Two combat veterans, separated by two generations but not not by their honor and commitment to the United States have carved their family name into the scrolls of American military history.
Both participated in operations that were some of the most notable of their respective wars and by chance were chosen to recount their war experience on Fox News Channel’s War Stories- the longest running military documentary series in television history.
Claude J. Scoggins, Jr and his grandson Phillip both chose to earn the title of United States Marine but it wasn’t until Claude joined the Army’s 101st Airborne Division at the start of WWII was his heroism destined.
If you have read “Band of Brothers,” or seen the award winning 10-part HBO series of the same name, you will know of his unit -the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
In June of 1944, Claude and his fellow men of Charlie company parachuted into France to liberate it from the Nazis who had seized control 1,000 days prior.
After landing ten miles inland from the famous Normandy beach, he recalled pulling the pin of one of his grenades upon hearing the sound of German soldiers nearby.
“Thank goodness the Germans were as confused as we were,” he said during an interview in 2007.
During the ensuing battle, it wasn’t long before Claude was struck by a Nazi bullet -as many others did.
“I can guarantee you that for every one of these guys who died there were three who were hurt bad,” he said.
Only 34 men of the 140 men of Charlie company walked off the battlefield that day, according to Claude.
Claude left Normandy with his first Purple Heart to unknowingly earn another one in another famous battle of WWII, the “Battle of the Bulge,” which claimed over 19,000 American lives.
During the rest of the war, the paratrooper went on to receive a total of three purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars.
Little did Claude know, his resilience and determination to survive for his brothers in arms during WWII would provide his grandson the much needed strength to do the same almost sixty years later.
Claude’s grandson, Phillip, has been visiting his grandfather’s grave every week since his passing in 2013.
“I don’t say anything to my wife or my Mom and Dad. I go there every week and just sit and talk to him,” he told Popular Military.
During his latest visit he pointed out his grandfather’s service record contained more awards than could be displayed at his grave site. When posting a video of his visit, he stated, “There wasn’t enough room on his plaque….3 Bronze Stars and 3 Purple Hearts.”
But for Phillip, no placard could ever summarize his grandfathers acts of valor, as their true worth is what they have provided him.
Phillip volunteered to join the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines during one of their most trying times in recent history -the “First Battle of Ramadi” in Iraq.
“I was pretty stoked about going home, but they were asking for volunteers for a casualty replacement company,” Phillip said.
For the first time since the Vietnam War, a casualty replacement company was activated and it was made up of all volunteers.
“It was made up of all volunteers that were about to get out, but volunteered to be sent out to units that had taken heavy losses,” he said.
In April of 2004 -just shy of sixty years since Claude took a leap of faith with his brothers- the men of 2nd battalion were attacked by complex ambushes for four days straight in the city of Ramadi, taking the lives of 17 brave Marines.
“Though battles in places such as Fallujah and Najaf have gotten far more attention, the Marine battalion in this provincial capital has encountered the most deadly combat fighting and logged the highest number of casualties of any U.S. battalion since the war in Iraq began,” USA Today reported.
Over seven months, twenty percent of the entire 1,000-man force had been killed or wounded.
Photo journalist David Swanson, who was embedded with Echo company of the 2/4 Marines, captured the horrors of their experience. He recalls taking a photo of a Marine sitting in a bullet ridden Humvee -that eight Marines had just died in- that went on to be ran in newspapers and magazines back home.
Three days after taking the picture, the Marine would fall in battle in the exact same place the photo was taken.
Phillip admitted that he is no “Rambo” and it took courage beyond himself to make the difficult decision to volunteer to go into harms way.
He remembers knowing he was going to Iraq after his machine gun team called him as he was out processing from the Marine Corps to tell him they were volunteering.
“The only reason I can even think that I would do this, is knowing Grampa got out of every hospital after he was hit, to be with his buddies. Nothing to do with me, but I know that’s what he would have done,” said Phillip.
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