Sept. 11, 2014 --
MARINE CORP AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. — The sun shines bright on the Marines of Co. K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment as they stand in formation. They returned from a field exercise; all they want to do is sit down and relax, but a bus approaches. As the sand settles, Sgt. Maj. Alfredo Franco, battalion sergeant major, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, stands ready to greet the former Marines of K Co., 3/7. Retired Marines came from various locations to visit the present-day Marines of the company at Del Valle Field, Sept. 11.
The Vietnam-era Marines exited the bus and greeted Franco. When the former Marines met the present-day Marines, it was two generations looking at one another. For one generation, time of service had ended while the other’s continues on. During the visit, Marines and veterans would share stories, showcase weapon systems and eat chow with their comrades.
The event was coordinated by a former Navy Corpsman with the battalion . The veterans have met annually for the past 15 years at various locations all over the United States, ranging from Jacksonville, Fla. to Portland, Ore. This year they decided to meet in Twentynine Palms, Calif., and visit the Marines of 3/7. One of the Vietnam-era Marines who attended the event was retired 1st Sgt. Carlos Alvarez, who was awarded three Purple Heart medals and a Bronze Star medal.
“I can’t find words to say how much I enjoyed it,” Alvarez said. “I think every unit in the Corps should pass the word down from the old to the new.”
Marines of all ranks and ages couldn’t have agreed more. Lt. Col. Ross Parrish, commanding officer, 3/7, was one of those Marines.
“For us to be able to learn lessons that they learned almost 50 years ago is tremendous,” Parrish said “The fact that Co. K, 3/7 and their time in the Marine Corps means so much to them is of extreme value to our Marines to understand what it means to be a Marine in service and out of service. It is a tremendous opportunity to thank these gentlemen for their service; the example they set and what they’re continuing to do as civilian Marines.”
During the event, there were tables set up to show the veterans weapons now used by the battalion such as the M240B machine gun, M2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun and the 60mm and 81mm mortar systems. The Marines also showed the veterans modern flak jackets and attachments such as ammunition pouches, water pouches and grenades. The battalion provided chow and beverages for the veterans so they were as comfortable as possible while the Marines exchanged stories with one another.
Lance Cpl. Ryan Carmona, assistant patrol leader, K Co., 3/7, said, “The stories were motivating.” He also mentioned that he had a great time listening to all the different stories the veterans shared with them.
At the end of the event, the Marines of K Co. fell into formation alongside the 3/7 veterans, standing tall and full of pride. Smiling faces were everywhere as the Marines said their goodbyes, thanking those who came before for their service and everything they have done for this country.