Dixie Marines honor member’s ‘last request’

Marines of Utah Dixie Detachment 1270 gather around Bernie Henkel at a local shooting range. L-R Larry Mineer, Tuffy Ruth, Henkel (seated) Les Covey and Steve Handy. St. George, Utah, March 27, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Bill Fortune, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Members of Utah Dixie Detachment 1270 assembled at local shooting range March 27 to give a fellow detachment member his “last request.”

L-R Bernie Henkel and Steve Handy make their way to the firing line at a local shooting range. St. George, Utah, March 27, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Bill Fortune, St. George News

Bernard R. Henkel, an associate member of the detachment, learned recently that he is suffering from heart and kidney failure. He then asked the detachment if they would support his last request to go to the range and have a great time shooting various weapons that they all had handled during their time of service.

Henkel was born in Germany and at 8 years old was running from bomb crater to bomb crater dodging American bombs. After escaping from East Germany in 1954, Henkel and his twin brother arrived in 1957 in New York with $2. He served in the U.S. Army with the U.S. Army’s First Infantry Division and later in Europe, then Vietnam.

Although his military service was with the Army and SeaBees, in 2015 Henkel was a neighbor of D’Arcy Grisier  the commandant of the Marine Corps League at the time. At Grisier’s invitation, Henkel enthusiastically embraced the Marine ethos he found in the Dixie Detachment and became an active associate member.

Marines of Utah Dixie Detachment 1270, L-R Bernie Henkel, Les Covey, Billion Johnston, Steve Handy, Steve Bowers, Larry Mineer and Pat Lisi, sing the “Marines’ Hymn” at the end of their event fulfilling fellow detachment member Bernie Henkel’s “last request” at the range. St. George, Utah, March 27, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Bill Fortune, St. George News

On March 27, about 10 members of the detachment gathered at the range. Les Covey, a detachment member and range safety officer, coordinated the event with Steve Handy, the detachment chaplain.

They even created a fun target called “Marine Golf” wherein golf balls were secured in a thick piece of cardboard. This worked well until Billion Johnston, a Marine sniper, fired on it, taking out two of the golf balls. Nobody else wanted to try.

The chief range officer, Dan Briggs, brought several different types of rifles for the Marines to fire. They had a M1903 Springfield rifle, .30 caliber, the rifle they carried in WWI and into to Guadalcanal, an M-1 rifle carried through out WWII and Korea, an M-14 and M-16 used in Vietnam and other modern weapons. A lot of memories went down range with the bullets from those weapons.

As the echo of rounds grew less the Marines gathered around their friend and sang to him a rousing version of the “Marines’ Hymn.”

The official motto of the Marine Corps is semper fidelis, Latin for “always faithful,” an unofficial motto is “Marines take care of their own” so this faithful detachment member received his last request at the shooting range.

Written and submitted by BILL FORTUNE, Utah Dixie Detachment 1270 Marine Corps League

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2 Comments

  • Not_So_Much April 4, 2018 at 8:37 am

    Great story. Bless ’em

  • RationalGuy April 4, 2018 at 8:55 am

    Sadly, a key bit of information omitted by the author was that this event took place at the Red Cliffs Rifle and Pistol Range, (an all volunteer organization) out at the Washington County Southern Utah Shooting Sports Park. Otherwise a nice article.

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