Battle-Tested Marines Celebrate


Keynote speaker Master Gunnery Sergeant Stephen Soha gives his wife a kiss as Col. Bill Sahno (retired) looks on.

Keynote speaker Master Gunnery Sergeant Stephen Soha gives his wife a kiss as Col. Bill Sahno (retired) looks on. Photo by Dennis Fendler. |

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Rim Country Marine Corps veterans of every fight from World War II to Afghanistan, joined forces to celebrate the 236th anniversary of their beloved corps at celebrations in Rim Country Saturday.

A veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan offered the keynote speech — and the observation that kids raised on iPods and video games still make Marines every bit as tough as the fighters who stormed Iwo Jima.

The gathering also honored the oldest and youngest Marines present — one of whom fought his way out of the frozen deathtrap of Chosin Reservoir in Korea and another just back from a combat tour in Iraq.

The 236th United States Marine Corps Birthday Ball hosted by the local Marine Corps League Detachment celebrated the rich heritage of the Corps since its 1775 inception at Tun’s Tavern in Philadelphia.

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Displays at the weekend Marine Corps birthday bash honored Marines who died for their country in many wars.

A diverse group attended. As one would expect, Marines who fought in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iran and Afghanistan showed up in force. But so did veterans and active duty personnel representing the Army, Navy and Air Force — all brothers and sisters in arms. In addition, a large contingent of “civilians” was on hand to lend their respect to the Corps.

Guest of honor, Master Gunnery Sergeant Stephen Soha, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and, currently, representing the USMC Wounded Warrior Regiment for Arizona and New Mexico, provided a stirring speech on the readiness of the current Corps. It’s different today, said Soha, but, as in the past, one thing remains the same — When it is time, young Marines put down their iPods, laptops and video games. They sling on their packs, pick up their rifles and kick butt, just as the Marines who came before them.

Colonel Bill Sahno, USMC, retired, presided over the birthday cake cutting ceremony. As is tradition, the first and second piece is presented to the oldest and youngest Marines present, thus signifying the passing of the legend and lore of the Corps from one generation to the next.

Marine Richard Roy of Payson and Korea War veteran represented the senior Marine. Roy served with the 1st Marine Division and participated in the Inchon amphibious landing and the battle of the Chosin Reservoir. Surrounded by 120,000 Chinese soldiers, the Marines fought for 78 miles to the Sea of Japan in the coldest Korean winter in 100 years. Thus the legacy of the “Chosin Few” of the “Frozen Chosin” was etched in Marine Corps history.

The youngest Marine present was Staff Sergeant Angela Luna representing present and futures generations of Marines. SSgt Luna is on active duty with the Recruiting Service in Phoenix. Luna has served a combat tour in Iraq and has earned two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, the Afghan Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the Overseas Deployment Medal. Luna was joined by her husband, a distinguished four-tour Iraq Marine veteran and their one-year-old son.

As your local Rim Country Detachment of the Marine Corps League looks forward to the 237th celebration, let us all thank those who answered the call with the courage, dedication and resolve that exemplifies the United States Marine Corps.

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