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The Golden Gate - Chris Sarno Memoir

The shipís master informed them that San Francisco was about to loom on the horizon. On a cool August day, thousands of Marines in dress green uniforms of the day crowded onto the deck of the USNS General Walker to watch. "Sure enough," recalled Sarno, "there was the bridge on the horizon. Slowly by slowly, it got bigger and bigger. I had never seen the Golden Gate Bridge in my life. We had left for Korea from San Diego, and here was the Golden Gate. Iíd never seen it before, and neither had a lot of the other Marines. It got bigger and bigger and bigger." The closer the Walker came to it, the more emotional the battle-hardened Marines became. There were tears in many eyes. "It was like a release to see the Golden Gate Bridge," Sarno explained. "We had made it home after all. We didnít get killed. We were joyful."

The ship slid under the two-tiered bridge silently. "A few people on it waved to us," Sarno recalled. "The deck was full of green uniforms, and the guys were screaming their heads off. We pulled into the harbor and the scenery was just beautiful. We were back in America. The buildings were big. I saw the Presidio, a nice, squared away Army station. I saw Telegraph Hill. I was back in the United States. It was probably the greatest thrill of my life." As the ship was berthed, a Marine band wearing dress blue uniforms played the Marine Corps hymn. There were few family members to meet the returning Marines, but it didnít matter. "Nothing in my life had such an impact on my being as coming up to, and going under, the Golden Gate Bridge, waiting for it to dock and listening to that dress blue Marine band serenading us. After all the shit we had endured in Korea, well, tears welled in my eyes despite my attempts to control them. I was so happy coming down that gangway. I was bleary-eyed with tears, but so damn proud I was a combat Marine. At 19 years old, I was in love with the 1st Marine Division, FMF. I was not a super hero, but I liked war. I believe that if youíre trained under wartime conditions and thereís a war on, the Marine Corps wants you in that war."


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