Mike McPhee was laid to rest today in Willamette National Cemetery in Portland Oregon. To us here at the Rott he was a long time LC and a prolific commenter who had a common sense insight, high intellect, and a straight forward way of making his point known. To me personally he was a dear online friend whose advice, experience, and wisdom that he so willingly shared have made me a better person, in every way. To others he was a comrade in arms who had faced the same relentless enemy in Vietnam and had gone on to become steadfast and loyal friends. But most of all, to his family he was a beloved husband and father who instilled in his two sons the same work ethic, sense of duty, and love of country that he held so dear.
Mike was a grunt who served with Golf company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines in the Republic of Vietnam in 1966-67, during which time he fought at Razorback Ridge and the Rockpile, names familiar to those who were there and those of us who wished to carry on the legacy of what they did there. Returning to CONUS in February 1967 he became a troop handler at Infantry Training Regiment Regiment, Camp Pendleton, preparing Marines not much younger then he was for the rigors of combat. He also was a sea service Marine, finishing his hitch in the Corps as a member of the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Hornet. After the Corps he was a police officer with the Portland P.D., retiring after 26 years in 1997 as a detective.
This lifetime of service was indicative of the man that Mike was. He cared deeply for others, and was always willing to lend a hand or a few words of valuable advice. I learned a great deal from Mike, but mostly that the reason we, Marines, cops, sheepdogs, do what we do is out of not only a sense of duty, but of love. Not the romantic, poetic love of a sonnet, but the true, deeper love of your fellow fellow man that God commands of us.
Mike was also the stereotypically humble Marine. He never bragged about his own achievements or exploits. In fact it was only yesterday that I learned from his close friend Mike R, who had served with him aboard the Hornet, that he had received the Purple Heart during Vietnam. It just wasn’t the sort of thing that Mike would voluntarily tell about himself. That humility was evident in a conversation we had when my son Crumb Crunchie went downrange. Mike expressed to me his pride and admiration for “Boot” and his fellow Marines. When I told him that it was we, mine and Crumb’s generation of Marines, who held him and his generation in awe for what they had done, he countered by saying that he had never stormed a beach under concentrated enemy fire the way the WWII Marines had, or charged through a wheat field swept by German machine guns like at Belleau Wood. He refused to accept my feeble attempt at paying him the honor he deserved, and instead deflected it to those he felt were truly deserving of it. He even tried to tell me that it was my generation of Marines who deserved praise for lifting the stigma off of the military. My and my sons service pale in comparison to his, but by praising those who followed him he not only passed the torch, he rekindled it.
I think that it was that same humility that led him to keeping his cancer a secret to all but his family. He was a sheepdog, a warrior who served and sacrificed in silence, neither seeking nor accepting accolades he had earned, preferring to give to others instead, whether they needed it more than he did or not. When he was fighting cancer he fought it the way he had lived all of his life, without burdening others.
Mike was an inspiration to me, setting the standard that I strive to meet. I am a better man for having known him, and am honored that he called me a friend.
Mike R recently told me that he hopes that Mike is the Sergeant of the Guard when it comes his own time to check in with St. Pete, he’ll have a better chance of getting in. I hope so too, but we had better be squared away when we do.
Requiest In Pace and Semper Fidelis Mike, you are going to be sorely missed my friend.