Two Good Corpsmen!
Clarence Ashby “Rip” Presley from Council VA and Erasmo “Rio” Riojas from Laredo TX were born in August of the same year. We met at The Balboa Naval Hospital, CA.when we were going thru Corpsmen School (HM). Upon graduation , “Rip” said, “we have to get stationed at to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda MD I said, “why?” and he said because that is about 10 miles from Wash. D.C. and the beer drinking age there is 18 years old. We were there until we were drafted into the Fleet Marine Force (FMF). We drank a lot of beer in Washington D.C.
President Harry S. Truman froze all enlistments in 1950 during the Korean Police Action. “Rip” and “Rio” were graduating from Field Medical Service School(FMSS) at Montford Point, Camp Lejurne NC. The “Rip” tells me we should re-enlist for six years so we can get the $360.00 bonus. He also said we were going to get killed in Korea, so why not take the money and have a great time before we shipped out. We did it! We spent all the money and we did not get killed in Korea!
“Chief” Presley returned to Korea for a second tour with the FMF and was there when the war ended. “Chief” also did one 13 month tour of duty in the ‘Nam with the FMF and was highly decorated for Combat Actions. He remained on active duty his entire career with the Fleet Marine Force until his retirement.
Wednesday, December 12, 2001 the day that “Chief” was called by the God to report to heaven.
Some of My Memories of
Clarence Ashby “Chief” Presley
HMC USN (Ret)
By: Erasmo “Rio” Riojas A.K.A. in Korea as “The Yo-Yo”
Thank you very much, Shirly Presley, for asking me to write my memories of “Chief.” I never expected such honor.
“Chief” Presley and I visited just prior to his birthday this past August at the Cedars. We were warned that his demise was imminent. Chief’s sense of awareness and recognition was, to my surprise, intact. We smiled about events in our youthful past. He remembered our past and he sang to us a Korean song! I was in awe! I am very sad that he is dead. A hero, a survivor of the Korean and Vietnam wars answers his call by our supreme Commander. May he forever rest in peace and await my arrival in heaven.
We first met at the U. S. Naval Hospital Balboa CA were we were enrolled in the same class for Navy Corpsmen. I bought a 15 dollar Sears guitar to learn to play it. The guys in the barracks were getting fed up with my poor attempts at making music with it. Presley, as he was called then came to me and asked me to loan it to him so he could tune it for me. Afterwards, he started playing “Under The Double Eagle.” He asked me to watch him so that I could learn it. Suddenly we had a group of the men around my bunk asking Presley to play their favorite “hillbilly” songs. They said that my guitar was capable of beautiful music after all.
Presley and I became buddies, we shared our backgrounds, interests, and our plans upon completion of Corps School. A young man from the deep south befriending me, a boy of Mexican-American heritage from South Texas. There was no prejudice. I know because we went on liberty together. I know because he asked me to teach him some Mexican Songs. At the end of Corps School, I was able to play nine cords very well. Presley could sing one Mexican song. We were assigned to the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda MD. Presley bought a guitar and we practiced many hours. Soon we had a following that always invited us to their parties. They would tell Presley to “let it rip!” That he did, with his picking and singing he became a one man Nashville Oprey at our barracks. He wrote some very witty and funny songs and put them to music. They would laugh and applaud him with so much love and appreciation. He was nicknamed “the Rip.” The Rip could play you almost all of Hank Williams songs and many of the other 1948 hillbilly hits. Rip and I were stuck to each other from then on.
In 1950, we were ordered to the Marines. We lived together, trained together and while at Camp Lejurne NC, “Rip” Presley suggested that we re-enlist for another six years in the Navy. His reason,; he wanted us to take our bonus money and buy electric guitars and amplifiers. His music made him a reputation that followed us to Korea via Camp Pendleton CA where we finished our final phases of combat and cold weather training.
Before we shipped out of Camp Lejurne, Presley took me to his home in Council Virginia. A town that he said was on top of the big “A” mountain. I got to meet all his family and was well received. We became inseparable and enjoyed our work and our navy liberties to the maximum.
We were put on a MARs seaplane at Treasure Island CA. We were being shipped off to the Korean War. The MARs had a new fangled “jet-assist” take off. The plane shook and flapped and I told “Rip” that this was it! He told me to sit back and enjoy the flight to Hawaii. Up in the air I asked him if he were afraid of dying. He said he was not afraid of dying but was afraid of surviving with loss of body parts. I learned much later that he had severed a tendon on his left little finger and had to learn to play the guitar with three fingers. I have cassette tapes to prove that one could not tell if he was picking with three or four fingers. Presley spent the last decade of his life with a disability, Alzheimer’s Disease. During our visits, we never heard him complain! One day after church I asked him what he was mostly afraid of, to which he replied: “I am now in the Lord’s hands.” Those are the words of a true Warrior! We learned in combat that life and death are truly in the Lords hands.
“Chief” was his new nickname after the Vietnam war and for the rest of his life in Charlottesville VA. He married a beautiful bride, Shirley, and they have a son named Brad. “Chief” retired from a second career where he made more friends that any person can amass in a lifetime. We shall never forget the man whose life was radiant with love and compassion. A man who learned early in his life to give more than he received. A man with honor.
“Chief” wrote a poem titled, “Son of Laredo.” In one page he summarized the highlights of my life. I almost choke when I read that poem because it reflects his feelings and his love for me. He applauds the man who hung around him like a little puppy dog during the best years of his life. I dearly wish I could express my feelings for the Chief as he did for me in his poem titled, “Son of Laredo.”
Click on below link
Do a Search for Clarence Presley upon entering the NAVY LOG. thank you.
Our story shall never end because at some point in time, we will be playing our guitars together again, playing hymns to be enjoyed by you beautiful people and by God and all his angels. I have never said goodbye like this to a dear friend. Perhaps goodbye is not the proper word. In closing, I shall simply say in Spanish: “hasta luego” (until later) Chief.
Erasmo “Doc” Riojas, but to you: “Yo-Yo”
J. Brdford Presley and Clarence A. Presley and Erasmo Riojas at NNMC, Bethesda MD. Corpsmen Qarters Lounge Bld. 12 year 1949
Lourdes “LouLu” and I , Erasmo Riojas, visited the “RIP” and his wife Shirly and son Brad in Charlottesville, VA. Both Rip and I are USN Retired HMC’s.
Son of Laredo
By Clarence Ashby Presley of Charlottesville VA
Twas years and years and years ago
I met, and liked and came to know
A young Tex/Mex with carefree aire
Predict a future – Who would dare?
Just the barest basic chords
Hill-billy verse or western word
He grasped, devoured and spat them out
As smooth and silken Latin – south.
Time passes by the east coast calls
To Bethesda’s stately hallowed halls
His tour was pocked with incident
Then war: Korea: And off he went.
Oh no, the time was not forgot
We drank and danced & yelled a lot
And wound up in Tijuan’s jail
“Amigo, no peso, no bail”
Eight twelve and big Ten Fifty Two
The swesome dare, he’d take it too
Grenades and arms & Tiger booze
They’d take that hill, they couldn’t lose.
His badge of bravery; Fifty two
Then Charlie Med and I went too
Where’eer he’d go I was his double
Were I to keep him out of trouble
Our tour is over, “Frisco” bound
Aboard the Weegil pound for pound
The slowest, smallest , dirtiest boat
The U.S. Navy had a float.
The “Chili Bean” she won his heart
Ventricular wound by Cupid’s dart
For them two daughters, also came
Perpetuator of the name
His daring feats in Far East Lands
They hailed him “Ichiban Japan”
Then HMC and cum laude SEAL
This cat’s far out, this cat ain’t real.
To Vietnam, A volunteer
Test his mettle, must endure
Put his all, flat on the line
Pinned a hero time and time
I don’t believe it, now a nurse
His blessings now were once his curse
Wanted, studied, dared applied
Physician Assistant, Certified.
To Matamoros Mexico
This man once tagged as just “Yo Yo”
Still clims the eer ascending tree
His goal “A Doc”, That’s right M.D.
I hail “YO YO” the dearest friend
From ’48 until the end
I cheerish all the yesterday
Stand beside him come what may.
The truth; his meteroic rise
His heart to one of wisdom wise
His latest patch, once never trod
His tutor, mentor, friend; His God.
Bless You Erasmo
22, Mar 1983
C.A. “The Rip” Presley, HMC USN (Ret)
Note :Presley and I were in the same draft sent to korea.During Rip’s and my tour of the front lines in the Korean Conflict, my platoon marines nicknamed me “Yo-Yo” because they would holler C – o – r- p – m – a – n ! i would run from one to the next like a “Yo-Yo.” Best group of gung-ho USMC grunts that i had the honor to do “korea shore duty” with.
My best friend The Rip, is presently hospitalized in Charlottesville VA in a home for Alzheimers Patients. The eamil to the home is:firstname.lastname@example.org the nurses will give him a message.Do send your phone number and have Presley call you collect. God Bless my hero Clarence Ashby Presley, the musician and poet.
Korea and Vietnam War Veteran.
New Dress Uniform for “Chief”
A little over a year ago, Hospital Corpsman (HMC, Retired) Clarence “Chief” Presley came to live at The Cedars in CHarlottesville, Va. He retired from the U.S. Navy after a verydecorated career, and although Presley has some memory deficits, he remembers his war years clearly and enjoys reminiscing about his service to his country. He receives e-mail from a buddy who lives out of the country, and many visitors come to talk to him.
For some time, Presley has worried about his dress uniform not fitting him. He wanted it to be ready for his burial. Several times, he mentioned this to his wife, Shirley, and she set about easing his mind about it. She contacted Warrant Officer Charles Jones, who not only found a dressuniform coat for Presley that fit, but also gathered his award ribbons and planned a ceremony at which Presley was presented with both the coat and the ribbons.
Presley received a new dress uniform coat and his honor ribbons at a ceremony with representatives from each branch of the U.S. Military, family, friends, residents and associates at The Cedars celebrated with Presley and attended the reception afterward.
“It’s important to help residents remember who they WERE, as well as who they ARE. THis event was also a way to let the staff know what Mr. Presley had achieved in his life,” said Margaret Thacker, Recreation Services Director.
Presley’s many honors include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal with combat “V,” Purple Heart with Gold Star (two awards), Navy Commendation Medal with combat “V” and Navy Achievement Medal with Combat “V.”