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Remembering My Brother
15 Nov 2009 | Wisconsin
Remembering My Brother Robert Dwain Arnold
From the time he was a child, my brother was extremely scrutinizing and inquisitive with a huge amount of courage. He always had the best ideas for getting us into trouble when we were young. I remember five episodes I will share. At age three he climbed to the top of our barn with one hand on the ladder and the other hand holding a pint jar of berries. My father was on the barn roof completing repairs. He said one minute he looked down and saw Bobby picking berries by the windmill and the next minute he heard, “Look daddy, see what I have!" My brother had placed both hands on the pint jar to show his treasure and was teetering on the ladder when my father made a lunge for him, catching him before he fell. Bobby wasn't scared but my father said he shook realizing how close he came to losing him. When I was old enough to tag along with Bobby, there was a day he decided it would be fun to let the calves out of their pens in the barn. It WAS neat running with the little ones. We were laughing and having a lot of fun until my dad walked into the barn and saw the chaos. Helping our father clean up the mess wasn't the job we wanted but he taught us in the best way possible the consequences of a bad choice. There was that hot, July afternoon Bobby decided we should get into the cattle water tank and float for some relief from the heat. We lifted Rex, our dog, into the tank with us. He loved paddling around in that nice cool, clean water. Mom found us and said, "You better get out of there right now!" Our father returned from an auction and made us drain and clean the tank. What a tedious task that was! Again, we learned in the best way from our mistakes. My mom's folks lived a couple of miles west of us on another farm. We loved visiting our grandparents. The neighbor kids would come to see us and we always found lots to do. It was another hot, dusty day just before the start of the school year. Bobby said, “Let’s go up into the haymow and rake together all of the loose straw. We can make it into a huge pile; go up on the platform halfway to the roof and jump." That sounded like a great idea. We let Bobby jump first, figuring if he didn't get hurt, we would all try it. We were busy for a couple of hours with this adventure and the jumping was unbelievably fun. When we finished, our mother caught sight of us and was very upset. We were covered in dust, chicken feathers and pigeon poop. A bath and clothing change could solve most of the problem but what concerned our mother was the fact that Bobby suffered from asthma and she knew she would be propping him up on pillows and medicating him that night. We were forbidden from engaging in that activity again. Our father had taught us to ride our horses bareback. All you needed was a bridle. That wasn't enough for Bobby. He decided we should ride the cows as well, like bulls were ridden in a rodeo. He couldn't get the bridle on them so he got on a fence and jumped on the back of one. It didn't work well so I decided I wasn't going to go along with that idea. Once again our father let us learn on our own that some ideas aren't good ones. Cows were for milking, not rodeo riding.
Bob was always mischievous. His senior and my sophomore year, he teased me without mercy after I had been voted Christmas Ball queen and didn't want to date his friends or guys in general. The teasing ceased once he was in the Marine Corps. With the exception of one guy, he screened his fellow Marines carefully before he allowed them to write to me. He was extremely protective at that time and absolutely the perfect big brother. I like to think he was shopping for a future brother-in-law, one he felt he would get along well with. He told me if any of the guys around gave me any problems, he would take care of them when he got home.
Bob would stage battles with his plastic men and horses when he was a child. He wanted me to play war with him but it wasn't fun from my perspective. He was always flanking my men and painting red dots on them for blood. I wanted to be outside rescuing birds from cats, cats from dogs and bunnies from whatever. His dream was to go to West Point but he wouldn't crack the books. His teachers said he scored very high on the achievement tests from the state but his grades did not reflect his talent. His teachers would observe him in the school library reading encyclopedias rather than his school texts. He also was an avid reader of all war books and adventure novels. We both enjoyed visiting the Galesville library as kids. In my research of our family tree, I have learned where the huge attraction to the military and outdoor adventures came from. There was a sea captain among the Whitehorns and a knawing hunger for adventure and travel with the Arnold branch. At age 18, our GG grandfather Parley Pratt Stoner secretly signed up for the Civil War. When his parents finally learned about what he had done, they sent his older brother, John, to war to keep an eye on him. Great grandfather Tom Hayter got off the ship in New York and immediately signed up on the side of the north to fight in the Civil War. I was accepted for membership into the D.A.R. after finding at least two of our ancient grandfathers who fought in the Revolutionary War. Our 4th great grandfather, Andrew McWain Jr. was pensioned from the Revolutionary War. In the Ayer line, there was a grandfather who fought as well; his wife, our grandmother, served as a nurse. Of course, our great uncle was in WW 1 and my dad served in the medical corps in France during WW 2 despite the fact he was legally blind in one eye.
Bob enlisted in the Marine Corps in June of 1965. After three months in boot camp and a few weeks of advanced infantry training, he was flown to Okinawa, received advanced Artillery training and was transported aboard the U.S.S. Monticello to South Vietnam. The first operation he was involved in was Double Eagle where the outfit of Marines he was with fought from two man, fox holes, for four days to kill fleeing VC the 101st Airborne was chasing. They were assigned as "Grunts" (Infantry) even though his MOS was Artillery. He was transferred from C to B to A battery. During these few short months he and fellow Marines went on patrols, fired the 105 Howitzers, and were ambushed and mortared. He sent home a very detailed and deeply disturbing letter describing how they lost three good Marines during an ambush he and fellow Marines were involved in. The Marines watched their medic die in front of them as they waited for a medavac helicopter. His life ended at 1:30 A while he was on watch for enemy, protecting the 105's. In a letter received from the Marine on the gun with him that night, we learned they were the first to spot the enemy coming to attack. Bob radioed the other guns and started for the tents to wake sleeping buddies. He was not quite to the tents when the enemy shot him. He died instantly from multiple gunshot wounds. His date of death was April 18, 1966. He had been in the Marine Corps for less than 11 months. He died three months short of his 19th birthday.
His file is quite large now, but I am only able to include a few items in this media section. There are some deeply private letters and stories from Bob and some of the Marines he was with that I can't display to protect the privacy of fellow Marines. Close family will cherish these items I am sure, just as I do. Years after Bob was killed, the family met two of his Marine buddies and spoke on the phone with two more. There was one characteristic of Bob that always came up.
They all agreed: "BOB WAS A LOT OF FUN." We know exactly what they meant.
Bonnie Arnold Gallegos, Robert Dwain Arnold's loving sister.
15 Nov 2009 This letter was sent to me from Bonnie Arnold Gallegos, cj