11/25/07 — Cousin seeks help with trip to find Marine's grave

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Cousin seeks help with trip to find Marine's grave

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on November 25, 2007 2:01 AM

Denied permission to travel with the U.S. Army's recovery team, but with his sights still set on seeing his cousin's grave site for himself, Cary Turner is asking for help.

He's asking for help paying for a trip to Koh Tang Island off the coast of Cambodia, where Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Har-grove is buried.

"They never said I couldn't go," Turner said. "They just said I couldn't go with them. The government says the team's looking to go in January or February, and I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

"But if for some reason they choose not to go in January or February, I definitely plan to do it myself in March."

The problem is, though, he explained, funding sources that he thought were in place earlier have fallen through.

"If anybody wants to help out, I call them 'Friends of Joseph,'" he said. "They can make checks out to 'Bring Joseph Home.' Don't make them out to me."

Turner's address is 548 Petticoat Road, Mount Olive, 28365, and if anybody has any questions, they should call him at 658-0160.

He is confident that if he can raise the money -- his goal is $5,000 -- then he can have a successful trip. He already has about $1,000.

"I have a contact that acts as an interpreter, can line up a boat crew and arrangements to get me to the island for a fee," Turner said. "And we've got a GPS (global positioning satellite) coordinate on Joseph's grave site.

"I have a good chance, and should anything change, I have a list (of donors) and I would gladly give the money back."

The site, identified in a Ralph Wetterhahn's 2001 book, "The Last Battle: The Mayaguez Incident and the End of the Vietnam War," is believed to be the Hargrove's final resting place.

His story is one that began 32 years ago during the last official action of the Vietnam War -- the storming of Koh Tang Island to rescue the crew of the merchant ship, the S.S. Mayaguez, which had been hijacked by the Khmer Rouge.

Unfortunately, though, by the time American troops arrived, the crew had been released and the Khmer Rouge force on the island had grown stronger than anticipated.

At the end of the day's battle, as the troops were being evacuated, Hargrove and two other Marines -- Pfc. Gary L. Hall and Pfc. Danny G. Marshall -- were sent to cover the retreating force's right flank.

When the last helicopter lifted off, however, the trio was left behind. Nobody ever returned for them.

And, while the possible grave sites of the other two men have since been excavated, the one suspected to be Hargrove's has not.

That's why the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) is planning another mission to the island for early 2008.

It's also why Turner had requested permission to accompany them -- to make sure they actually went to the site and to verify if anything was discovered or not.

"It's about peace of mind for Aunt Charlotte (Hargrove's mother who is in poor health). For 32 years they didn't get any answers. If I go, and see with my own eyes that they're actually at the site and doing the excavation and find nothing .... If they did that and sent the information to Aunt Charlotte, she wouldn't believe them. But if I'm there, she'll believe it," Turner said. "On the other hand, if we go and find something, it's worth all the effort. What greater thing could you tell his mother than we're bringing him home."

It's likely, he added, to be their last chance.

"They know this is the only place left," he said. "This is it. And I honestly believe that he's there and we're going to find something. It would put an end to a 32-year-old story."

And so, he's hoping -- possibly against reason, he acknowledged -- that there may be enough people out there who will take an interest in his quest and help him fulfill it.

"I know it's bad because it's right before Christmas and money's tight," Turner said. "But I'm hoping that out there somewhere, there are people with special places in their hearts for men like Joseph who were left behind.

"If I don't do anything else with my life, if I can accomplish this, that can't be taken away. This is something I've got to do. I can't turn my back away from it."