West Linn vet establishes scholarship foundation
Not many people outside of the military have heard of the Battle of Getlin's Corner. The 6-hour battle that took place March 30, 1967 in the demilitarized zone between North and South Vietnam is a remarkable testament of bravery, brotherhood, leadership and heroism.
To spread awareness of this overlooked moment in history, Lon Getlin, a Vietnam veteran living in West Linn, founded Getlin's Corner Foundation in honor of his brother Mike and the 14 other Marines and Navy corpsmen who lost their lives in the battle.
"I wanted to make sure some real genuine good comes out of it," Lon Getlin said of the foundation, which provides scholarships to the children of enlisted Marines and Navy corpsmen who served with Marines.
Lon said he also wanted something to keep the memory of the battle alive, as people who lived through the war continue to age and pass away.
"I want people who come along to understand how incredible that battle was," he said.
Of the men who fought in the battle, 2nd Lt. John Bobo posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his heroics on the battlefield. After losing the bottom half of his right leg to an exploding mortar, Bobo tied a tourniquet just below his knee and jammed what was left of his leg into the dirt to stem the bleeding and continue fighting.
Four men who fought at Getlin's Corner, including Lon's brother Mike, received the Navy Cross, and six others received Silver Stars.
Lon cited a letter Mike wrote two days before he was killed as the inspiration for the scholarships. The letter, which Mike wrote to a family chaplain, described the deep love he felt for all 220 Marines in his company.
Mike, Lon said, would never want a monument in his name, but would like the idea of a foundation benefitting the children of Marines like those he commanded. Several Navy Corpsmen, including Hospital Corpsman Third Class Kenneth Braun, who received a Navy Cross for his heroics in the battle, also fought with Mike's company.
"Enlisted Marines really don't make much money and with the cost of college as it is today, it's great to be able to help these kids," Lon said.
In the two years since he founded Getlin's Corner Foundation, the nonprofit has provided six scholarships. Lon said he's spent the past couple of years trying to build up the nonprofit so it has the means to give more.
Now that the foundation is on a more stable financial footing, Lon hopes it will provide 10 scholarships this year. He's aiming to build the foundation even further so it can provide larger scholarships to eligible students.
Though devastated by the loss of his brother, Lon said the foundation is one way he's coping with the grief.
"It's devastating to this day because he was a great big brother and a great role model," Lon said. "I worshipped him. I thought he was bulletproof. I thought nothing would happen to him."
Lon said he didn't really begin to deal with his brother's death until 1974. After five years of reckless behavior and grief, Lon said he had an epiphany while sitting in the cockpit of his fighter jet after a flight. He said he could feel Mike, who taught him to fly as a teenager, there with him. He realized then that Mike would not be proud of the way he'd been acting.
"From that time on, I reshaped what I did with the thought in mind that I wanted to make him proud," Lon said. "To this day, it never left me."
He added that he doesn't agree with the adage: "Time heals all wounds."
"You build what's left of the heart and you build it stronger," he said. "You honor the person who left you."
Find more information about the battle and the foundation, donate or apply for a scholarship at getlinscorner.org.
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