Travel - Have traveled to 49 states (missed Hawaii), to parts of Great Britain and Western Europe and parts of Southeast Asia.
Camping - Have camped over 1200 nights in 48 states. Hiking & Backpacking - Have covered over 4300 miles including an end-to-end trip on the Appalachian Trail in 1978.
Birdwatching - Have viewed 620 species of North American Birds in the field.
Lighthouses - have visited and photographed over 500 of the lighthouses in the United States.
Boy Scouts - 45 year member - Have earned Eagle Scout, Scouter's Training Award, Scouter's Key, Wood Badge, and been honored with the Vigil Honor and Founder's Award from the Order of the Arrow, the Distinguished Leader and Award of Merit from Minquas District, and the Silver Beaver from Cradle of Liberty Council. Have taken three crews to the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, a crew to the Sommers Canoe Base in Manitoba, Canada, have attended 5 National Jamborees and 5 National Order of the Arrow Conferences.
U.S. Army - Have received two Bronze Stars, two Air Medals, the Army Commendation Award, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, Vietnamese Service Medal, Vietnamese Campaign Medal, National Defense Medal, Good Conduct Medal, and the Combat Infantryman's Badge while serving as a SGT E-5 with the 101st Airborne Division.
Engineer - PQ Chemicals (1974-1977). Assistant Mainentance Supervisor and Business Manager at Pocono Environmental Center (1979-1985). Director - Marine Science Consortium at Wallops Island (1986-1988). Science Teacher - Upper Darby High (1989 - to-date).
S. V. MEMORIES
4251 Concord Rd
Aston, PA 19014
Unmarried. Member of Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity. B.S. in Engineering from PMC Colleges. M.S in Biology from East Stroudsburg University. Teaching Certificate from Widener University.
John MacFarland - (Mac)
Sitting in Mr. Ralston's room in 7th grade and listening to the radio when the Russians launched Sputnik. All those days of sitting on the bench with the baseball team when Mr. Michaels and Mr. Barraclough were coaches. Four years of Latin with Mr. Yeagley. Sentence diagraming with Mr. Yeagley in 9th grade English. My love of literature from Mrs. Muldoon. Watching Mr. Elmer mess up all those experiments he tried to show us in Chemistry. Having Mr. Ruth as a mentor. Participating in the Dramatics Club and writing for the Reflector. Having my birthday sandwiched between Karen Good and Kathy McFadden. Riding old bus # 8 with Kenny Garret, Arty Zimmerman, Ricky & Davey Macklem, and Ray Kauffman from the day we stopped walking to school. Watching Denny Potts score a basket for Penncrest. Our first football victory over Chichester with John Tillman scoring on a Sally Rand Rollout play. Watching Gene Salisbury score against all opponents (Today she would easily be in the 1000 point club) Watching Paul Bartkow make it into the 1000 point club. Learning how to type in Mr. Rock's room in 9th grade with the pain of a pointer on your fingers.
A Medal of Honor, long delayed
Erevia at home in San Antonio. An image of his younger self is projected behind him. He never dwelt on not receiving the Medal of Honor. He moved on with his life and became a mail carrier, retiring in 2002 after 32 years at the Postal Service.
John 'Mac' MacFarland, who wrote the recommendation, knew fellow soldier Santiago Jesse Erevia's bravery in Vietnam deserved the highest honor. But something stood in the way.
By Richard Simon Reporting from San Antonio
March 14, 2014
Using an ammo crate as a chair and an Army tent as his office, Pfc. John "Mac" MacFarland set up his typewriter and began to write.
It was the sweltering summer of 1969, about a month after the fierce battle of Tam Ky in South Vietnam. MacFarland had been ordered to write a recommendation nominating Spc. 4 Santiago Jesse Erevia for the Medal of Honor, and he tried to put into words how Erevia's "conspicuous gallantry" had saved so many fellow soldiers.
"Although Erevia could have taken cover with the rest of the group," MacFarland wrote, "he realized that action must be taken immediately if they were able to be relieved from the precarious situation they were now in."
MacFarland, a 23-year-old college student who had been drafted, spent weeks working on the nomination, sure that Erevia, a 23-year-old high school dropout who had enlisted, would be awarded the medal. MacFarland sent the recommendation up the chain of command.
"And then I never heard another thing," MacFarland recalled decades later.
Erevia knew that he had been nominated, and though admitting initial disappointment that he did not receive the Medal of Honor, he went home to Texas and never dwelt on it.
Over the decades, he searched lists of Medal of Honor recipients, looking for Erevia's name. Again and again, he dug out his mimeographed copy of the recommendation, fearing he had failed to capture Erevia's extraordinary heroism.
"I found myself … wondering how I could have done a better job," MacFarland said.
Army PFC Pfc. John "Mac" MacFarland in 1969 .Shortly after the battle of Tam Ky in South Vietnam that year, MacFarland was assigned to write the Medal of Honor recommendation for Spc. 4 Santiago Jesse Erevia, whose "conspicuous gallantry" had saved many soldiers.
He thought of writing Erevia to say he was sorry the recommendation fell short. But he never wrote.
"This became one of the ghosts that haunted me," MacFarland said.
It wasn't until this year, 45 years after the battle, that MacFarland would learn the disturbing truth — the real reason Erevia had been denied the nation's highest military honor.
They arrived at Company C with different backgrounds and under different circumstances.
Erevia was born in Nordheim, Texas, and had dropped out in 10th grade. He enlisted in the Army at 22 after working as a cook and soda deliveryman.
"I thought maybe I could better myself," he said.
MacFarland was a college engineering student in Pennsylvania. He was drafted and was prepared to serve. "As an Eagle Scout, my duty to my country was clear to me and had been since I became a Boy Scout at the age of 11," he said.
Erevia doesn't remember MacFarland. But they were together on May 21, 1969, in the fight for Tam Ky, south of Da Nang.
Company C had taken shelter behind a stone wall, under fire from North Vietnamese troops dug in on a hill at the other end of a dry rice paddy. The North Vietnamese were holed up in heavily camouflaged spider holes and bunkers.
As MacFarland noted in the recommendation, about 4 p.m. their unit was ordered to "move out and engage the enemy." The aim, he recalled, was to take pressure off other companies so they could evacuate their dead and wounded.
MacFarland joined other soldiers in going over the wall, firing his rifle as he stepped into the rice paddy. When another soldier fell wounded, MacFarland rushed to his aid.
Erevia came over to MacFarland and the wounded soldier and asked whether they had any extra ammunition. The wounded man handed Erevia his M-16 rifle, magazines of ammunition and several hand grenades.
"It was the last that I saw Jesse until much later that evening," MacFarland said.
Erevia, who was serving as the radio-telephone operator, made it across the rice paddy, which was as long as a football field. As Erevia and other soldiers remained under heavy fire, he and a friend, Spc. Patrick Diehl, took cover behind a tree.
Erevia chokes up talking about that day. "I asked Diehl, 'Do you see anything?' He never answered."
Diehl had been fatally shot in the head.
Erevia decided he needed to act. "It was either do or die," he recalled in a recent interview. "I said, 'Well, if I'm going to die, I might as well die fighting.'"
Erevia ran toward one of the bunkers and threw in a grenade, killing the soldier inside. He moved to a second bunker, bullets still flying around him, and tossed another grenade to knock it out too.
As MacFarland would later write about Erevia: "After reloading his rifles, he advanced toward the third bunker behind the suppressive fire emitted from his weapons." Once again, he took out the bunker with grenades.
After exhausting his supply of grenades, Erevia headed for a fourth bunker while firing two rifles. He killed a North Vietnamese soldier at point-blank range.
"Our company commander, Capt. David Gibson, along with his radio-telephone operators and medic and several wounded had been pinned down and were receiving intense fire from several enemy positions," MacFarland recalled. Without Erevia, "it is doubtful that they would have survived the day."
Shortly after the battle, MacFarland was assigned to serve as battalion awards clerk. Using information provided by others, he wrote the Medal of Honor recommendation, got it signed by the battalion's commanding officer and forwarded it to 101st Airborne Division headquarters.
After it was sent back for more information, Erevia's company commander and platoon leader provided eyewitness accounts and a map of the battle. MacFarland ran off several copies on a mimeograph machine, keeping one for himself.
The next year, 1970, Erevia and MacFarland left Vietnam and went their separate ways.
Erevia became a mail carrier, retiring in 2002 after working 32 years for the Postal Service. He lives in San Antonio with his wife, Leticia. He has four adult children, including a son who served in the Iraq war.
MacFarland went on to become a high school environmental science and biology teacher. Also retired, he is a bachelor living in Aston, a Philadelphia suburb. The two men, now 68, have had no contact since leaving Vietnam.
Though denied the Medal of Honor, Erevia was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the decoration created during World War I and the nation's second-highest military honor for heroism. The citation quoted language written by MacFarland.
MacFarland kept his copy of Erevia's recommendation in a binder with photos and other Vietnam memorabilia. He shared his distress about Erevia and the Medal of Honor with Army buddies. They assured him that it wasn't his fault and that the military probably decided against the Medal of Honor because, unlike many medal recipients, Erevia wasn't wounded in the battle.
Still, MacFarland said, "I was not convinced that it was not as a result of my inadequacy as a writer."
The Medal of Honor has been awarded to more than 3,400 recipients since it was established during the Civil War. Of those, 74 are living, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. The medal is bestowed "only to the bravest of the brave," according to the Army.
Unbeknown to MacFarland or Erevia, Congress in a 2002 defense bill ordered a Pentagon review to determine whether discrimination prevented Jewish and Latino veterans from receiving the medal. The Pentagon examined the records of more than 6,000 Distinguished Service Cross recipients to determine whether the award should be upgraded.
MacFarland, now 68, holds a copy of the recommendation he wrote in 1969. Erevia was denied the medal at the time, and MacFarland blamed himself, believing perhaps he did a poor job with the nomination. But a Pentagon review decades later determined the rejection was due to discrimination.
Last summer, Erevia was surprised to receive a telephone call from a military officer who told him to expect a call from somebody at the White House. A few days later, he was called again and told to stay close to the phone.
When the call came, a woman announced that the president of the United States was on the line. "It was a short conversation," Erevia said. "He said that I deserved the Medal of Honor. He said that, for some reason, I was overlooked, but that he was making it right. I said, 'Thank you very much, sir.'"
The Pentagon has not released its Medal of Honor review, but in February the White House announced that to correct a historic injustice, the Medal of Honor would be awarded to 24 veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam. They include Erevia and 16 other Latinos, one African American and a Jew.
Erevia is one of three surviving veterans who will receive the medal next week. He is honored, Erevia said, even if the wait lasted decades.
"I'm just glad I'm getting it while I'm alive," he said.
Erevia, left, Sgt. 1st Class Jose Rodela and Staff Sgt. Melvin Morris, who all served in the Army during the Vietnam War, are the only living soldiers who will receive the Medal of Honor on March 18. Twenty-one recipients, from World War II, Korea and Vietnam, will be honored posthumously.
MacFarland heard the news from an Army friend. "I can't describe how great that made me feel," he said.
He hadn't failed after all, and there is a good chance that when the citation is read Tuesday at the White House ceremony, it will include lines MacFarland composed in that tent long ago.
Since the announcement, Erevia has received a lot of attention, including letters from strangers praising his valor.
One letter stood out.
It was from MacFarland. He congratulated Erevia and shared with him the "heavy burden" that he carried around all these years.
"It made me cry," Erevia said.
The two may finally meet again at a Company C reunion this year.
Mission accomplished: Medal of Honor awarded
By LORETTA RODGERS, Times Correspondent, @LorettaRodgers1
Sunday, March 23, 2014
ASTON — John “Mac” MacFarland fought back tears last week as President Barack Obama awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor to 24 U.S. soldiers who fought in World War II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Of the 24 individuals recognized with this country’s highest award for valor in action, only three are still living.
And when one of the three, Sgt. Santiago Jesse Erevia, proudly accepted his medal, MacFarland was finally able to put his greatest demon to rest.
It was MacFarland, who in 1969, was assigned the task of writing the recommendation that eventually was used as the basis for Santiago finally receiving what MacFarland thought should have been bestowed 45 years ago.
“This has haunted me for the past 45 years,” said MacFarland. “I lost many nights sleep wondering if I missed something. Maybe my letter of recommendation wasn’t written well enough. There were times I really thought it was my fault that Jesse didn’t receive what we all knew he rightfully deserved.”
MacFarland was a 23-year-old private who had been drafted into the U.S. Army on his birthday in 1968. At the time he was attending the Pennsylvania Military College studying for a degree in engineering
Erevia, also 23, who hailed from Nordheim, Texas, was a 10th-grade high school drop-out who enlisted in the Army after working as a cook.
Both men served in Charlie Company with the 501st Infantry, 101st Airborne Division.
“I remember Jesse, looked up to him and respected him,” said MacFarland. “When asked, Jesse said he didn’t remember me. That was not unusual, because Jesse had been in Vietnam for several months before I arrived. The guys who were in country longer had a tendency to associate only with other guys who were there for the same length of time. They were hesitant to become friends with the new arrivals for fear the friendship would be short lived due to inexperience.”
MacFarland and his squad were in the A Shau Valley on St. Patrick’s Day 1969 patrolling village areas and rice paddies, watching for North Vietnamese soldiers coming down the Ho Chi Minh Trail heading to South Vietnam. His division was on their way to join the battle of Hamburger Hill when they were diverted and flown to Tam Ky, south of Da Nang, where a fierce battle was taking place.
It was there he encountered Erevia, a radio telephone operator.
MacFarland remembers the events of May 21, 1969, like they happened yesterday.
He said at about 4 p.m.,his unit was ordered to engage the enemy to allow time for the dead and wounded to be evacuated. While firing his weapon knee deep in a rice paddy, a fellow soldier got shot and MacFarland went to aid of his friend.
“It was at that time Erevia came over, dropped the radio and asked if we had extra ammo,” MacFarland recalled. “The wounded soldier gave him his M-16 rifle, rounds of ammunition and hand grenades. It was the last time I saw Jesse until later that evening, but I heard of his bravery.”
According to eye witnesses and statements, while under heavy fire, Erevia was able to make it across the rice paddy, where he and Sgt. Patrick Diehl took cover. Diehl was shot and Erevia sprung into action.
He ran toward an NVA bunker and tossed a grenade. He continued to a second and third bunker and in MacFarland’s words, “took out all three bunkers.”
MacFarland said after using all of the grenades he had, Erevia went to a fourth bunker shooting two rifles, and killed an NVA soldier at point-blank range.
“Capt. David Gibson, our company commander and others were pinned and taking heavy fire,” MacFarland said. “If it had not been for Jesse, they would most likely not have made it out of there.”
Certainly on that day and time, MacFarland had no idea the role he would eventually play in Erevia’s future
Prior to the battle, MacFarland had been at the base camp, where he had the opportunity to meet the soldiers responsible for writing letters of commendation. While there, he was told that one soldier would be leaving and asked if he could write.
Not thinking about it any longer, MacFarland was surprised when he got called to the rear to serve as battalion clerk.
“I remember when Jesse’s nomination came through,” said MacFarland. “The other clerk told me to write the recommendation for the Medal of Honor because I was there at the battle.”
It was Lt. Don Gorley who initially nominated Erevia and Gibson who approved the recommendation.
MacFarland, keenly aware of the awesome responsibility he had been assigned, took a few days to write the recommendation, then forwarded it up the chain of command to the division.
“The letter was returned asking for more information like maps of the battle area, eyewitness accounts and statements,” MacFarland said. “I rewrote the entire thing and sent it back.”
MacFarland was sure that Erevia would be selected because of his incredible act of bravery, but as time went on and months turned to years, the prospect dimmed.
“I never forgot,” MacFarland said. “Jesse deserved to be recognized. When I would attend company reunions, I brought the letter and asked guys to read it, just to see if I left anything out.”
MacFarland returned to Aston in 1970 to the home built by his grandfather in 1929, where he still resides. Erevia returned to Texas, but MacFarland never forgot Jesse nor did he forget the letter of recommendation.
“I was up visiting friends in the Poconos when I received a call from my longtime friend, our company battalion photographer, Don Kelsen,” said MacFarland.
“Don told he that Jesse was going to finally receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. I felt so proud and I was very happy to get that ghost off my back.”
Established during the Civil War, the Medal of Honor has been awarded to 3,471 individuals. The recipient must have distinguished themselves at the risk of their own lives and go beyond the call of duty against an enemy of the United States.
Erevia’s was one of 6,000 recommendations reviewed during a 12-year Pentagon examination ordered by the U.S. Congress to see if possible recipients were overlooked because of ethnic or religious discrimination.
The 24 recipients, honored last Tuesday in the East Room of the White House, marked the single largest group recognized since World War II.
Erevia, Sgt. Jose Rodela and Green Beret Melvin Morris, all veterans of the Vietnam War, are the three living recipients of the prestigious medal. With family members looking on, the others were awarded posthumously.
MacFarland, who was born and raised in Aston, and was among the first graduating class at Sun Valley High School, said he’d be remiss if he did not thank his high school English teachers, Charles P. Yeagley and Patricia Muldoon, for teaching him the principles of English composition and proper writing techniques.
MacFarland, an Eagle Scout, had been actively involved in scouting his entire life. Retired from teaching science in the Upper Darby School District, he enjoys bird watching and attending his company reunions.
“Jesse and I have corresponded via letters and we are supposed to meet up at our upcoming reunion in November in Key Largo, Florida,” said MacFarland. “That’s one I surely won’t miss. I am looking forward to seeing Jesse again and shaking his hand.”