On a hill near Da Nang, Vietnam, sat Camp Reasoner ― home of the Marine Corps' 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion and later 1st Reconnaissance Battalion during the Vietnam War.
The camp was named after 1st Lt. Frank Reasoner, the second Marine to receive the Medal of Honor during the war, and was marked by a stone that bore a hand-lettered message to the fallen Marine.
“'First Lieutenant Reasoner sacrificed his life to save one of his wounded Marines. ‘Greater Love Hath No Man,’” the stone said, according to the Marine Corps University.
On Monday 12 Marine veterans and members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling on him to begin negotiations with Vietnam to have the stone sent to the U.S. where the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion will host it on Camp Pendleton, California.
More than 22,500 blue water veterans or survivors have received VA benefits payouts since January.
On July 12, 1965, Reasoner led 18 Marines with the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion on a patrol near Da Nang, Vietnam, when they ran into a large force of Viet Cong fighters.
As the 50–100 Viet Cong fighters opened fire on the Marines from “numerous concealed positions,” Reasoner organized a defense, his Medal of Honor citation said.
“Repeatedly exposing himself to the devastating attack he skillfully provided covering fire, killing at least two Viet Cong and effectively silencing an automatic weapons position in a valiant attempt to effect evacuation of a wounded man,” the citation read.
“First Lieutenant Reasoner is an American hero whose story deserves to be told for generations to come," Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisconsin, said in an emailed statement Monday. “Retrieving this memorial is a way to not only honor his legacy, but to show our undying appreciation to those who served at Camp Reasoner."
The old camp, located roughly three miles from the Da Nang International Airport, is now a stone quarry, but the stone sign still stands at the old entrance.
“The hand-lettered stone and concrete sign served as a physical symbol of fallen comrades in arms to all those who entered the camp," the letter signed by all 12 Marine veterans currently serving in the House of Representatives said.
“As our nation continues its commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, the time is right to bring this important part of Marine Corps history home and help provide closure for the thousands of Marines and Corpsman who served at Camp Reasoner throughout the war,” the letter reads.
Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Arizona, called bringing the sign to the U.S., “a striking and tangible memorial to a proud but difficult chapter of Marine history — our service in Vietnam, now almost half a century in the past.”
“By bringing the sign home, I would hope that Marine veterans would be comforted by the return of an iconic symbol of their service and that active duty Marines would become more aware of the service and sacrifice of their predecessors in the Corps,” Gallego added in an email.
The 1st Recon Battalion Association is willing to pay for any of the expenses associated with the move and hopes the sign will be placed on Camp Pendleton as a memorial to “Lt. Reasoner and the five other Reconnaissance Marines awarded the Medal of Honor during the war," including Lance Cpl. Richard A. Anderson, 2nd Lt Terrence C. Graves, Gunnery Sgt. Jimmie E. Howard, Pfc. Robert H. Jenkins Jr., and Pfc. Ralph H. Johnson, along with all those who served at the base, the letter said.
The battalion was doing everything it could to see the stone sign sent to the unit, 1st Lt. Cameron Edinburgh, a spokesman for the 1st Marine Division confirmed.
“If you were a reconnaissance Marine and you served in Vietnam, at one time or another you set foot in Camp Reasoner,” Ed Nevgloski, director of the Marine Corps history division, told Marine Corps Times.
It is “just a Marine thing” to bring back important historical items in a unit’s history, he added.
“The 1st Reconnaissance Battalion has demonstrated unwavering commitment to getting this sign home, and after learning about their effort, who better to help them complete the mission than the Marines serving in the House," Gallagher said.
“My colleagues and I stand ready to assist Secretary Pompeo in this diplomatic mission and ensure Vietnam veterans get the long overdue recognition they deserve,” he added.