The young and old came from far and wide.
They were Silver Star winners from Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima in World War II.
They were decorated heroes of Inchon and the Chosin Reservoir in Korea.
They held the line during the siege of Khe Sanh in Vietnam.
They have just returned home from distinguished service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Despite the differences in age, place of residence and time of service, they all had one thing in common ... they are all U.S. Marines.
Colonel Bill Sahno, retired, presided over the dinner event organized by the Rim Country Detachment of the Marine Corps League, which drew some 200 guests to the Mazatzal Hotel and Casino Saturday night to honor the past, present and future of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Major Phil Prince, retired, a Vietnam nam re-con Marine with the Silver Star and four Purple Hearts, used his drill instructor tones to keep the event on schedule.
Guest of honor and speaker Marshall Trimble, state historian and also a Marine, concluded his talk with his rendition of “That Ragged Old Flag,” which was answered by a tear-filled, yet rousing, “Ooo-Rah.”
Tobe Cogswell was there.
Tobe was with the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal when he was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart for action on the Tenaru River. His commanding officer wrote, “These four men (Cogswell and his teammates), rather than withdraw toward the rear, as was warranted by their line of duty, took positions on the front lines and with those Marines already entrenched there, engaged in a furious hand-to-hand conflict with the enemy and drove them back ... In performing this, above and beyond their line of duty, these men acted with extraordinary heroism ...”
Larry Norton was there.
Larry was with the 5th Marine Division on Iwo Jima, site of some of the bloodiest fighting in the Pacific. It was Larry’s four-man fire team that hauled the larger flag to the top of Mount Suribachi because the brass below thought the first flag raised was too small. Their efforts resulted in photographer Joe Rosenthal’s photograph that became the iconic Marine Corps symbol. The 5th Division sustained the largest number of casualties in the Iwo campaign. To this day, Larry cannot understand how he came through without a scratch.
Richard Roy was there.
Richard was with the 1st Marine Division in Korea at the Chosin Reservoir. The 1st found itself surrounded and outnumbered 8-to-1 by the Chinese army. Despite minus 40-degree temperatures, the “Chosin Few” as they would come to be called, decimated 10 Chinese infantry divisions and fought their way back to the sea and rejoined the American forces.
Joe Sorrelman was there.
On July 4th, 1966, Joe and eight buddies from Morenci began their Marine service. Recent high school graduates, the “Morenci 9” enlisted together. When one was held back after testing, the other eight demanded the Marines take all of them or none. Joe, Leroy Cisneros and Mike Cranford made it back from Vietnam.
Bobby Draper was killed in an ambush while leading his squad on a road sweep. Stan King died less than a week after reaching Vietnam. Alfred Whitmer was killed on a patrol. Larry West was shot near Quang Nam while serving with a landing team. Jose Moncayo was part of an entire platoon wiped out by the enemy near Quang Tri. Clive Garcia had volunteered to lead an unscheduled patrol in Quang Nam province when he was struck down by a booby trap.
The highlight of the evening was the traditional cutting of the birthday cake. This tradition signifies passing Marine traditions from one generation to the next. The first piece of birthday cake was presented to the oldest Marine present, Lieutenant Colonel Doug Wade, retired, and the second piece to the youngest Marine, Corporal Jonathan Montes, currently serving at the Marine Recruiting Service in Phoenix.
Semper Fi to all.