Archive for Wednesday, November 12, 1997

MARINES CELEBRATE 222ND BIRTHDAY

November 12, 1997

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The occasion: the seventh annual Marine Corps Birthday Party at Lawrence city hall.

The mission: celebrate the 222 years since the first Marines recruiting office opened inside a Philadelphia tavern.

About 50 former and current Marines stood at attention Monday, a silent salute to the corps' long history of defending the nation.

"Honor, courage, commitment -- these are not buzz words for the '90s," said Maj. Mike Petruzziello, Marine officer instructor at Kansas University's Naval ROTC unit. "They constitute the bedrock the corps is built upon."

Marines everywhere would have agreed, as the occasion was marked by similar celebrations in countless spots the world over. On the same date in 1775, a resolution passed by the Continental Congress established the Marine Corps.

"I guess it's just a fulfillment of the Marine Corps proverb, which is semper fidelis -- 'always faithful,'" said retired Marine Capt. Russ Stites, who served in the 1st and 3rd divisions in World War II and was recalled for the Korean War.

"Do I get another stripe?" asked Pier I owner Dave Kearney, 76, a retired staff sergeant who was judged to the "oldest" Marine by virtue of his joining the corps in March 1942.

"We'll see what we can do," answered Petruziello.

"The Marine Corps is a real fraternity," said Clay Comfort, a retired general and pilot during the Vietnam War who also served as chief of staff of Central Command during preparations for the Persian Gulf War. "It's lifelong."

City commissioners Erv Hodges, a retired lieutenant colonel, and Marty Kennedy, a former forward artillery observer, attended the festivities, as did former Marines Jim McSwain, Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical director; Ray Hummert, city clerk; George Williams, director of public works; and a number of other local officials.

-- Matt Gowen's phone message number is 832-7222. His e-mail address is gowen@ljworld.com.

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