MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. (WTRF) – There’s no such thing as a retired Marine.
7News has heard that plenty of times during the years of “Veterans Voices” and Robert “Bob” Blake is no exception.
Concerned all the time. Scared most of the time until the first shot is fired. Then it’s just like somebody hits you with a cold shower.Bob Blake, Veteran
As Blake explains it, there were two wars being fought simultaneously in the late 1960s. Guerilla warfare against the Vietcong and traditional warfare against the North Vietnamese Army.
It was hard switching back and forth because when you’re up against the Vietcong it was all jungle fighting. There were booby traps you had to watch out for, snipers, enemy holes and tunnels that they’d come out of and shoot you in the back. All kinds of traps that they would set for you, so you had to be on alert for that all the time.Bob Blake, Veteran
He survived both.
To this day I’ve never regretted it. Never.Bob Blake, Veteran
Blake’s service began in November of 1965 after he received a draft notice. After an early warning from a family-friend who worked in the draft office and knowing he didn’t want to be in the Army, Blake met with recruiters and chose the Marines.
I sat there and thought for a minute ‘he’s probably the only one telling me the truth’. I just reached across the paper and took the orders and signed them.Bob Blake, Veteran
After bootcamp, time at Camp Geiger for individual combat training and staging at Camp Pendleton Blake was heading to Vietnam. He arrived there in July of 1966 as part of the Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines in Phu Bai.
He worked search and destroy missions for several months in Đông Hà, including seeing combat at a strategic point that Vietnam veterans know as “the rockpile”. Blake called it “infamous” as he recalled fighting against at division of the North Vietnamese Army there.
Instead of rotating Blake and his battalion to a secure compound when they were not on missions, he instead worked as part of a civilian action training (CAT) team training local to protect themselves.
We would teach them how to protect themselves and their villages. We’d take them out on night ambush patrols and show them how to set up an ambush patrol to kill the enemy as they’re coming to them or go on the offensive instead of just the defensive.Bob Blake, Veteran
Blake described the Vietcong as “ruthless” describing “major” confrontations he was part of at the DMZ. His battalion needed support from B-52 bombers.
After that, he went on R&R to Hong Kong, before a turn of events that would change his life.
Blake ended up as part of the 1st Battalion 9th Marines because they had suffered casualties and needed men with combat experience.
He was part of an operation to stop the North Vietnamese Army from invading into South Vietnam near the DMZ in Con Thien. That’s when he was critically wounded.
On March 3, 1967 at 1:30 in the afternoon the North Vietnamese Army was shelling us with 88-millimeter mortars and 120 rockets and they hit our position and they got me. I had a mortar hit behind me and one beside me and I went this way. Killed the boy behind me.
When the corpsman got to me, he rolled me over and my right eye was hanging out of my cheek and I was bleeding profusely from my head to my knees. My right hip was all blown out. I had a hole blown in my right lung, two-and-a-half-inch hole in my liver and a hole in my sternum.Bob Blake, Veteran
Blake was medevaced to the USS Repose hospital ship.
I had been through three operations on the hospital ship. Everyday they’d come along and unpack my chest and unpack my hip. For the first three days after they operated the first time, they kept me knocked out. Every four hours I’d start to come to. A corpsman would come along with ice water and another shot and I’d be out for another four or five hours. That went on for three days.
Must have been somewhere around the 10th or 11th of March I had a visitor. They were there to present me with my Purple Heart.Bob Blake, Veteran
Many days and operations later, he was moved to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines and then sent to the Naval Hospital in Bethesda.
He spent months recovering there until August, when he was finally able to come home.
The good lord took care of me when I got blown up and he stayed with me as long as he could. Then when he couldn’t devote any more time in looking in on my daily he sent me one of his angels and for 55-years I’m still married to that angel.Bob Blake, Veteran
Blake’s angel is his wife Lyn. They got engaged on his first leave after being wounded and married in November of 1967, which was shortly after Blake was medically retired from the Marines.
Those of us who were critically wounded, spent months in the hospital rehabilitation, we had each other to fall on. We worked ourselves through it. My mother told me the first time I come home ‘you’ve been through hell we all know it. Either you can learn to control it or it can control you and if it controls you you’re gonna lose’. She said ‘you’re gonna have to fight it’. She’s right and I did.Bob Blake, Veteran
All these years later, there’s a photo that hangs in Blake’s office. He remembers the day it was taken and what mission he was on, but didn’t see it until recently because it was never published in his hometown paper.
He (the reporter) asked me where I was from and I said Moundsville, West Virginia. When he wrote it up he spelled Moundsville with a ‘W’ and they could never find Woundsville, West Virginia.Bob Blake, Veteran
It’s those stories that give Blake a laugh now. However, some memories are still difficult, but he remains proud to be a Marine.
I was proud of my time in the Marine Corps and I’m proud of my Marines every day.Bob Blake, Veteran
We mentioned how important Bob’s wife Lyn is to him. They’ll celebrate another anniversary in the coming months. Together they have three children, and seven grandchildren.
While Blake’s military career was highly-decorated, he is also quite accomplished in his professional career. He could not return to work at Weirton Steel after his injuries, so he first worked at the Post Office and as a plumber when he medically retired.
Blake went on to work as a safety inspector for the West Virginia Department of Labor, got his degree, worked for Mobay and spent time working for Bayer. He’s also been on committees for the American Chemistry Council, on the safety board for the National Academy of Sciences, served nine years on a United Nations Committee in Geneva, wrote numerous training manuals that were published and received multiple professional awards that are proudly displayed in his office.
Now, Blake enjoys a good game of golf, watching his grandkids play sports and spending time at the family’s camp.