As a boy growing up in the Flint Hills of Kansas, Lynn Mattocks knew only one thing.
"It was all cattle ranches and cowboys," recalled Mattocks, relaxing in the den of his ranch house in Menifee. "I was always around the cowboys. I decided that's what I wanted to be; those are your heroes."
It didn't take him long to recognize the bond shared by cowboys and members of the military, however. That became evident when the U.S. entered World War II.
"When that happened, all the cowboys hung up their saddles and went off to war," said Mattocks. "They still had rodeos in the area, but they were used as fund-raisers for the war effort.
"Then I went to the theater and saw a newsreel where the Marines raised the flag at Iwo Jima. I said, 'I've got to be one of those.' "
If anyone truly exemplifies both the spirit of the American cowboy and the war hero, it's Lynn Mattocks.
Mattocks, 76, has devoted his life to both professions. A 30-year veteran of the U.S. Marines who served three tours in Vietnam, the Menifee rancher also was a champion rodeo cowboy in both the military and professional circuits.
Today, Mattocks continues his efforts both to preserve the legacy of the American cowboy and to pay tribute to military veterans. He enjoys speaking to students about the history of the Menifee Valley, serves on the Riverside County Trails Committee, and participates in many military memorial celebrations.
On Nov. 11, Mattocks rode with the color guard of the Marine Corps League in the Murrieta Veterans Day parade. Residents and visitors of all ages, from veterans to small children, cheered as military personnel -- both retired and active -- traveled down Washington Street in the historic downtown section of Murrieta.
Whether he's giving horseback riding lessons on his ranch off Menifee Road or working to gain recognition for U.S. veterans, Mattocks stands much larger than his 5-foot-4 frame in the community. He truly cares about his country and his community, and he lets people know it.
"I like to participate in the parades," said Mattocks, who rides in the Murrieta Veterans Day Parade every year and was once its grand marshall. "It's an educational experience for the people. I also like to go to the schools and let the kids know about the history. It's not taught enough in our schools."
Mattocks has plenty to tell. As a member of the Marines' First Counter-intelligence Team, he played a key role in the U.S. battle against the Viet Cong. In June of 1964, he was the first Marine sent into Vietnam with a specific mission to gain intelligence in the mounting war effort.
"For a young sergeant at the time, I couldn't believe I was put in that position," Mattocks recalled.
He was wounded in action twice and is a lifetime member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Retired from a military career in 1986, Mattocks returned to the Menifee area, to which he had first come while working as an extra in western films in 1959.
After living and working on the Harrison ranch for many years, Mattocks in 1988 purchased a ranch house on the former Wickerd Ranch, just north of Scott Road and west of Menifee Road. He lives there he lives with his wife Sue, surrounded by a stable of horses and the many Western and military artifacts and awards he has collected over the years.
As always, he is involved with multiple projects. One is the effort to place a memorial near the National Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C., in honor of Sgt. Reckless, a war horse that is buried at Camp Pendleton. Bought off a racetrack in Seoul, South Korea, Reckless was used to carry ammunition from supply stations to the front lines. On a single day during the Battle for Outpost Vegas in 1953, she made 51 trips to the firing sites, carrying a total of 386 rounds of ammunition on her back.
Reckless was officially promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant, a rank never before or since bestowed upon an animal.
"In 1958, when she returned to the U.S., I was the one who took her to parades," Mattocks said proudly.
Another of Mattocks' passions is the preservation of hiking and riding trails in Riverside County. As a member of the trails committee, he works with the Bureau of Land Management regarding land use and the proper designation of trails for public use.
"We ensure the preservation of the existing trails and we're working on expanding the trail system," Mattocks said. "We want to make sure development in the area doesn't cut them off."
Mattocks also is coordinator of the area's emergency animal rescue efforts. Using his extensive knowledge of the area and his experience with animals, Mattocks works with local ranchers to evacuate animals to safe areas during fires and other natural disasters.
"There's not a better kind of people than the rural ranchers here," he said.
To those ranchers, the feeling is mutual.
|Lynn Mattocks points out some of the saddles and other Western gear on display in the front room of his|
ranch house in Menifee.