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Two   Good Corpsmen!                 

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Clarence Ashby "Rip"  Presley from Council VA and I from Laredo TX were born in August of the same year.  We met at The Balboa Naval Hospital, CA.when we were going thru Corpsmen School (HM).  Upon graduation , "Rip" said, "we have to get stationed at  to the  National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda MD I said, "why?" and he said because that is about 10 miles from Wash. D.C.  and the beer drinking age there is 18 years old.  We were there until  we were drafted into the Fleet Marine Force (FMF).   We drank a lot of beer in Washington D.C.

 

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Erasmo Riojas HN &
          Clarence A.Presley HM3
             1950 Camp Lejune NC
President Harry S. Truman froze all enlistments in 1950 during the Korean Police Action.   "Rip" and "Rio" were  graduating from Field Medical Service School(FMSS) at Montford Point, Camp Lejurne NC.  The "Rip" tells me we should re-enlist for six years so we can get the $360.00 bonus.   He also said we were going to get killed in Korea, so why not take the money and have a great time before we shipped out.  We did it!  We spent all the money and we did not get killed in Korea!
 

"Chief" Presley returned to Korea for a second tour with the FMF and was there when the war ended.   "Chief" also did one 13 month tour of duty in the 'Nam with the FMF and was highly decorated for Combat Actions.   He remained on active duty his entire career with the Fleet Marine Force until his retirement.

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"Chief "and I visited in Charlottesville VA the last time in August 2001 a few days before his birthday.

 

 

Wednesday,  December 12, 2001 the day that "Chief" was called by the God to report to heaven.

 

          Some of My Memories of
       Clarence Ashby "Chief" Presley
                  HMC USN (Ret)

By: Erasmo  "Rio" Riojas         A.K.A.   in Korea as "The Yo-Yo"

Thank you very much, Shirly Presley, for asking me to write my memories of "Chief."  I never expected such  honor.

"Chief" Presley and I visited just prior to his birthday this past August at the Cedars. We were warned that his demise was imminent. Chief’s sense of awareness and recognition was, to my surprise, intact. We smiled about events in our youthful past. He remembered our past and he sang to us a Korean song! I was in awe! I am very sad that he is dead. A hero, a survivor of the Korean and Vietnam wars answers his call by our supreme Commander. May he forever rest in peace and await my arrival in heaven.

We first met at the U. S. Naval Hospital Balboa CA were we were enrolled in the same class for Navy Corpsmen. I bought a 15 dollar Sears guitar to learn to play it. The guys in the barracks were getting fed up with my poor attempts at making music with it. Presley, as he was called then came to me and asked me to loan it to him so he could tune it for me. Afterwards, he started playing "Under The Double Eagle." He asked me to watch him so that I could learn it. Suddenly we had a group of the men around my bunk asking Presley to play their favorite "hillbilly" songs. They said that my guitar was capable of beautiful music after all.

Presley and I became buddies, we shared our backgrounds, interests, and our plans upon completion of Corps School. A young man from the deep south befriending me, a boy of Mexican-American heritage from South Texas. There was no prejudice. I know because we went on liberty together. I know because he asked me to teach him some Mexican Songs. At the end of Corps School, I was able to play nine cords very well. Presley could sing one Mexican song. We were assigned to the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda MD. Presley bought a guitar and we practiced many hours. Soon we had a following that always invited us to their parties. They would tell Presley to "let it rip!" That he did, with his picking and singing he became a one man Nashville Oprey at our barracks. He wrote some very witty and funny songs and put them to music. They would laugh and applaud him with so much love and appreciation. He was nicknamed "the Rip." The Rip could play you almost all of Hank Williams songs and many of the other 1948 hillbilly hits. Rip and I were stuck to each other from then on.

 

In 1950, we were ordered to the Marines. We lived together, trained together and while at Camp Lejurne NC, "Rip" Presley suggested that we re-enlist for another six years in the Navy. His reason,; he wanted us to take our bonus money and buy electric guitars and amplifiers. His music made him a reputation that followed us to Korea via Camp Pendleton CA where we finished our final phases of combat and cold weather training.

Before we shipped out of Camp Lejurne, Presley took me to his home in Council Virginia. A town that he said was on top of the big "A" mountain. I got to meet all his family and was well received. We became inseparable and enjoyed our work and our navy liberties to the maximum.

We were put on a MARs seaplane at Treasure Island CA. We were being shipped off to the Korean War. The MARs had a new fangled "jet-assist" take off. The plane shook and flapped and I told "Rip" that this was it! He told me to sit back and enjoy the flight to Hawaii. Up in the air I asked him if he were afraid of dying. He said he was not afraid of dying but was afraid of surviving with loss of body parts. I learned much later that he had severed a tendon on his left little finger and had to learn to play the guitar with three fingers. I have cassette tapes to prove that one could not tell if he was picking with three or four fingers. Presley spent the last decade of his life with a disability, Alzheimer’s Disease. During our visits, we never heard him complain! One day after church I asked him what he was mostly afraid of, to which he replied: "I am now in the Lord’s hands." Those are the words of a true Warrior! We learned in combat that life and death are truly in the Lords hands.

"Chief" was his new nickname after the Vietnam war and for the rest of his life in Charlottesville VA. He married a beautiful bride, Shirley, and they have a son named Brad. "Chief" retired from a second career where he made more friends that any person can amass in a lifetime. We shall never forget the man whose life was radiant with love and compassion. A man who learned early in his life to give more than he received. A man with honor.

"Chief" wrote a poem titled, "Son of Laredo." In one page he summarized the highlights of my life. I almost choke when I read that poem because it reflects his feelings and his love for me. He applauds the man who hung around him like a little puppy dog during the best years of his life. I dearly wish I could express my feelings for the Chief as he did for me in his poem titled, "Son of Laredo."   

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Our story shall never end because at some point in time, we will be playing our guitars together again, playing hymns to be enjoyed by you beautiful people and by God and all his angels. I have never said goodbye like this to a dear friend. Perhaps goodbye is not the proper word. In closing, I shall simply say in Spanish: "hasta luego" (until later) Chief.

Erasmo "Doc" Riojas, but to you: "Yo-Yo"

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This is the last picture of "Chief" and his wife and son.  "Chief"  spent the last years of his life as a patient at the Cedar Home Convalescent Center where he received excellent health care and was very much loved by the staff.  He was buried in his CPO dress blues  with full military honors in Charlottesville VA.        May he Rest in Peace.

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