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Marines bring forth the birthday cake during their celebration of the Marine Corps birthday in Laughlin, Nev., Jan. 29. A crowd of more than 50 people from Bullhead City, Ariz., were present outside the ballroom to thank them for their patriotism and heroism during their recent deployment to Afghanistan.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Monica C. Erickson

'War Dogs' celebrate Marine Corps birthday, honor fallen brothers

29 Jan 2009 | Lance Cpl. Monica C. Erickson

Marines and sailors from 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, celebrated a belated Marine Corps birthday Jan. 29, in Laughlin, Nev., while also recognizing all their brothers-in-arms who paid the ultimate sacrifice during their recent deployment to Afghanistan.

In support of the Marines and sailors of 2/7, Debbie Nuchols, the mother of Dustin Burnett, a corpsman who was killed during their deployment, arranged a crowd of more than 50 people from Bullhead City, Ariz., to thank them for their patriotism. The supporters waved American flags, carried signs that thanked 2/7 for all their hard work and welcomed them home with hugs, handshakes and thank yous.

“I was overwhelmingly surprised,” said Sgt. Maj. Matthew Brookshire, the battalion sergeant major. “When I heard it was Doc Burnett’s family doing this for us, it held even more meaning for me. It was very touching for them to take time out of their schedule to thank the Marines for what they did in Afghanistan.”

Although Nuchols was there to thank and welcome home all the Marines and sailors of 2/7, she searched for service members who served with her son in Company G. She had prepared bags filled with snacks, and a letter she wrote for each service members of her son’s company.

“I want to make sure they know we are grateful for all they did,” said Nuchols, who buried her son July 4. “These guys served with my son. I want to get to know them and hear happy stories about my son.”

As Nuchols approached Marines from Company G, the reaction was the same every time; the Marine would instantly hug her, tell her how sorry he is about her loss and tell her how he remembered Dustin.

As the ceremony began, a slideshow was presented in honor of all the service members and the Afghan interpreter who lost their lives during their deployment. The slideshow presented their names, pictures and the day they were killed. As each name and picture came across the screen, the attendees of the ball applauded and vocalized their respect for their fallen comrades with a resonating “Ooh-rah!”

“My guys did a great job in honoring our fallen, wounded and their families,” said Lt. Col. Richard Hall, the battalion’s commanding officer. “They showed their heart on how we embrace those in our family.”

The cake-cutting ceremony introduced 2/7’s guest of honor for the night, Oliver North, a decorated colonel who retired from the Marine Corps. He is currently a Fox News correspondent who spent time with the battalion in Afghanistan last year.

“I have lived 47 years out of my whole life in or around the Marine Corps,” said North. “And from my experience, 2/7 is amazing because you have lived and fought in some of the most difficult and hardest places on earth against the most dangerous enemies, and you have never lost a gun fight.”

As the ceremony came to an end, the Marines and sailors of 2/7 continued to celebrate the Marine Corps ball, not so much for themselves, but for their fallen brothers who were with them in spirit.

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