Lo­cal World War II vet­eran Ger­ald Hipps re­mem­bered

The Covington News - - Local - PETE MECCA news@cov­news.com

On Aug. 21, Iwo Jima vet­eran Ger­ald “Bud” Hipps passed gen­tly into the good night.

His funeral Satur­day paid trib­ute to the pass­ing of a hus­band, fa­ther, grand­fa­ther and great-grand­fa­ther. The preacher men­tioned ‘tough but ten­der’ a dozen times in the eu­logy; the Ma­sons paid homage to their fra­ter­nity brother; mem­bers of a Marine Corps League were present as was a three-mem­ber team of an ac­tive Marine Color Guard that folded the flag, then pre­sented the col­ors to Mrs. June Hipps. A per­fect ‘Taps’ played by a lady Marine res­onated in the back­ground.

Along with Mrs. Hipps, the 3 sons were in at­ten­dance, Gary, Terry and Mike, boys the preacher por­trayed as ‘tough but ten­der,’ just like their fa­ther. Hipps’ sis­ter Mary Ed­wards, trav­eled from Florida to see and touch her brother one last time. Fam­ily traits were ap­par­ent in his sis­ter’s gra­cious and heart-warm­ing per­son­al­ity.

The two Marines fold­ing the flag wore im­mac­u­late dress blues, ma­neu­vered with pre­ci­sion, spoke with self-con­fi­dence and dig­nity. I guessed their age in the early 20s. Ger­ald Hipps was al­ready a com­bat-hard­ened vet­eran of the hell called Iwo Jima be­fore his 20th birthday. With his mother’s writ­ten per­mis­sion, Hipps joined the Marines at the age of 16 and hit the black sands of Iwo in his 17th year.

The poor boy from Miami was now a boy-sol­dier, fac­ing an en­trenched en­emy on a God-for­saken sul­fur land­mass in the mid­dle of the Pa­cific Ocean. He landed on the beach with 240 Marines of Easy Com­pany and af­ter more than a month of fe­ro­cious fight­ing was one of the 27 Marines from Easy that walked off the is­land alive.

Hipps earned the Pur­ple Heart. He was hit by shrap­nel al­most im­me­di­ately as he stepped off the Higgins Boat onto Sul­fur Is­land. The Navy corps­man who patched his wounds was John Bradley, one of the fa­mous flag-rais­ers on Mount Surib­achi and fa­ther of fu­ture award-win­ning au­thor James Bradley, who wrote Flags of our Fathers, later made into the movie di­rected by Clint East­wood.

Hipps guarded both flag-rais­ing events atop Mount Surib­achi, later stepped on a land mine that didn’t det­o­nate, fought hand-to-hand in fox­holes, saw bud­dies die and heard wounded Marines cry for their moth­ers. He knew his luck was run­ning out; the odds were stacked against him, so he prayed for God to spare his life. In less than an hour, what was left of Easy Com­pany was re­lieved by the U.S. Army.

God prayers. Hipps kept the graphic mem­o­ries of Iwo Jima bot­tled up inside to spare his fam­ily the hor­rors of what he ex­pe­ri­enced. His nights con­sisted of night­mares and cold sweats, but he re­mained God-fear­ing and friendly to a fault, but above all else, prin­ci­pled. Only in re­cent years did Hipps talk of Iwo Jima and re­join his Band of Broth­ers for brunches and spe­cial events. He was fi­nally at peace with his war, and now may this ‘tough but ten­der’ Marine rest in peace.

He loved his fam­ily. He loved peo­ple. He loved life. Amer­ica lost a hero; we all lost a friend.

Sem­per Fi, Marine.

Colum­nist and vet­eran Pete Mecca at­tended the funeral of World War II vet­eran Ger­ald Hipps and wrote some thoughts about the ser­vice and the man he in­ter­viewed in­depth pre­vi­ously.

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