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WWII Veteran Enjoys 99th Birthday
At National Museum of the Marine Corps

by U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kirstin M. Spanu
September 30, 2019

Charles “Bert” Mulligan, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran from Ridgeley West Virginia, spent his 99th birthday at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia on August 6, 2019.

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Charles Berton Mulligan visits the National Museum of the Marine Corps for his 99th birthday in Triangle, VA on August 6, 2019. Mulligan served in World War II in the Battle of Iwo Jima. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Piper A. Ballantine)
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Charles Berton Mulligan visits the National Museum of the Marine Corps for his 99th birthday in Triangle, VA on August 6, 2019. Mulligan served in World War II in the Battle of Iwo Jima. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Piper A. Ballantine)

Mulligan was a private with 2d Bn., Bravo Co., 21 st Reg., 3d Marine Division from June 27, 1944 through December 15, 1945, and fought in the battles of Guam and Iwo Jima during WWII. He is currently the oldest surviving veteran from Iwo Jima.

Mulligan was accompanied by his daughter, Debbie Palmore, his great-grandson, and a family friend and Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, Dana Bennett, who drove the family to the museum. Bennett served during 1970 and was medically retired as a lance corporal.

“I feel like I’m driving the president,” Bennett said about having the honor to bring the WWII veteran to the museum for his very first visit.

Marine Corps Base Quantico’s commanding officer, Col. William C. Bentley III, and the base sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. Michael W. Hensley, were there to greet Mulligan and his family upon their arrival.

As word spread throughout the museum, several guests took the time to say happy birthday to Mulligan and thank him for his service.

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Charles Berton Mulligan shakes hands with Col. William C. Bentley III, commanding officer, Marine Corps Base Quantico and Sgt. Maj. Michael W. Hensley, sergeant major, Marine Corps Base Quantico, at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, VA on August 6, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Piper A. Ballantine)
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Charles Berton Mulligan shakes hands with Col. William C. Bentley III, commanding officer, Marine Corps Base Quantico and Sgt. Maj. Michael W. Hensley, sergeant major, Marine Corps Base Quantico, at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, VA on August 6, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Piper A. Ballantine)

The WWII veteran stopped in The Battle for Iwo Jima exhibit and shared memories of his time on the island, including his recollection of the flag raising, for the employees and the many museum guests who gathered around to listen.

“Everyone saw it, it seems like, at the same time and they started hollerin’ and hoopin!” Mulligan exclaimed.

Mulligan remembered that his fellow Marines took that as a sign that the war was ending. “But it wasn’t over, it was just starting,” he said.

After returning from the war, Mulligan went back home to West Virginia.

“And I was glad to get there,” he said. “I never got a scratch.”

Mulligan’s daughter said she remembers looking at her father’s books from the Marine Corps while growing up and wondering if her dad was in any of the photos.

“He just recently started talking about these stories,” she said, and her father admitted that he was glad to have an opportunity to talk about his experiences during the war.

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Charles Berton Mulligan visits the National Museum of the Marine Corps for his 99th birthday in Triangle, VA on August 6, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Piper A. Ballantine)
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Charles Berton Mulligan visits the National Museum of the Marine Corps for his 99th birthday in Triangle, VA on August 6, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Piper A. Ballantine)

When asked how she would like people to remember her father, Debbie reminisced on an interview he had done for a newspaper. “They asked him if he thought he was a hero, but he said, ‘No, the ones who didn’t make it are the heroes.’”

Before he left, Mulligan was extended an invitation to return to the museum in February for a dinner commemorating the events at Iwo Jima by the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation.

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