Gunny G: Next To Last Newsletter, Marine Richard Keech….
GyG: I received this e-mail from Richards cousin, Joan Page Keech….
Sunday, September 21, 2008
This is my next to last Richard Keech Newsletter.
I am too filled with emotion to make any comments of my own. So here
is an e-mail I received recently from Richard’s daughter, Nancy and a
copy of a letter to his dad from his son, Steven, a letter so beautiful
and honest that it portrays Richard as I have never been able to.
In August, we visited my Dad twice at CTC in HDSP. My dad is confused
and withdrawn. He does not wear his hearing aids anymore because he
wants to “cancel out the prision environment”. The CTC environment is
horribly isolating and Dad is suffering because he wants to be around
friendly people. He says that this experience is worse than being a
Japanese prisioner of war. As a result, my Dad is giving up and dying.
The on-call Doctor told us last Sunday that the CTC medical staff had
initiated the paperwork for a compassionate release from prision.
As usual, we are always hopeful, that my dad can die at home.
(As of today, no news about the compassionate release.)
Have you ever read the book “dead zone” by Steven King? I’m not usually
a Steven King fan, but I like this one book. The thing about the book
is its theme. The book is all about the definition of the word “hero”.
The protagonist of this book knows something terrible is going to
happen. Everybody he loves is going to die, his lover, his child and
his friends. No one else in the world perceives this tragedy. As a
matter of fact, most people are unwittingly helping the tragedy to
occur through inaction.
The protagonist knows he can stop this tragedy, but only at a cost. The
cost is enormous. His act of stopping this tragedy requires that he
become infamous and despised, his death being only a minor sub note.
Steven King’s point and the theme of the book is that a real hero
doesn’t perform for money, fame or glory. A real hero does it because
it’s the right thing to do … and no one else is available.
I have read about many heroes in my life, but I’ve met only really one,
that is of course my dad. Most people assume their father would do
anything to protect them. I’m just one of a few who know the fact for
My dad set a high standard. I can only hope if I’m ever as tested that
I can meet my fate unswervingly and without hesitation.
Other real heroes I’ve read about and treasured are:, Oskar Schindler -
German businessman … a con man, a womanizer and a racist most of his
life… but for a brief few years he put the Vatican to shame and saved
Eduardo Propper de Callejón – First secretary in the Spanish embassy in
Paris who stamped and signed passports almost non-stop for four days in
1940 to let Jewish refugees escape to
Spain and Portugal.
Chiune Sempo Sugihara, Japanese Consul-General in Kaunas, Lithuania,
1939–1940, issued thousands of visas to Jews fleeing Poland in defiance
of explicit orders from the Japanese foreign ministry. He just thought
it was the right thing to do, never realizing that he was a hero. He
never considered mentioning it. His children were as surprised as
anybody when the Jews he saved finally traced him down and heralded his
You know what amazed me as a child? It was your tolerance. You had all
the reasons to despise the Japanese. They put you through a death
march. They beat prisoners to death in front of you. They starved you
nearly to death. You weighed 97 pounds when you returned from World War
II. Yet despite this treatment you didn’t hold it against the Japanese
people themselves. You said it was just a thing of the Japanese
military culture. We even had a Japanese exchange student when I was
You know what else I learned from you? I learned integrity. I remember
how if you discovered you been overpaid when you got home from the
grocery store you would always make the trip back to the grocery store
to pay it back no matter the amount.
I remember when we sailed our boat, “trident”, to Mexico. The Port
offices were closed because of holidays and we returned without
checking in with the authorities. You had no choice you had to get home
lose your job. You drove back to check out even though you faced
some intimidation from the Port Capt. who thought you illegally sold
your boat in Mexico.
There were some other gifts you gave me. You told wonderful bedtime
stories, stories about Goofy and Donald Duck. You gave me a love of
books. Your introduced me to my first science fiction author, a Robert
Heinlein story about a boy in a spacesuit. You encouraged me to be an
engineer and go to college. You set up projects that would keep me
entranced and in the scientific world, usually with things that went
You trusted me. I remember when I went on my first date I didn’t have a
driver’s license… I was 18 and my first date was to the prom. I just
couldn’t have a parent drive me to the prom… and in that day and age
it never occurred to me to rent a limousine. It just wasn’t done. You
had a solution though. I could drive the car. You even offered your
treasured Corvette stingray. When I told you that I only had my drivers
permit , you only said “you better drive carefully then”. I valued that
You taught me about duty, particularly in the way you treated your dad.
Your dad was the very anti-thesis of fatherhood. His only pride was in
what he was able to deny himself, from coffee and sweets to women and
sex. His only achievements were fathering two kids and reaching 89
years old. When grandp
a died no one but his two children even noticed
the lack of a funeral. Despite granddad’s failings, you took care of
him as he got older (and grandma too). I still remember granddad
railing at you at how poor Rockwell stock was doing… and blaming you
for it. This he did while you’re trying to get the heater in his house
working. You took his ranting and other than suggesting that he sell
the Rockwell stock you quietly went around your work.
You frequently said that you learned most of what was to be a man
through Montana cowboys and the Marine Corps. By Montana cowboys you
meant Uncle Wesley, a rancher turned Congressman. I remember your story
about a hay rake. Uncle Wesley had just bought a new one, an expensive
one… probably about 12 years salary of an average rancher. Your
mother sent you to Montana for some protection from your father is
during the summer. Uncle Wesley gave you the rather simple job of
running the hay rake through the field, simple for a country raised
boy. He assigned his son Bill to teach you how to drive a team of
horses. You were a city boy after all. You learned and were able to
shakily to drive a team of horses in open field. However to get to that
field you had to drive through a gate just wide enough for the hay rake
Unfortunately the hay rake caught the edge of the barbed wire fence.
The panicked horses pulled down the fence for se
veral lengths and of
course damaged the hay rake.
When both you and Bill showed up in front of the Uncle Wesley, you
thought you’d be sent back to California in shame.
Uncle Wesley listened to both of you and said “Bill will fix that hay
rake. And then Richard might as well finish the job”
Uncle Wesley put you back out on the field in the expensive hay rake.
The other ranchers joked about him because the horses got loose another
five times more that summer and tore up more fence .It became a bit of
a running joke among the other ranchers, but there an underlying
respect to the laughter. Uncle Wesley just kept on putting you back on
a rake. Uncle Wesley considered his nephew’s self-respect more
important than the expensive piece of farm machinery. I’m sure it
helped get him elected, to see the sort of care he took into the
welfare of a nephew.
Your cousin Bill became quite the mechanic. When World War II came
then the men that took care of horses went off to war. The horses had
to be replaced with machinery. Cousin Bill was foremost in the ability
to kludge vehicles with equipment and get things running despite the
lack of men and horses, a lesson he learned that started fixing up hay
rakes for dad.
I remember your story about how you learned to respect women. You said
you used to tease your sister Virginia unmercifully, perhaps lessons
you may hav
e learned from your dad. Your cousin Bill took you aside and
taught you in no uncertain terms that men, especially Montana cowboys,
do not treat women disrespectfully. It was a lesson you never forgot.
You taught me about bravery. I remember you told me once you went in
the Montana ranch forge searching for a fishing weight. You found a
bullet and put it in the vice to remove the brass casing. As you
twisted the vice the bullet went off. It ricocheted and hit you near
the eye. You went to the only person in the house, your grandmother,
everyone being else being on the field working. Your grandmother was a
stiff upper lip sort of Englishwoman. She asked you not to cry as she
cleaned the wound out… because it would disturb the men folk when
they came back. He said you couldn’t. She said “then pretend, and
perhaps after a while the lie will become the truth”
Perhaps you’re wondering why I’m rambling on like this. I couldn’t help
noticing a few things last I visited you. You had forgotten Nancy’s
previous visits, though she visited five times this quarter. You forgot
you have received any letters, though a stack was found in the drawers.
I suspect if you check your drawers you will find letters you have
never read.. The nurse puts them in a drawer and tells you… but I
suspect you forget.
I am losing you. I’m afraid I’ve waited too long to tell you I love
you. I should h
ave told you this a long time ago so it would be a
long-term memory. Anyway, I love you. I will miss you. Other people
remember their father by visiting graves. I will remember my father by
recounting his stories, making my own stories and trying to pass on the
lessons, stories and love of books I have learned from him.
Your children have all college educations and a love of reading. Your
grandchildren will have college educations and a love of reading. Your
great-grandchildren will have college educations and a love of reading.
All will hear the stories and details of Richard E. Keech, until you
pass into family legends.
You always collected crossroads. You defined a crossroads as a place
where if you stay there long enough you will meet everybody you ever
knew in life. You mentioned one crossroads, a bar called Joe Jost’s. I
fear it’s been torn down but …
I remember the one promise you had me make.
When you die, I will find a crossroads… one that’s a bar…probably
one filled with Marines.
I will buy rounds for anybody who will drink three toasts with me.
The First will be to our country and the men who fought for it.
The Second will be to Marine Corps, to loyalty and duty..
The Third and last toast will be for my Dad, a US Marine, a husband, a
father … a hero.
Afterwards, I will recount your stories to anybody who will listen.
Steven Richard Keech
For those of you who may not be familiar with Marine Richard Keech….
Why Is Richard Keech In Prison?
Richard Keech Webpage, etc.
R. W. “Dick” Gaines
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