DISA, JFHQ-DODIN celebrate 244th Marine Corps birthday
by Marcus Johnson
DISA Strategic Communication and Public Affairs
The DISA and JFHQ-DODIN workforce and guests celebrated the 244th Marine Corps birthday at DISA Headquarters, Friday, Nov. 8. The official Marine Corps birthday is Nov. 10.
DISA Director and JFHQ-DODIN Commander Navy Vice Adm. Nancy A. Norton, whose stepfather served in the Marine Corps, hosted the event.
“This is a fantastic day for us to celebrate the Marine Corps,” Norton said before welcoming the ceremony’s guest speaker, Marine Lt. Gen. Lori E. Reynolds, deputy commandant for information, and commander of the Marine Corps Forces Strategic Command.
Reynolds opened her remarks by explaining that the 244th Marine Corps birthday celebration is a time to reflect on what it means to be a Marine.
“It’s a time for reflection, renewal and resolve as we reflect on the past heroes who created the legacy that we’ve inherited,” the general said. “We are resolute to fight better tomorrow and to be the [Marine Corps] our nation needs us to be. Because our nation is worth it. The American people are worth it. American values are worth it.”
The general explained that February 2019 marks 74 years since the Marines defeated the Japanese military during the hard-fought Battle of Iwo Jima. Capturing the Japanese island ensured the American military’s ability to carry out long-range bombing attacks against the Japanese mainland. Within six months of the battle, Japan surrendered, effectively ending World War II.
The famous Joseph Rosenthal photo of Marines raising an American flag above Mount Suribachi, the highest point on Iwo Jima, became one of the most iconic images of World War II. However, Reynolds explained, the Marines raised the flag well before they won the battle. Intense fighting continued for 30 more days.
“[Raising the flag] did not yet symbolize victory,” Reynolds said. “It was a mark of resolve, power, dominance and American pride. It declared to the enemy on that island the Marines had arrived [...] it announced to those Marines still on the shore and those pushing past the terraced beaches to keep fighting.”
The Marine Corps recently revealed that it had misidentified one of the six men captured in the photo.
While the Marines originally credited Cpl. Rene Gagnon as one of the six flag raisers on Mount Suribachi, the Marines later determined that it was Cpl. Harold Keller, not Gagnon, depicted in the photo.
Although not one of the original flag raisers, Gagnon raced up the mountain through enemy fire to deliver a larger flag — making it visible to all Marines on the island.
“All Marines can raise the flag,” Reynolds said. “Every Marine in this room, every Marine on watch tonight, at stations and outposts across the globe and every Marine whose faithful service has passed, is no different than Harold Keller and Rene Gagnon, Reynolds said. “It’s the call of service that separates from the masses those men and women who are willing to sacrifice everything in defense of the beliefs and principles of our nation.”
Before closing her remarks, Reynolds highlighted some of the Marines, who over the last year, received recognition for their sacrifices and service to the nation.
Reynolds recognized several Marines who, despite the racial animus of the 1940s, were among the nation’s first African American Marines. Known as “Montford Pointe Marines,” Joseph Alexander, Vonzia Rigsby, William Coffer and Robert Moore received Congressional Gold Medals for not only their sacrifices but for being trailblazers and inspiring future Marines.
Reynolds also recognized Marines such as Sgt. Austin Cox and former Sgt. Michael Vura, and Cpl. Erin Rachel Lilleyfogle.
Cox and Vura rendered assistance during the 2017 Las Vegas Mass Shooting. Lilleyfogle died attempting to assist a motorist after a car accident.
Reynolds said Marines around the world raise flags every day without want or need for recognition. She explained that past and current Marines embody the spirit of a warrior culture created to keep the nation and the world safe.
“Whether your flag is on top of a mountain or used to break down barriers; or meant to ensure the safety of strangers; or to preserve our country’s ability to command and control its military — your service matters,” she said. “So where and when the next flag will be raised is not yet known, but when it happens, it will be evidence of what I am already most assured — the Marines are here, and will keep fighting.”
Following her remarks, Norton and Reynolds – assisted by the oldest and youngest Marines present – cut a Marine Corps birthday cake with a ceremonial sword.
Retired Marine Sgt. Maj. Claudio Brown, the oldest Marine present, served a slice of cake to the youngest Marine present, Pfc. Tyler Bensenberg.
The passing of the cake signifies the passing of experience and knowledge. It emphasizes the core belief that senior Marines care for junior Marines before they care for their own needs.
The ceremony concluded with a recital of the Marines’ Hymn.
Posted December 5, 2019