Wednesday, November 19, 2003


Ribbon Creek Incident 1956
Plt #71 Parris Island, SC
S/Sgt Matthew C. McKeon USMC

Tribute to a fallen Marine
by John Stevens
(Sent to me by the author of, "The Court-martial At Parris Island: The Ribbon Creek Incident")


I thought you and the other Marines who knew or knew of Matt McKeon might be interested in the obituary I wrote after attending his funeral last Saturday:
November 15, 2003

On a hardscrabble hill overlooking the rural neighborhood where he was born, Matthew McKeon was buried today. More than a hundred of his friends and family huddled together in the face of the late autumn winds as an admixture of Catholic blessings and Marine Corps salutes paid final tribute to the flawed but noble spirit whose lifeless embodiment was laid to its final rest.

Forty-seven years ago, this same man was reviled by all too many people as a heartless butcher, a sadist whose momentous error of judgment caused six Marine recruits to drown in the black waters of Ribbon Creek. His life thereafter was in many ways an effort to seek redemption for the act that he could never undo. At his court-martial he testified that had he been asked to walk to the gallows he would have done so. A devout man, he prayed every day of his life thereafter for the souls of his lost recruits and for forgiveness.

But there was so much more to this man than was revealed by the publicity surrounding the events from which he derived such notoriety. Until that time he had an unblemished military record, serving in World War II aboard the carrier “Essex� and as a machine gunner on the frigid battlefields at the Chosin Reservoir. He was a battle-tested Marine who had faithfully and honorably served his country in the face of peril.

Matt McKeon was a gregarious man without hint of guile or pretense. Tears flowed down his cheeks as he recounted to me the events of Ribbon Creek forty years earlier. He was faithful to his wife, Betty, loyal to his friends, and loving to his extended family. He never sought to escape responsibility or to cast the burden on others for the deaths at Parris Island. Say what one will, he was a man of character.

Matt McKeon died at his home, quite appropriately on Veterans Day, his family at his side. May he rest in peace enjoying now the redemption never attainable in his lifetime. If there is a place beyond, may he forever be joined in serenity with the six young men who preceded him there.

For further details/reference Click Here!!!!!

Information: Plt #71, PISC, Ribbon Creek Incident, S/Sgt McKeon, etc.

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By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
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