Fallen Heroes Honored In Stone
(August 31, 2009)
|MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — Some bowed their heads, some stood at attention, some cried, others smiled, put their hand over their heart, saluted and some a few stared into the distance. But for the surviving Raiders who listened to the call of taps that afternoon an emotional chord was struck as their fallen Killed In Action were given their final sound off.|
Approximately 70 of the 300 surviving Raiders made their way Aug. 20 to the front walk of Raider Hall at The Basic School to see their fallen brothers' names memorialized in brick.
|MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va.-Approximately 70 of the surviving 300 Raiders pose for photos after honoring their Killed In Action at a dedication ceremony Aug. 20, 2009 at Raider Hall.|
|Nearly 250 family members, friends and admirers of the Raiders came, including the 29th Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Al Gray, to honor those Marines who died fighting in the Pacific as part of the first Marine special operations unit in World War II.|
"I'm so happy we can do this for them," Melvin D. Heckt said of those fallen heroes. Heckt was a 1st Raider Bn. machine gunner. "We need to honor them because they are the real heroes. They all died at such a young age, most 16 to 19. I think this is a fitting tribute."
To further honor the memory of the Raiders, the headquarters for the Martial Arts Center of Excellence was named Raider Hall Aug. 2, 2004. Since then it has been the home for all Raider memorabilia.
"What [the Raider Hall staff] did for us is outstanding," said Harold W. Berg, a 1st Raider Bn. mortarman. "It's great we can honor our fallen comrades. We are so proud of what they've done with this building. Every time we come back they've made new additions."
For the Marines who work at Raider Hall it's important to understand where they come from and how it made them the Marines they are today.
"This is our appreciation to the greatest generation that allows us to wear our uniform today," said retired Lt. Col. Joseph C. Shusko, head of the Martial Arts Center of Excellence at Raider Hall. "We honor them because they laid the foundation for us."
The Raiders made way for new warfare technology.
"We were the first special operations force," said Ken O'Donnell. "We were the first to try new weapons, the first to wear camouflage and the first to use the stiletto blade. Anything new, we tried it."
The United States Marine Corps Raider Association holds an annual meeting at Raider Hall to sound off the names of those Raiders who died in the past year. Before the dedication, a bell tolled 126 times as the names of fallen heroes were called. A solemn silence was present as taps was played.
Gray, the guest of honor, spoke to the memory of Raiders. "It is because of these men's legacy we have the Corps that we know today. Without their effort and sacrifice, our Corps would look much different. They have made us stronger."
Article and photo by USMC LCpl. Jahn R. Kuiper
Marine Corps Base Quantico
Reprinted from Marine Corps News
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