While there will be few whom I mention here that I will have actually known, they are still deserving of mention for their sacrifices and service to our country. It is very little that I do in bring them to your attention. May God be with the family of John P. Bodnar, former U.S. Marine, who served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. His service to his country as a Marine spanned 32 years.
The following news story is about him with a link at the bottom to the actual story online.
Mourners Stand at Attention for the Late John P. Bodnar
Saturday, February 19, 2011
By EARL J. CATAGNUS Jr.
For The Times Herald
On Feb. 14, 2011, Sergeant Major John P. Bodnar United States Marine Corps (Retired) passed away.
WEST NORRITON — On Feb. 14, Sergeant Major John P. Bodnar United States Marine Corps (Retired) passed away leaving behind a legacy of greatness for not only his family, but this nation as well.
His 32 years of service as a United States Marine is riddled with heroic deeds that, quite literally, movies were based upon.
Being one of the fabled veterans of three different wars — World War II, Korea and Vietnam — Bodnar was a giant even among their ranks.
His viewing, held Friday, was crowded with people paying tribute.
Marine Corps and American flags lined the entrance to the Boyd-Horrox funeral home. Members of Warriors Watch, a motorcycle club dedicated to supporting “our nation’s warriors, past and present” were the standard bearers.
They stood at attention with faces cast in the stoic pose characteristic of the guardians of a sacred tradition for honoring fallen warriors.
Posted at the head of the casket stood an honor guard of Marine Corps League members, whose duty was to protect Bodnar during his final journey home.
Bodnar’s family ensured all who entered understood just who he was — a United States Marine, loving husband and caring father. They lined the halls with Bodnar’s pictures, memorabilia and many, many articles written about him and his exploits throughout the years.
In remembering his father, Albert Fitzgerald, Bodnar’s oldest son, said, “He was a loving and caring father.” He spoke of both his mother and father with loving affection and recounted how they met.
In February 1957, Bodnar met his wife, Margaretta. She was a travel clerk when he walked in for orders after a deployment to Japan. Seeing the young, attractive Margaretta, Bodnar continued to make visits to her office until they joined the bowling team together. Although they did not marry until 1971, at that moment their bond was sealed. Fitzgerald said, “it was a long courtship, but they thoroughly loved each other.”
But Bodnar’s life touched others as well.
State Sen. John Rafferty, R-44th Dist., said, “the sergeant major was a great American hero … a real gentlemen in every aspect of the word … he was always helping people and that speaks to his character.”
Bruce Castor, Montgomery County Commissioner, said, “ I knew him for many years.” In retelling a story, he said, “When I was a young attorney, he not only pulled me aside and talked to me about his time spent in the Marine Corps, but he even gave me advice on how I should try my cases.”
There was no American person or organization that the sergeant major was not willing to help.
In recalling a fond memory of Bodnar, Sgt. Maj. Calvin Books, retired from the United States Marine Corps Reserve, who knew him since 1971 when Books was a sergeant at Naval Air Station Willow Grove, said, “he was a fascinating character.”
Once when Books asked Bodnar about why he wore a European Campaign Ribbon, which, Books thought, no Marines rated because they were all in the Pacific during World War II, Badnor said, “Come on kid. I’ll tell you.”
At that, Books was captivated by an amazing story of heroism reminiscent of something that could only occur in a Hollywood film.
Bodnar’s funeral was held at Visitation of the Blessed Mary in Trooper. The sprawling church was almost full.
Escorting Bodnar into and out of the church were Marines from MAG 49 stationed at Willow Grove. The respect deserved by a sergeant major of Marines was given in every aspect of the word.
In a heart-wrenching eulogy, Bodnar’s granddaughter reminded all in attendance of the man she knew as opposed to the “strong and tough war hero” that everyone knew him as. With tears in her eyes and courage in her heart, she told of how “gentle, kind, and loving” he was. Calling him “pop-pop,” she told how he would leave individual notes every morning for his wife and her. Within the notes, he told his wife how “beautiful” she was and how his granddaughter “was the greatest granddaughter in the world.”
The weight of the love felt for this giant of a man was heavy among all those in attendance. There was no doubt that a great man had passed and left behind a heritage of bravery, kindness and eternal gratefulness in all those he met.
In a second eulogy, a member of the Marine Corps League summarized Bodnar’s career as a Marine.
Bodnar, a Collegeville resident, enlisted in 1940 after his graduation from Coatesville High School. At the beginning of World War II, he became one of the very few Marines “jump” qualified, and was labeled a “Para-Marine.”
Soon after becoming an instructor at the Marine Corps’ parachute school at Camp Lejuene, N.C., Bodnar was recruited by then-Major Peter Ortiz to become part of the Office of Strategic Services. Known as the OSS, this was the precursor to the CIA and was responsible mainly for the coordination, training and supplying of resistance movements behind enemy lines.
For Bodnar’s heroic actions behind enemy lines during the war, he received the Silver Star, and later awarded the Legion of Honor from the French. His team was the basis for two Hollywood movies, one of which starred James Cagney.
During the Korean War, Bodnar was with the 1st Marine Division in the Inchon Landings, and the Chosin Resevoir. He served two tours in Vietnam, one along the Demilitarized Zone and at DaNang.
In 1972, Bodnar, after serving 32 years, retired.
One word comes to mind when describing Bodnar – hero. Great men, heroes, are measured not by the actions they take, but the influence upon the people they leave behind.
The loss of Bodnar is an American tragedy. Buried with him are the memories of a truly courageous man who not only could recall a trying time in this nation’s past but also how he left his footprint on it. He leaves behind a grieving family, faithful band of brothers and a grateful nation. Fair winds and following seas, sergeant major.
Earl J. Catagnus Jr. is a Purple Heart recipient and former infantry Marine. Currently, he is working towards his doctorate in military history at Temple University.
As Mr. Catagnus, the author of the above story, expressed, I would also like to extend my wishes that many not forget what men such as Mr. Bodnar did for all of us.