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A Very Special Guest

Posted by on September 9, 2012

It’s nearing that time of year when I’m wanted at various venues around the country to make speeches or simply show up and glad hand as a relatively high-profile veteran. There are more invitations to speak at Marine Corps Birthday celebrations, Veterans’ Day commemorations and other patriotic events than I can accept, at least until someone perfects cloning. It’s a time when I’m more torn and twisted than normal. I’m torn because I really want to accept all of these invitations and I’m twisted because I can’t help thinking I don’t deserve them.

As a Marine who has attended more than half a hundred service birthday celebrations around the world, I understand the concern that goes into getting a good speaker that will hopefully keep the Marines and their families from doing face-plants into their dinner plates. And I’ve been an antsy audience member at any number of patriotic or memorial gatherings where the speaker blathered or droned to the extent that I found myself glassy-eyed and drooling. I can’t be that guy. It seems like a cheat for people who are – at least initially – politely willing to listen to what I have to say. When I select the few invitations I can squeeze into a hectic schedule, the challenge is not to take the lazy route, dust off some previous topic and simply recycle well-worn clichés. So, I do my research and spend the necessary time parked computer-side to come up with something new and different to say that has relevance to my audience. Depending on the occasion, the audience and their motivation for inviting me in the first place, it’s usually a combination of thoughts I have from the perspective of a combat veteran and some sort of showbiz insider.

Of course those two elements of my situation—veteran status and high public profile—often cross and combine which is mostly the reason the invitations keep coming every year. I get that. It’s not so much that I’m a brilliant orator as it is that I’m a guy the audience has seen in movies or TV shows who is also a patriot with a military background. The draw is getting to see that guy in person, decked out in a dress uniform that still fits, and the price of admission is listening to him speak. It’s a bonus when the guy actually has something interesting to say. I do my best to keep people from staring at the clock or sneaking out to the bar but it takes some serious reflection in the preparation.

Going through the process of speech-writing or note-making for these occasions is a humbling exercise. Before the first program is opened on my computer or the first key struck, I’m forced to deal with thoughts about why I’m writing remarks for public consumption. Why the hell would anyone care about what I have to say? How did I become the “duty veteran” who is asked in some way to represent millions of veterans with much more experience, insight and expertise than I will ever have? Does my status as a writer, actor and director in one of the world’s least significant professions somehow make what I have to say important or interesting? The answer to the first two questions is I don’t know. Pondering the third leads me to some serious introspection as I’m writing.

What always comes to mind early is a now often repeated comment by the legendary Major Dick Winters of “Band of Brothers” fame who responded to a question from a grandchild who asked him if he was a hero in World War II. “No,” Winters responded quietly, “but I served in a unit of heroes.” That’s how I feel about the thousands of unsung and under-appreciated people I served with in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere in the world during my career in military uniform. And those are the great people living and dead that I think about when I’m preparing to speak in public. Because of their service and sacrifice, I’m here today and I like to imagine myself speaking for them. I keep my messages simple as I think they would speak in straight-forward language to say they are proud to have served and expect no great reward for having done so. They did what they did because they believed it was the right thing to do and high-flown sentiments are not a big part of that. They braved discomfort in training and death in combat because someone had to step up and most of them sincerely believed that should not be someone else when service to the nation was required. With those thoughts in mind, the speech is usually quickly completed.

The delivery part is easiest. Somewhere in every audience, I manage to find a few veterans who have critical, expectant eyeballs locked on me. I speak to them and—if I’m doing it right—for them. As they have throughout my career in and out of uniform, those heroes guide and mentor me. It’s just a matter of saying what they would say if they had the opportunities I’m honored to have every year around this time.

11 Responses to A Very Special Guest

  1. Herman Doyle

    We deployed together for Vietnam in May 1967.. I am proud to jnform my friends and family of that when I see a movie that you were in and i am happy for your success.. Have a happy birthday and may you continue to be successful.

  2. Paul Allen Starner

    I first want to say Happy Birthday Sir. I am a fellow Marine Master Sergeant. I have been wounded 4 times in combat and the last time was in Afghanistan. I lost the bottom part of my right leg in an IED explosion. I am being medically discharged even though I hit 20 years in April. I am interested in being an advisor for movies and television shows. Hell I just want our way of life to be portrayed the right way. In this pursuit I found Warriors Inc. I would like to send you a resume Sir in hopes you would consider me for some sort of employment with Warriors Inc. I am sure that you receive hundreds of requests like this a day. However I am sending this to you anyway in hopes that I get lucky and you actually read this. Thank You for your consideration Sir MSgt Paul Starner USMC

  3. Reyes

    Really liked what you had to say in your post, A Very Special Guest | Dale Dye, thanks for the good read!
    — Reyes

  4. Mark Davison

    Captain Dye:

    Please continue the good works that you do in films. I have seen many of them including “Rouph Riders”. I am not a vet but had a somewhat limited military backgound in AirForce Junior ROTC in high school and ROTC in college. It did not continue into the military in that I was cought in the reduction in force at the close of the Vietnam situation.

    Anyway, I understand if you do not answer this comment but just know that I am a fan.

    Best regards,

    Mark Davison Birmingham, AL

  5. Lem Genovese

    Dear CPT Dye:
    Greetings from the Coulee Region of SW Wisconsin !
    Rest assured that there are a lot of us two tour types that are quite happy that you are out there in that oxygen deprived atmosphere of big ticket events representing us and still recognizing the incongruity of it all.
    Thank you for all you do on behalf of us military personnel, their families and veterans such as myself. Enjoy the CD’s especially when you are preparing a VIP presentation and take heart in the knowledge that we know you’ve got our backs with those celebrities.

  6. Ron Whisenhunt

    Capt Dye, first I owe you an apology, the first time I saw your name listed as a retired Marine Corp Capt my first thought was to a few officers that only served as long as was required to full fill his obligation for college funding. Yes I knew several like this. When I watched the Military Channel ” An Officer and A Movie” about the Viet Nam war and learned that you had served 14 yrs as enlisted then received your commission. For your service and tour of duties in Nam as an ex Navy PO ‘I SIR SALUTE YOU”. It has taken me a long time to be able to actually sit down and watch anything about VietNam, and while watching the movie Platoon I was finally able to put to rest 40yrs of memories that I had buried. Again SIR I Salute you with the highest respect that I can muster up.

  7. SSG Francis Talarczyk USAR RET

    Dear CPT Dye
    I love your movies,the Band of Brothers was the best. I want to tell you a story about my wonderful father. He was in the US Marine’s in WW 2, PFC Frank Talarczyk. He was in 3 major battles with the 3rd Marine Div. When he was on Bogensville, he picked up a 37mm shell,and in his spare time he made a cross out it , and engraved Jesus on the cross and PACIFIC 1944. His faith in the lord brought him home safe. My Dad was held in reserve on a flag ship when it arrived at Iwo Jima. He wanted very much to get ashore and be with all the other Marines. So he volunteered for a work detail that got him on land. His job was to bury some of the many Marines that died on that island.
    After the war he married my mother,and I came along in 1947. In 1965 I joined the Naval Reserves, was put on active duty for 2 yrs,served on the USS Jonas Ingram. when I left home hes passed me what I call The Pacific Cross. My faith in the Lord and and the Cross brought me home safe. I joined the Army Reserves and served 20 yrs, our unit was mobilized for Operation Storm in Jan 1991, we repaired rail lines at Sunny Point NC, so Ammo trains can get to the wharfes I was with the 1205th TRSU.. Again my faith in the lord and the Pacific Cross brought me home safe.
    I passed the Pacific Cross to my son when he became a policeman in 2005. Its in his hands now , his faith in the Lord and the Pacific Cross, so far has brought him home safe everynight after his shift. I told my son to pass it along to anyone in the family thats serves our country,in anyway they choose.
    My Dad today is 91 yrs old. Hes very sickly and falls alot. Hes on the battle field of old age. My father taught me to be a good soldier. I remember one of the things in The Soldiers Creed Never leave a soldier the battlefield alone, so I’m there with him when he falls till the Paramedics come. I cant say enough good things about my Dad, but he did shape me as a soldier,Im not a combat hero, but I did what what my country ask me to do and did it with pride and honor, and I thank my Father for that.

    Semper Fi from an Army GI
    SSG Francis Talarczyk USAR Ret

  8. van perley

    Rumors your heading to New Orleans next month, May, to kick some 1967 era, 2/3 butt ?
    Suspect it is not true.


    Another RVN Vet

  9. Gabe Collazo

    Capt. Dye Sir;
    I was a member of the 2506 Brigade,2nd Assault Group,Between 1983-2003. We were supposed to be a second attempt to a long 50+ yrs effort for CUBA’s freedom; honoring our former brothers failure in 63. Due to 9/11, all activities were discontinued as per US Govt request.I still wish for it . I always hoped for guys like you to helps us find our way. But as you might possibly know, CUBA is STILL enslaved.It was not to be and our efforts doomed by time and wished by some. I hope someday Hollywood makes a movie possibly titled GIRON( The Bay of Pigs Fiasco). It could comfort our hopes in the future. I wish you well in all your undertakings. Respectfully GMCOLLAZO

  10. Courtney Ellis

    Good Afternoon Sir,

    I am a former Marine infantryman from 1986-2000 and former paratrooper/combat medic from 2000-2010, it is really cool to see you out there making it work in Hollywood. I am wondering with all these NCIS shows coming out, how come they haven’t approached you for one of those roles. I mean the original show is a fantastic show, but since they were making spinoffs, why not say “Hey! Dale Dye, how would you like to play the director of NCIS wherever in our newest spinoff?” I mean R Lee Ermy, who is a great actor gets some good roles, but the two of you together on main stream television would be pretty cool. More vets with talent need to get out there, and that’s you two guys!!

  11. Van Perl

    Well, I have picture of you in New Orleans this last Memorial day. Twenty RVN Marines from 2/3 .

    BEEN waiting for sitrep .

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