"Ripley at the Bridge"
He always said, "One person can make a difference," and on a spring day in 1972 he showed everyone what he meant.
Early on Easter Sunday 1972, Marine Captain John Ripley was certain that he was a dead man. By that day's end at Dong Ha, when his children—twelve time zones behind—were beginning to rummage through their Easter baskets, he figured he would be lying face down in the mud. Never again would he see his peaceful home in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, a world away in more respects than one.
But when Ripley looked around and saw young Vietnamese Marines ready to face death with him, his mindset toughened and a sense of calm—familiar to warriors through the centuries—began to take hold. As he recalled later, "When you know you're not going to make it, a wonderful thing happens. You stop being cluttered by the feeling that you're going to save your butt." Thus unencumbered, he could face the day and focus on the task ahead.