Bert Robertson Francis is a slight, soft-spoken gentleman. But don’t underestimate this Marine.
He received the Bronze Star with Combat Valor during the Vietnam War.
Bert was born on May 31, 1937 in Whitesburg, KY. In 1960, after spending eight years in the Army National Guard, he enlisted in the Marines at the age of 23.
When he eventually retired from the Corps, he had spent more than half his life in service to his country.
His first assignment was with the 1st 155 Gun Battery at 29 Palms, CA. His first deployment was to Vietnam in 1966.
After he was in the country for about three months, he was assigned as commanding officer of a Provisional Artillery Battery at Cam Lo by the Demilitarized Zone. Later, he was assigned to another Battery near Phu Bai.
In 1967, Bert was selected as a Marine Officer Selection Officer. He worked with 35 colleges and universities to identify potential Marine officer candidates. He was also selected for graduate school at American University in Washington D.C., where he received a master’s degree in Operations Research and Management Information Systems in 1970.
After that, he returned to Vietnam for a second tour, this time as a statistical analyst. His final Vietnam combat mission was leading another battery to successfully raid a North Vietnamese Rocket Battalion southwest of Da Nang.
Once back in the states, Bert was assigned to Fleet Marine Force Atlantic Headquarters in Norfolk, VA, as a computer systems financial analyst, responsible for designing, developing and implementing the Marine Air-Ground Financial Accounting and Reporting System.
He was a member of the adjunct faculty of the University of Virginia for three years, followed by a three-year stint at Purdue University on the faculty in the Naval Science Department.
In 1978, he was assigned as Battalion Commander of the 2nd Battalion 10th Marine Regiment. They provided artillery support for the President’s Amphibious Readiness Force — twice heading to Cuba during the escalation of tensions between Cuba and the United States.
Bert was slated to go to Okinawa when his wife, Arlayne, was diagnosed with breast cancer. The couple stayed stateside and he became the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-5, for the 2nd Marine Division.
A few years later, they discovered that Arlayne’s cancer had returned and metastasized to her spine.
After 23 years in the Corps, Bert retired in January 1983, at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He and Arlayne then moved to Richmond where, for the next 13 months, Arlayne received treatment in Lexington.
Bert and Arlayne still reside in Richmond. They have two sons, Gregory and Aaron, and one grandson, Malachi. Bert is active in Marine Corps League Bluegrass Detachment 1012.
Arlayne has served as Chairwoman of the Madison County Breast Cancer Support Group.
Each month in partnership with the Madison County Veterans Committee, The Register will be highlighting local veterans and their service.