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 American Legion Post 4 Honor Guard Commander Mike “Sarge” Parr, of Chesterfield Township, reads a poem Aug. 6 called “Reading of the Remembered,” for the family of Robert Fante, who died 50 years ago in the Vietnam War.

American Legion Post 4 Honor Guard Commander Mike “Sarge” Parr, of Chesterfield Township, reads a poem Aug. 6 called “Reading of the Remembered,” for the family of Robert Fante, who died 50 years ago in the Vietnam War.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Fallen Marine remembered 50 years later

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published August 13, 2018

 Robert’s brother, Michael, places a special marker — accompanied by a citation and an American flag — next to Robert’s headstone at Resurrection Cemetery in Clinton Township.

Robert’s brother, Michael, places a special marker — accompanied by a citation and an American flag — next to Robert’s headstone at Resurrection Cemetery in Clinton Township.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Michael Fante stood in the bright green grass, in solace, staring at the headstone of his brother 50 years to the day he died.

Michael and family members were on hand Aug. 6 at Resurrection Cemetery, 18201 Clinton River Road in Clinton Township, to honor the life and legacy of Marine Cpl. Robert Gerald Fante. And what a life he lived, even if it was shorter than it was ever meant to be.

Fante served as a squad leader with Company F of the Second Battalion of the Fifth Marines, meticulously showing duty in association with the task at hand in Vietnam. On Aug. 6, 1968, while participating in a search-and-clear operation south of the Thu Ben River during Operation Mameluke Thrust, his platoon came under heavy fire from North Vietnamese soldiers entrenched in a tree line.

The young man maneuvered his men forward, directing grenadiers to fire into the tree line, successfully suppressing hostile fire and enabling advancement. Fante single-handedly assaulted the enemy position, forcing them to flee.

Marines continued forward, destroying bunkers with hand grenades. When one of his cohorts was seriously wounded, Fante went to his rescue, evacuating the injured to a covered position. A camouflaged enemy bunker was spotted and was subsequently attacked with hand grenades, killing two enemy soldiers.

When advancement was attempted upon open terrain, enemies’ automatic weapons shot Fante dead. 

In a special ceremony in 1968 in Detroit, the Navy Cross was posthumously awarded to Robert Fante’s mother, Elizabeth, who is now 93 years old. The Navy Cross is the U.S. military’s second-highest decoration award for valor in combat, behind only the Medal of Honor.

“(Robert’s) not just a headstone,” said Karen Straffon, who annually coordinates the military-themed Wreaths Across America and other pro-military events. “What he did was absolutely phenomenal.”

Following Straffon’s reading of Fante’s heroism, three members of the American Legion Post 4 Honor Guard — led by Commander Mike “Sarge” Parr — shot their rifles into the air while Parr later stated, “Welcome home.”

Robert Fante’s journey isn’t as common today as it used to be. The family grew up in Roseville. Michael, who was two years older, was drafted into the Army and served in Germany.

“(Robert) wanted to be in the Marine Corps,” said Michael, who lives in Jeddo, north of Port Huron. “He quit high school to be in the Marine Corps. My mother had to sign for him; he was 17. Growing up, we were an average family. After he was 17, I only saw him once after that.”

Robert was 19 the last time his brother, Michael, said a word to him in person. Robert joined the Marines in 1966, telling his mother, “The Marine Corps was the only civilized place in the world.”

“He was a very smart person,” Michael said. “He never got anything but an ‘A’ in high school, and he quit with three months to go. … School bored him.”

Life’s tribulations were apparent before, during and after Robert’s journey. Before the young men entered the military, their father died. Nearly a decade following Robert’s death, their sister, Nancy, was killed in 1977 by a drunk driver.

Putting Robert’s courage in perspective is simple. As Michael noted, his brother was impacted during his first tour by a grenade that detonated by accident. “He had 17 holes in his body” from shrapnel. Michael visited his brother at Great Lakes Hospital in Chicago during his rehabilitation.

Once he was medically cleared, he volunteered to go back to Vietnam. The rest, as they say, is history.

“It doesn’t feel like 50 years,” Michael said. “I named my oldest son after him. We think about him all the time. We wonder what it would have been like.”

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