MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
The M1 Garand rifle saw action in World War II, Korea and even the early years of Vietnam, despite the M14 service rifle’s official adoption in 1957. With nearly 35 years of use in the Corps, many Marines have lived and died by their M1s, setting in stone a rich history and tradition behind the infantrymens’ first standard-issue, semi-automatic service rifle.
Some veterans of past wars have established a program, called M1 for Vets, to pass on the tradition and glory of the rifle to today’s warriors.
Cpl. Derrick Lewis, a squad leader with Company B, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, received a Garand from the M1 for Vets program during a ceremony at Victory Field here Nov. 25.
“This rifle was given to Cpl. Lewis by a veteran of Korea who is in ill health,” said Jim Gularte, a representative for the program and Vietnam veteran. “One of his last wishes was to pass on this M1 and we accomplished his dream today.
“This Marine was also a Baker Marine, and it was his wish to pass this rifle to another generation of Baker Marine,” he said.
According to the program’s Web site, M1 for Vets is “a nonprofit organization dedicated to financial and logistical support of returning Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and the Global War on Terror veterans.”
Gularte presented the rifle to Lewis, and said giving the weapon to a 7th Marines warrior meant a lot to him.
“I was a sniper for 7th Marines from 1968-1970, so presenting this rifle to a Baker Company, Marine means a lot to me,” said Gularte, a San Diego native. “I represent a generation full of history, and this rifle represents the glory passed from my generation to the next.”
Lewis also reenlisted during the ceremony and said he was proud to have been chosen to be given the weapon.
“It’s really cool and humbling,” said the Spanaway, Wash., native. “I feel honored to receive this rifle. There’s so much history that comes with this weapon and I’m happy to accept it.”
According to his award citation, Lewis received the rifle for his actions in Iraq from August 2008 to February, where he assisted in key leader engagements and finding weapons caches.
First Lt. Evan Ota, Lewis’ platoon commander in Iraq, said he suggested to his command Lewis receive the rifle because of his motivation and esprit de corps.
“Our [commanding officer] at the time asked me who our most locked on and hardworking Marine was, and Cpl. Lewis was at the top of that list,” said Ota, a Kealakekua, Hawaii, native. “Throughout the company, he’s the guy who raises our morale. There’s a lot of pride, history and tradition in the M1 Garand, and he embodies the pride of our unit.”
Gularte said this was the second time a Marine on the West Coast has received a rifle the organization, which originally began on the East Coast.
“We gave an M1 to a Marine from [1st Bn., 5th Marines] in May,” he said. “But now that we’re on the West Coast, we’ll be handing out more and more rifles to combat veterans.”