MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A Myrtle Beach area Marine who served his country shares his emotional memories and introduces us to the wife he says keeps his spirits up and his dance moves hip.
"We just love to dance," said Paul and Lee Grobski, showing off their swing dance moves at WMBF News’ studio.
They say it was a dance much like that which first brought them together more than 50 years ago. Paul asked her to dance and she never looked back, even winning a dance contest on one of those dates.
"I'm the only one in that book that smiled," Paul said.
“I couldn't believe I married one of those good-looking guys," said Lee.
Despite the jovial pose for the Marine Corps picture, Paul never forgets it hardly started that way.
“Oh yes, I’m not afraid to tell anybody, my first day there, I cried,” he said. “I said, ‘What did I get myself into?’ But looking back on it - unbelievable."
Unbelievable and unforgettable described Paul’s six years with the Marines, which included the Cuban Missile Crisis.
“I don’t know if anybody knows this, but we were told to get into what they call a skirmish line. That’s all the troops lined up facing Cuba. We were told don’t discharge your weapon but run towards the fence yelling and screaming. And we got maybe 15 feet from the fence line and nothing was happening. So your commander says, ‘OK, back to the holes,’” he said. “We were ready, we were ready.”
Meanwhile, in Vietnam, loss was never forgotten.
“Some didn’t come back, some of his buddies," Lee said.
“A piece of you is gone because a Marine never leaves his buddy behind. You always bring them home somehow, whether alive or he’s in here," Paul said.
That loss and the polarizing emotions for the war back home are still a source of great pain.
“When the boys first got back from Vietnam, they were spit on, they were thrown tomatoes at and they called us baby killers. We were doing our job. We did a great job,” Paul said. “We did a job that we were supposed to do. We didn’t finish that job and we should have. Today, it’s not like that these boys coming back from the mid-east are given their due. They’re over there for me. They are protecting me."
While some recreation included football in the Marine Corps, it was the New York Yankees that almost kept Paul from the military altogether. He says he'll never forget tryouts.
"We were in the empty Yankees Stadium and I get up to bat and I thought I crunched one. The noise was deafening, but in an empty stadium,” he said. “It would be so it just popped over second base and I felt great, felt great. I enlisted in the Marine Corps in March. April, I get a letter we want to see you. Can’t go; I’m in the middle of Paris Island pal. I can’t go."
Paul's 6-foot-5-inch height and devotion did, however, earn him a spot in the prestigious 8th and I Ceremonial Guard Company. Their responsibilities included honoring veterans in parades and guarding the White House, where they saw the president and first lady often.
"She was right there and then Kennedy,” he said. “When he would inspect the ranks, he’d walk right in front of you. It was awesome, just a great, great experience."
Lee set up a recent reunion trip for the 8th and I Guard that brought all the memories back.
“Once I got to meet all the guys that served with, it was like the years melted away and we were back there again,” Paul said. “It was a wonderful, wonderful situation."
“The Marine Corps they’re brothers and the wives are part of the group and that’s something that’s always there," said Lee.
Paul continues to serve as the judge advocate with the Marine Corps League Detachment 873, to raise money for charities and wounded warriors as well as work with Toys for Tots.
The couple celebrated 50 years of marriage back in March.
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