97-year-old Marine shares memories of his famed father Lt. Gen. Keller Rockey with author

Published: 18 May 2024

By Jay Korff
via the WJLA-TV television station (DC) website

Bill and Keller Rockey

Colonel Bill Rockey standing beside a portrait of his father Lt. Gen. Keller Rockey. (Photo courtesy the Rockey family).

Reporter’s Notebook: A local author’s book project about a famous Marine led him to a remarkable discovery of memories — memories that changed the course of American military history. Those recollections come from Retired Marine Colonel Bill Rockey, the nearly 100-year-old son of famed Lt. General Keller Rockey, whose legacy of heroism and humanity author Tim Heck plans to capture in his next book

Every week or so for the last year a nearly 100-year-old combat veteran has welcomed local author Tim Heck into his Virginia home.

“I wanted to be in the infantry and I got the assignment,” Retired Marine Colonel Bill Rockey told Heck as they chatted on Rockey’s living room couch.

Retired Marine Colonel Bill Rockey with author Tim Heck. (Jay Korff, 7News)

What they’ve shared over the months, from harrowing recollections to one-of-a-kind moments, will contribute to Heck’s book about the iconic 5th Division of the Marines and their Commanding General Keller Rockey, who was placed in history’s path time and again.

“It’s been enjoyable to uncover all these things. For 50 years I’ve had them in storage,” said Col. Rockey.

Heck uncovered, while beginning his research on this project, that General Rockey’s 97-year-old son Bill, a font of wisdom and humor, remains quite alive and well.

“I almost bought the farm the first time I got bullets shot at me,” Col. Rockey said with a laugh.

Col. Bill Rockey. (Photo courtesy the Rockey family)

Col. Rockey served with distinction in Korea and Vietnam earning accolades for bravery under fire. Heck showed us Rockey’s various medals and commendations.

“The two silver stars, the legion of merit with a ‘V’ for valor, the bronze star with a ‘V’ or valor,” said Heck.

This reporter said to Heck, “he’s a star too.”

“Absolutely. He’ll never tell you that. He’ll deny it,” responded Heck.

Colonel Rockey prefers to talk about his father, whose medals and personal war mementos he’s guarded closely for half a century.

Lt. Gen. Keller Rockey’s medals. (Jay Korff, 7News)

“You’ve got two Navy Crosses which is incredible,” remarked Rockey.

His collection includes his dad’s original promotion documents signed by the likes of presidents Wilson, Coolidge, FDR, and Truman. His father served with distinction in WWI, ascending to second in command in the U.S. Marine Corps during WWII, and leading the famed Fifth Division into the Battle of Iwo Jima.

With a quiver in his voice, Col. Rockey said, “The flag raising was done by one of my father’s units of the 5th Marine Division

Arguably among the most iconic images in American military history.

“He was very heavily involved in the changes that the Marine Corps underwent between World War I and World War II,” Rockey added.

Read the entire article on the WJLA-TV web site here:

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