Tribute to Maj. Gene Salter, the Red Lion
I have put words to songs, poems and stories throughout the years mostly for the amusement of my friends, especially my former Marine friends, but writing this tribute to a former Marine and friend who was a legend in his time is a sorrowful task not easily undertaken and the words flow from my pen with humility and a great sense of loss.
Gene was the epitome of a special breed of Marine who enlisted in the ranks, but his intelligence and personal attributes were soon recognized by the Corps and he was commissioned and later became an aviator; in fact a special kind of pilot and one that not every aviator can lay claim to. Gene was a Marine Corps helicopter pilot. And an excellent one. I had the privilege to fly with Gene on occasion and in his own laconic and self-deprecating words: "if we land in one piece and the ship is still relatively intact, the flight was a success."
However, just how brave and resourceful a helicopter pilot he was, was exhibited by his outstanding combat flying record in Vietnam and the awards and medals, including the silver Star, conferred upon him by a grateful country and United States Marine Corps. But to Gene the greatest award was the personal satisfaction he realized in the simple "Semper Fi's" from the fellow Marines whose lives he saved.
From our first HMR 261 reunion until the last, Gene's presence was always an inspiration and his God-given talents at telling humorous stories and jokes is legend and needs no acclaim.
I don't believe that Gene ever met a stranger in his life. His outgoing, positive personality and honest demeanor put everyone in his presence at ease, whether they be generals or privates. Indeed, one of Gene's strongest points and most reflective of his life was that he was never pretentious and treated all his friends with uniform sameness and utmost respect.
I find that words of accolade escape me and in conclusion I would like to leave this brief poem in remembrance of Gene and hope that somehow I have put into words the thoughts of his many, many friends and especially the brothers of HMR 261 in this simple and heartfelt tribute to this great man and Marine we knew as the Red Lion.
TRIBUTE TO MAJ. GENE 'THE RED LION' SALTER
Man's sojourn through the trials of earth is tenuous and oft times brief,
And when that Final Passing comes, it leaves family and friends filled with grief.
And there are those whose passage brings sweet nostalgia with its tears,
but the memory of the dear friend gone, does not fade with passing years.
Strong was this man we called Red Lion, who lived to the fullest his life,
yes lived to the fullest with gusto and pride, in peace and times of strife.
So as we gather to pay him homage, may his spirit wipe away your sorrows,
for the memories of him you hold so dear, will not fade through eternal tomorrows.
And mourn not friends nor pine in sorrow, for this man who spirit soars, but think of all the deeds he did, for family, God and the Corps.
Countless words could not pay tribute to this man we all called friend,
but would to God we are born in faith, and someday meet again.
So I say farewell to you dear friend, whom I hold in highest esteem, and I give you a tribute I know you would cherish: "You-were-a-Marine's-Marine."
from the pen of cd sliger
HMR 261 1957-1960