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On Thanking My Cousin, A Teenage Englewood, Illinois War Hero - For Paying The Ultimate Price

His blood spilled in Vietnam continues to heal today

~ By Chinta Strausberg ~ On this Veterans Day, I salute all men and women who have and are serving in the U.S. armed services—people who literally gave their lives to protect this nation including and especially my cousin, Milton Lee Olive, III, an18-year-old Englewood Vietnam War hero who paid the ultimate price.

The irony of his brief life is that he went to Lexington, Mississippi to stay with his paternal grandfather and while there joined a civil rights voter registration group dedicated to registering African Americans.

Because it was ten-years after the murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Money, Mississippii, ten-years earlier, his father, Milton B. Olive, II, gave him three choices: go back to school, get a job or join the military. It was on a Friday, October 22, 1965, when young Olive, nicknamed "Skipper,"  who was raised by my grandmother, Zelphia Wareagle and Jacob Augustus Spencer, spotted a live grenade during a search and destroy mission in Vietnam.

Skipper, who had already received a Purple Heart as a result of a heroic parachute action, came home and told his father he was going back to the Army and finish his job.

On October 22, 1965, Skipper did just that when he spotted a live grenade, placed it on his stomach and allowed it to explode. This time, his heroic act saved the lives of retired Jimmy B. Stanford, Sgt. Vince Yrineo, John Foster and Lionell Hubbard. Of the four, only Stanford is alive.

Since 1965 and since being a reporter, I have spoken to all of the survivors and all said they were grateful that this teenage Englewood hero willingly gave his life to save them. Because of Skipper, all have grand children and great-grandchildren.

But while their generations continue to multiply throughout the years, one of their lives is especially precious to me and that is of Capt. Stanford because it was he who used to be a racist having grown up in Texas.

Since then, Stanford has grown, matured since October 22, 1965 and today is a living example to his grandchildren of how important it is to love all mankind. When I received a message from one of his granddaughters, I almost cried for it was at that moment I truly knew that the blood my cousin spilled on that fatal day was not in vain and that through his survivors his spirit will never die.

There will be wreath-laying ceremonies today and visits to gravesites by politicians and family members, but my uncle Milton asked me as a deathbed wish to remind the nation of what his only child did. Uncle died in March of 1993 of cancer, but I always thought he grieved himself to death. He and his son were like ahand in a glove…inseparable; that is until God stepped in and took Skipper back home.

So, happy Veterans Day not just to Skipper’s memory but to all those men and women who are serving and who have served our nation and may elected officials begin to seriously address the social, economic and psychological needs our veterans have upon their return. We owe them that much; after all, they gave so much tous especially those like our Skipper who paid the ultimate price.

On October 21, 2004, then Lt. Governor Pat Quinn held a commemorative service at the Veterans Musuem in honor of my cousin, Milton Lee Olive, III. Mayor Richard M. Daley also held a beautiful commemorative service at the Bronzeville Military Academy and just before he retired, May Daley held a ceremony at Olive Park where back in the 1960’s his father, the late Mayor Richard J. Daley named the lakefront park after Skipper. Pfc. Milton Lee Olive III, then 18, was born in the Englewood community. He was the only child born to Clara and Milton B. Olive II. Her son was a breach baby, and Clara died while giving birth to “Skipper” as young Olive was nicknamed by my grandmother, Zelphia Wareagle Spencer. Born on November 7, 1946 in an unusal manner, ironically, Skipper chose to die Oct. 22, 1965 during a search and destroy mission in the vicinity of Phu Cuong, Republic of Vietnam—a long way from his Englewood home. On that fateful day, Olive spotted a live grenade and reportedly shouted “Get Away! Grenade,” and without hesitation, he grabbed the device, placed it on his stomach and allowed it to explode saving the lives of four comrades.

On October 21, 2004, then Lt. Governor Pat Quinn held a commemorative service at the Veterans Musuem in honor of my cousin, Milton Lee Olive, III. Mayor Richard M. Daley also held a beautiful commemorative service at the Bronzeville Military Academy and just before he retired, May Daley held a ceremony at Olive Park where back in the 1960’s his father, the late Mayor Richard J. Daley named the lakefront park after Skipper. Pfc. Milton Lee Olive III, then 18, was born in the Englewood community. He was the only child born to Clara and Milton B. Olive II. Her son was a breach baby, and Clara died while giving birth to “Skipper” as young Olive was nicknamed by my grandmother, Zelphia Wareagle Spencer. Born on November 7, 1946 in an unusal manner, ironically, Skipper chose to die Oct. 22, 1965 during a search and destroy mission in the vicinity of Phu Cuong, Republic of Vietnam—a long way from his Englewood home. On that fateful day, Olive spotted a live grenade and reportedly shouted “Get Away! Grenade,” and without hesitation, he grabbed the device, placed it on his stomach and allowed it to explode saving the lives of four comrades.

Milton Lee Olive, III, nicknamed "Skipper," and my grandfather, Jacob Augustus Spencer pose for picture. Like his father, Skipper was a professional photographer even at a young age. My uncle was also a supervisor with the City of Chicago's Department of Human Services.

Milton Lee Olive, III, nicknamed "Skipper," and my grandfather, Jacob Augustus Spencer pose for picture. Like his father, Skipper was a professional photographer even at a young age. My uncle was also a supervisor with the City of Chicago's Department of Human Services.

Skipper when he was a student at Copernicus Elementary School in the Englewood community.

Skipper when he was a student at Copernicus Elementary School in the Englewood community.

U.S. Army paratrooper Milton Lee Olive, III before his initial injury when he earned a Purple Heart. Upon his death a year later, he was awarded a second Purple Heart and he was the first African American to have earned a Congressional Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War.

U.S. Army paratrooper Milton Lee Olive, III before his initial injury when he earned a Purple Heart. Upon his death a year later, he was awarded a second Purple Heart and he was the first African American to have earned a Congressional Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War.

Skipper in helmet

Skipper in helmet

A proud Milton Lee Olive, III in uniform. He was home visiting my grandparents who lived in Englewood. When his peers were out partying, Skipper was home sitting on the couch watching TV with my grandmother. He never cursed, never dated, didn't drink and loved to read his bible even when he was in Vietnam, according to the survivors I have interviewed over the years.

A proud Milton Lee Olive, III in uniform. He was home visiting my grandparents who lived in Englewood. When his peers were out partying, Skipper was home sitting on the couch watching TV with my grandmother. He never cursed, never dated, didn't drink and loved to read his bible even when he was in Vietnam, according to the survivors I have interviewed over the years.

After Skipper's death, the late Mayor Richard J. Daley named a park located a 500 North Lake Shore Drive after Skipper. His father, Milton B. Olive, II, and his wife (Skipper stepmother), Antoinette Olive, were present.

After Skipper's death, the late Mayor Richard J. Daley named a park located a 500 North Lake Shore Drive after Skipper. His father, Milton B. Olive, II, and his wife (Skipper stepmother), Antoinette Olive, were present.

Retired Mayor Richard M. Daley held a tribute at Olive Park honoring my cousin, Milton Lee "Skipper" Olive, III, the first African American to have received a Congressional Medal of Honor during the Vietnam war.

Retired Mayor Richard M. Daley held a tribute at Olive Park honoring my cousin, Milton Lee "Skipper" Olive, III, the first African American to have received a Congressional Medal of Honor during the Vietnam war.

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