Basic School Class 2-65 New Orleans 2019 Reunion

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John Scarsella's Story

John Stephen Sayer 1942-1966

Sayer went by the first name Steve, never John.

I met Steve in August 1964 when we reported in to our TBS class 2-65.  As the Marine Corps did everything in alphabetical order (probably still does) SAYER and SCARSELLA were seated next to each other and a friendship was struck. We are seated next to each other in the 5th Platoon picture on our web site.

Steve was an incredible athlete, possessed a warm and friendly personality and made friends easily.  He was one of those special people that when you met him you immediately liked him, as did everyone in the platoon.

As we all remember running the Obstacle Course for timed score was a significant grade for all Lieutenants in the Basic School.  We had the single run of the course and the really tough double running for time.  Steve was a real whiz at the O’Course.  He ran through it as if the obstacles weren’t there.

One of my other classmates, who is still a close friend, George Sandstrom, (highly decorated UH-34 pilot from 2-65) and I were marginal O’ Course runners. We could get by but our times weren’t anything to brag about. Steve took it upon himself to work with George and I after class hours to hone our techniques on the course to boost our speeds.  Steve spent countless after hour workouts with George and me, when he could have been relaxing in the Officer’s club having beers with the guys.

He was that kind of guy, a real leader and a good pal.

During Steve’s college years and during a Thanksgiving break he lost his two top front teeth in a pickup football game.  He would joke and take the teeth out occasionally and get us laughing at his misfortune.

After graduating from TBS and then Communications School I was assigned as CommO for 8th Engr. Battalion with Force Troops, FMF Atlantic at Camp Lejeune.  Steve was assigned as an infantry officer with 2nd Mar Div also at Camp Lejeune NC.  We continued out friendship.  I was a married officer and Steve a bachelor but he frequented our base house on Pelilieu St. and often came by for a dinner or a few beers and conversation.  The night before Steve departed on his orders to WESTPAC, as we called it back in  the day, he came by the house in the evening for a couple of beers and to say goodbye.  As we stood at my door as he was leaving he told me he had serious misgivings regarding his pending duty assignment.  He told me that he had a really bad feeling about the future.  Of course I told him that he was being silly and that nothing would happen to him.  How wrong I was and how precise he was.

 I was at Camp Schwab, Okinawa when Steve was killed and learned from another friend about the incident.  I read his name in the Stars and Stripes newspaper and have mourned his loss all of these years. I learned from others that Steve had been on patrol and was ambushed. He called for close air support and apparently, as it was told to me, a 500 lb. bomb skipped over a ridge line and detonated at Steve’s position killing him and others from his patrol.

A few years ago I bought a memorial brick at The National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico for Steve. The memorial bricks are laid on the pathway up to the chapel.  I posted that fact on the Virtual Wall at the time. A couple of years later when visiting the museum with Bill Simpson, also an old friend and classmate from 2-65 with whom I have remained close, my wife and I were searching for the brick I purchased for Steve.  We couldn’t find it and I went back down to the museum to check the computer for the exact location.  Bill and Joy Simpson were tuckered out and decided to sit out the next trek up the path. When Jean and I returned to the memorial pathway there was only one other couple on the entire path, which is long and winding and usually crowded with museum visitors.  As we approached the couple I curiously asked if they were having any luck finding the brick they were looking for.  They said NO they couldn’t find theirs either.  I asked, who are you looking for and the man said “I’m looking for John Stephen Sayer.”

My wife and I were thunderstruck.  How could 4 people, on that particular day, with no one else in sight be looking for the same memorial brick? There are literally a thousand or so memorial bricks on that path. The couple was from Watertown, NY, Steve’s hometown, and the gentleman was an old Marine and told us the story of how he talked Steve into joining the Corps and him and his wife came to the National Museum of the Marine Corps specifically to look for Steve’s memorial brick.  They had read my posting on the Virtual Wall about my placing the brick there in Steve’s memory.

The experience was something special and my wife and I felt that Steve was somehow looking down on that place and put the four of us together to share our stories about him.

Semper Fidelis, Frater Infinitas.

John Scarsella

TBS Class 2-65

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