John Knute Weber
Army Staff Sergeant
Born: February 3, 1947
Died: February 3, 1968
IT'S NEVER OVER - HE'S NEVER GONE
John Knute Weber was a rugged, earthly, independent and sensitive giant. He played football for Murray High School and was described as a "flaming meteor", 6'3" tall, rough, tough, and brutal in a football game." John was one of the youngest and finest dog sled mushers in America. He mushed and raced from a handmade sled both summer and winter, taking third place among Canadian and Alaskan competitors at the Winter Carnival in St. Paul. He lost his hat in the first few miles of the race, yet in sub-zero weather, with frostbitten ears and face, the finish line was met with John diving on the ground between his dogs in love and gratitude. He loved the North Woods, and spent many summers in Suak Centre, or farther north. His dream was to someday raise dogs and ten sons in Alaska.
John has one older brother and five sisters, and his second favorite pastime was teasing, taunting and ordering all of us around...guess that built his leadership skills, qualities which the Army identified early on. He was asked to go to officer's training school, but decided that it was not for him, so he signed up for Vietnam.
John was assigned to the 173rd Special Forces Airborne Paratrooper, Charlie Company. He trained at Fort Leonard Wood, Fort Jackson, and Fort Benning, and was also sent to the Panama Canal Zone.
John also liked to write. He wrote poems about the wind, snow, dogs, and God. He kept a journal in Panama and in Vietnam, and on November 11, 1967, he wrote, "D-day for Charlie's 1/503. We ran into at least a regiment of Viet Cong, three or four of us were hit. Seven or eight were killed. I am in the hospital. Shrapnel in my chest. I was lucky!" The men who served with John came to love and respect his sense of duty and honor and nicknamed him "Sergeant Ricochet."
John was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, Good Conduct Medal, Expert Marksmanship Badge, and more.
On February 3, 1968, his 21st birthday, John was killed by a single bullet that hit him between the eyes. Silence came over the field and the men who carried him off helped the healing process for all of us!
John lived his life as if it would never be over, so he was never really gone. He influenced people wherever he went. He never saw Alaska, but his friends still live there. Twenty-eight years after his death, those of us who are left know that the grief is never over and his memory is never gone. His spirit, his life, his death, and his genes are seen in all of us.
All those of the 173rd Airborne, John's buddies, have been a strength for our family and helped to bring us all "home" from the pain of losing him.
To All of Those at the 1995 173rd Airborne Reunion
Why did they take my brother away? What made him go and leave us? How did he fall and where did he lie? Was he taunted and bleeding and scared? Did he cry out for help with nobody there? Did he want us to be there, so far away? Did anyone care that this giant was gone? Or were his "remains" blown apart and rotted? Did anyone hold him as his spirit released? Why did it take so long to come home?.....I wanted to hold him and tell him good-bye. I wanted to tell him I loved him....Instead, our family slowly died. My mom in her sorrow, withdrew and mourned; my dad quit, and died alone. My uncle (for 30 years a second father to me) quit and died alone. There should be a way to take John's strength, his spirit, and his love, and direct it for all.
Days could be busy, life somehow goes on. I birthed four "younguns." They knew about John, but the questions, the yearning, the pain still went on. Some days were angry, some painful, some numb. Some, yes, joyous memories, but was anyone ther for him?...
The Minnesota 173rd Chapter found Mom and through their search, identified John. The 173rd reunion came to Minnesota in 1995. Twenty-eight years of stuggle and questions, searching a face, a place, a retreat to hide, to grow, to belong, to be with John. There were faces, names, emeories, and there was caring for a man I missed. There were questions to answer..And I knew he had not been alone.
Now I know he was with you. You cared, and you carried him, dead from a single bullet between the eyes. No pain, no crying for us to be there.
I saw eyes that wanted me to know that they also struggled and pained. I saw their wives, who had heard about John. They shed tears and l aughter and held me, and I belonged, and sad was OK, so anger could leave.
I will always miss him, when I'm in the woods, or wondering about people, or wishing he could take my kids for a hike. But now, I don't have to be on the other side, or on the outside. I do belong. Thank you all for "coming home", for bringing John "home", for letting me be hime.
Staff Sergeant John K. Weber, was the most popular soldier in Company C, 1st battalion. He was recognized as the best and most fearless soldier in the company, and he was the most warm and compassionate one we knew. He was a hero to many of us. After I had been in-country for nearly three months, I was moved to Comapny CP. Weber frequently came by in the evening to visit. He was full of love and appreciation for his family, which was a primary of his conversation.
On February 3, 1968, we became pinned down in an open field in the early afternoon. Because of thick bamboo, much of the company was having a hard time setting up a perimeter. Only Weber's recon sqau, which he had conceived and staffed with volunteers, was between the CP and the estimated two battalions of NVA dug in around two side of the field.
In the midst of intense small arms fire, the NVA started dropping mortar rounds on us. One of the mortar rounds set fire to the dry stubble in the field, threatening to either burn all of us in the field or to force us to expose ourselves to the small arms and machine gun fire.
Weber stood up to stomp out the fire to prevent its spread. He was hit before he could get back down. We were all deeply shaken by his death. We never failed to mourn the loss of any soldier, but his death was much more disturbing.
Barry Sip, C/503, 173rd Airborne Bde, November, 1967 to December 1968.
Thanks for letting us remember, and be OK with always being so sad, and no place to put the sad.
The family of John Weber
Marlin Edwin Bembenek
Army Specialist Five
Born: January 2, 1942
Died: October 27, 1966
My brother, Marlin Edwin Bembenek, died 30 years ago, saving someone else's life. That was my brother. He was a giver - he would give the shirt of his back, or anything, to help someone else.
Marlin was exactly one year and 12 days older than I. From my earliest memories, I looked to him with respect and admiration. He was my mentor, my leader, my teacher, my playmate, and my good friend.
When Marlin started school and I was too young to go, he used to come home and immediately read everything that he had learned that day from each book. I sat there, looking over his shoulder and learning to read along with him. I couldn't wait to go to school - to learn all those fascinating stories and things.
Each time someone asked what my brother did in Vietnam, the answer, "He's a medic in the infantry", brought a solemn look to the asker's face. Their silent prayers rang loudly in my head as I barely heard their voices softly whisper, "I hope he comes home." These responses should have prepared me for the inevitable. But all they did was prepare me for the 6:00 a.m. phone call that morning, when I knew what had happened even before my mother told me.
When Mom told me the date and time fo death, my mind immediately went back to that horribly strange, weirdly uncomfortable feeling that had briefly come over me as I taught my ladies' exercise class that same night. Could it be....? Yes, 8:00 p.m. Wednesday night in Minnesota, was 10:00 a.m. Thursday morning in Vietnam.
It was a sad, difficult funeral. There were a lot of people there, many of whom I didn't even know. I only remember a few things that happened:
Our eight-year old brother stood alone next to the coffin. I was standing apart, watching and thinking that he barely knew his older brother, who had left home three years earlier, enlisting in order to avoid the draft, thinking he would have a better chance as an enlistee rather than a draftee. The tear that fell from my younger brother's eye, falling on my older brother's casket tore my heart out. It was hard enough for me. What was it like for him? Although I would never again be able to my big brother, learn from him, share plans and experiences with him, or even tease him, at least I have lots of wonderful memories. And I have my two cherished gifts - a bracelet he sent me from his station, Fort Richardson, Alaska, congratulating me on my college graduation; and some furry Alaskan slippers that I try not to wear much, for fear they'll wear out. I was lucky that year - to have my name chosen to send a gift to Marlin for the Christmas exchange. Was it our special bond from childhood that selected my name?
I feel sad for our younger brother. He was deprived fo knowing his special older brother during his growing years.
Hearing taps - the most horrible, lonely, lovely song in the world.
I can't write anymore. I'm crying again. Marlin, I miss you.
Jan Barosh, sister of Marlin Bembenek
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