celebrate the life of our husband, father, friend and shipmate.
What hurts so much is that we are confounded by the tragic manner of his passing. We are in an awful struggle and we cannot think. We cannot apply rational thought to an irrational act. There will be no clarity. Not now, not ever. Indeed, God puts us in a world and gives us life and never allows us perfect clarity. This is the very essence of faith: to see, to know without the light. I cannot know "the why" of his passing but I can suggest a process.
I have come to the view at my age that in life we define inner happiness by the way we respond to disappointment and the way we see joy in the smallest events. We are born amidst everyone's hope for our expectations. We adopt some of these expectations, we build our own and we create expectations for others. Dad was a great funny man. He possessed a wry wit. When I was graduating from college he sent me a Charlie Brown post card. I still have it. The cloud caption over Charlie's head read, "There is no heavier burden than a great potential." Dad was cautioning me of what lay ahead.
All of us are burdened with a sense of what we expect of ourselves and what others may expect of us and what we may expect of them. God's plan is always different. It includes set backs, disappointments, and joys that weren't planned. I have one of those unexpected joys myself. We named him Matthew. The trick is to know we will only get or achieve some of what we expect or that others may come up short of what we expect of them. Our challenge always is to work on our response to the disappointments, to lower case them in our minds and hearts and recognize and make our lives revolve around the joys.
That's not ever easy to do. Dealing with the range of expectations is mysterious work. For most of us we get through the ordeals. I told Norma that I thought these expectations are like small objects that we put in a glass jar we own. As it gets full, we take some out to make room for other, newer expectations. For example, I concluded recently that I would never become a private pilot. I took that out of my jar. Instead, I keep putting in things that have to do with parenting and I struggle constantly with the "objects" that refer to my failed marriage-so those are still in my jar.
Sometimes we fill the jar up and one day when no one notices, we put in one too many expectations and the jar breaks. I don't know what it was for Dad, but Sunday, when we didn't expect it, he put in the last one, the one too many.
So that he did not die in vain, I know he sent us a message that will shape and change us, even if the cost was so high. For me I will tell you he was telling me to sharpen my senses. I look at my children and the people around me I love and I know I have to get closer to understanding my own expectations and to the extent that I can, I need to try to understand theirs as well. I may need help with mine and maybe I can help with theirs. For my Dad's last great lesson, I have to check myself. I have to seek balance. I have to pray for grace. I recommend the same to each and every one of you. So that he did not die in vain we must here today resolve to celebrate ourselves with our limitations, pray for wisdom in our response to disappointments and center ourselves on the smallest gifts God gave us. In this I pray mightily for you and me.
Let me now invite you to spend a few minutes celebrating the life of this marvelous, loving, gifted man.
When I was in Vietnam, the troops had their own version of the 23rd Psalm. Those of you who were there with me will recall it: "Yeah though I walk though the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for I am the toughest son of a bitch in the valley."
If you can feature that as an odd mixture of faith and steely self-reliance then you start to get an understanding of my father. He was a man of few moving parts. Not complicated. His color pattern was black or white. No gray.
It only takes a few words to define his character. The Bible uses the word "steadfast" to describe God's love for us. If he was nothing else, Dad was steadfast. There is an element of that in all Marines.
The uninformed think that the Marine Corps takes recruits and turns them into something. The other services say they do that too. I have a different view. My theory is that the Marine Corps sits there and waits for it's kind to come alone. They don't train these people as much as let them discover that they can find their true selves in the Marine Corps. Marines bring with them a kind of DNA code and the Corps switches it on. It can't be turned of and it goes everywhere with the member.
Semper Fidelis. Always Faithful.
No other organization has a mission statement that includes the word "always." There is nothing-short term about it. It doesn't say "Sometimes Faithful", or Always Except When " It's just always and that means no exceptions. If you are defending freedom and you are in a mud hole in some god forsaken place short on ammo and long on enemies you want the guy next to you to be an always kind of guy. That was my Dad: irreverent, steadfast and always faithful.
Dad was born in New England and was raised by his mother and maternal grandparents. He entered the Marine Corps near the end of the war and while in boot camp was appointed to the Academy. He graduated with the class of '49, high in all the academic subjects but last in his class in conduct, 890 out of 890. Brains and irreverence. Just the combination to become a member of an elite group of what the Corps at that time called Pathfinders. Under Regan Fuller they formed the now legendary Force Recon. Dad's executive officer and partner for years was PX Kelly who later became the Commandant. What they did in the mid 50s was to reshape Marine Corps fighting tactics which saved countless combatants lives, shortened the conflicts and brought freedom known previously only to Americans to millions of liberated souls. My God, what an stunning accomplishment!
There are if you can imagine it, other legacies from him we value just as highly.
I am one of them. This room is filled with them. There are still others who couldn't be here.
There is a theory of longevity that begins with the question, " Why do some of us like humans live to be an average of 80 years old while other creatures like a fruit fly live only a week? Science suggests that the answer is that God let's us live long enough to jump-start the next generation. What God challenges us to do is to leverage ourselves to the next generation. That's the legacy angle and no one completed God's plan better than my father.
Dad's job and my mother's job was to make me and make my sister and give a life to my brothers Jon and Kris. My job and my wife Rozanne's job have been to make Joseph, David, and Matthew. Likewise, all of us in this room are legacy makers, like my cousin Jenna who with her husband Joel are expecting their first child. This business of being a legacy maker is our only real job and we take great example from how my father did his job.
He and my mother partnered to leave something to us. Not money nor objects, nor even memories because most of them are fading. The legacy he leaves me, Vikki, Jon, Kris, my mom, Norma, Norma's beautiful children, his cousins, friends and shipmates is a code of life. It comes with a compass to tell true direction and instructions on how to do it.
My job now that he is gone and your job as well is to pass it on. His death, however tragic and puzzling, is not his legacy. It's the code.
Number One: Take care of your family; sacrifice everything-possessions, comfort, personal happiness even life itself. Take care of your family. Dad was devoted to all of us and I especially include Norma's children and her grandchildren. Brian [wheelchair bound] is going to miss my father as much as I am and it is fitting that he should. My father treated Brian as an ordinary kid. When I stood next to my father he towered over me. When Dad stood in front of Brian, Brian grew taller. It was his magic with all of us.
Number Two: Serve. Serve your country, serve your family, serve your community. Of whom much is given, much is asked.
Number Three: Be faithful. The ultimate title is wife, husband, brother, friend and a favorite for many of us, shipmate.
Today we share our sadness. We resolve to go on. He left us a legacy to fulfill. We leave this room with the happiness of the legacy willed to us by our husband, father, friend and shipmate that we know better now than before he died that life is limited and still there is an opportunity for great happiness and it is our job to discover it and our job to pass it on. For all of this I am grateful and while I mourn briefly I will to my last day celebrate his unreserved faithful love for me and all of us in this room.
Thank you dear Lord for giving us this man and thank you all for being here to day to honor him.
In Melbourne, Florida
Joe Taylor, Jr.