Marines celebrate 238th birthday

By Bill Schlichting, Pilot staff writer November 12, 2013 08:38 pm

Veterans salute an empty table, honoring prisoners of war. The Pilot/Bill Schlichting
Veterans salute an empty table, honoring prisoners of war. The Pilot/Bill Schlichting
It was a night of feasting, storytelling, dancing and camaraderie when the Calvin E. Murphy Detachment 578 Marine Corps League celebrated the 238th birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps.

The annual event, which attracted nearly 200 guests, took place at the Tolowa Event Center at Lucky 7 Casino in Smith River.

Music, performed by Gil Kirk on keyboards, entertained the masses while they socialized, viewed and bid on silent auction items and purchased raffle tickets. Proceeds from fundraisers during the evening benefit Toys for Tots.

Bob Gilmore of Brookings, who is commandant for the Department of Oregon Marine Corps League, introduced special guests and announced awards. There was also a presentation about the empty table, honoring prisoners of war, and recognition of league members who died in the past year — Al Ferry, Bob Bashan, Frank Muller and Bob Earle.

Among those receiving awards was Curry County Sheriff John Bishop and Brookings Police Chief Chris Wallace. The Marine Corps League presented Wallace with a donation to the Katelyn’s Kause Foundation, which is named in honor of Katelyn Wallace, who succumbed to cancer at 17. Later in the year, Bishop and Wallace will travel to Dornbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland and present gifts to the children who are undergoing cancer treatment.

Donations from Vietnam Veterans of America and Lucky 7 Casino were presented to Toys for Tots.

Following the presentation of the colors, Gilmore introduced keynote speaker Jim Willis, who served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and retired from Oregon State Police after 32 years and is an auxiliary member of the Marine Corps League.

Willis told the story of Reckless, a horse who was initially a mascot of a Marine unit in Korea, but was eventually “enlisted” and, in her lifetime, attained the rank of staff sergeant. A statue of Reckless carrying ammunition shells and other combat equipment was unveiled this past July in Semper Fidelis Memorial Park at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

Willis also told about the time he volunteered to dispatch a king cobra in a culvert in Vietnam and a supposedly rabid dog he dealt with while serving with Oregon State Police in Sutherlin, both of which were humorous stories.

Other honors included presenting a certificate signed by President Obama to each Vietnam veteran attending the ball. 

Among the final events was the cutting of the birthday cake by Fred Pate, the oldest Marine in attendance. Pate served the first piece of cake to Canan Howe, the youngest Marine, who just graduated from boot camp in San Diego.

Following all the ceremonies, guests were invited to dance to music presented by Kirk.