The Marines have landed

Father David Epps's picture

It was a solemn and sobering event.

A few evenings ago, over 30 men and women gathered in Peachtree City, Ga., to, once again, raise their right hands, take a solemn oath, and swear to “uphold and defend the Constitution and Laws of the United States of America.”

They swore to be “decent and honorable” people, they recognized “the presence of Almighty God,” and asked His help to fulfill their promises. They prayed, pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and rendered a hand salute.

Thus was formed the Clyde Thomason Detachment 1325 of the Marine Corps League serving Coweta, Fayette, and the surrounding counties.

Those gathered included veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Beirut, the Iraq wars, the war in Afghanistan, and other violent and bloody clashes throughout the world where liberty was under assault.

Their mettle of those gathered was first tested at Parris Island or Camp Pendleton or Quantico and was further refined through additional blood, sweat, and tears in locations throughout the nation and around the world. They were, one and all, United States Marines.

Some had served one tour and had been discharged; others had made the Marines a career. All had received their honorable discharge and not one saw him- or herself as an “ex-Marine,” for, in truth, there is no such thing. Once a Marine, always a Marine. Oorah.

Clyde Thomason, a native of Atlanta, enlisted in the Marine Corps, served honorably, and was discharged in the 1930s. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Thomason signed up once again to defend his nation.

In the Battle of Makin Island, Sgt. Thomason was killed in action as he led his young Marines against a fearsome and entrenched foe. He was the first enlisted Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II. It wasn’t until 1999 that his remains were recovered from the sand of Makin Island and he now reposes in hallowed ground at Arlington.

The Marines of the Clyde Thomason Detachment watched a film about the Battle of Makin Island at that first meeting. At the end of the film, the Marine Corps Hymn was softly played as the credits rolled.

Throughout the rooms, backs became straighter, heads were lifted up, and eyes glistened with moisture as the familiar words played in their minds and memories: “From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli, we will fight our country’s battles on the land, air, and the sea. First to fight for right and freedom, and to keep our honor clean, we are proud to claim the title of ‘United States Marine.’”

Some may have been recalling their own experiences. Others may have been remembering fellow Marines who lost their lives in some far-off jungle, island, or desert.

One thing was clear: they had never lost the sense of being part of something great. They had been — and still were — United States Marines.

From the World War II Marine Raider in his 80s to the 17-year-old hopeful about to ship off to Parris Island, they all shared the lasting fellowship of the eagle, globe, and anchor.

The new detachment was off to a solid and respectable beginning. The invitation has gone out, and continues to go out, to all honorably discharged Marines and FMF Navy Corpsmen, “Calling all Marines — Your nation and community still need you! You may not be as lean or quite as mean, but you are still United States Marines.”

The Marines have landed. Semper Fi.

[Father David Epps is the chaplain of MCL Detachment 1325 and is the founding pastor of Christ the King Church, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277, between Peachtree City and Newnan. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. He may be contacted at Marines and FMF Navy Corpsmen wishing to inquire into the Marine Corps League should see and contact Commandant George Dienhart at Non-Marines may also join the MCL as auxiliary members.]

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