by Jon Chang
Camp Pendleton, August 11, 2017 - The buses rolled off I-5 Northbound onto Camp Pendleton at 0930. Pulling up to the 1st Marine Raider Battalion Headquarters, the guests; veteran US Marine Raiders from the second World War and their families, walked off and were invited to explore the reception area of the new HQ, lined with tributes to MARSOC warfighters fallen since the formation of MARSOC in 2006.
MARSOC(Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command) was formed under a directive from the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, in October 2005 to create a Marine component to the US Special Operations Command(USSOCOM) and was activated on February 24, 2006, MARSOC at Camp Lejeune, NC. Tasked to conduct foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, and direct action missions, MARSOC has continuously deployed since August 2006, based on USSOCOM priorities.
After a brief announcement, the guests gathered in the auditorium where Colonel Mike Brooks, Marine Raider Regiment Commanding Officer, offered a heartfelt talk on the legacy of the Raider Regiment. Above all else, Colonel Brooks voiced the duty of his Marines to uphold the honor and service of those men that had come before them.
When he concluded, the veterans were then invited to tour the grounds, featuring displays with the latest in weapon systems, vehicles, communications, EOD(Explosive Ordinance Disposal) tech, SCUBA, dog teams, free fall capabilities and drones being employed by MARSOC today. Each booth, was hosted by multiple MARSOC Marines who answered questions and ran demonstrations showcasing the capabilities explaining how they had given them the edge in the field over their opponents.
It was a chance for the veteran Raiders and today's MARSOC fighters to interact freely and casually, as Marines and as men, trading stories about their experiences, both triumphs and sacrifices, in conflicts separated by almost half a century. With the time on base coming to a close, the veterans departed and began the trip south, back to San Diego.
That evening, the Raiders and their families reunited for a honorary dinner and a ballroom gala event, complete with World War II themed performers and a Marine Corps band playing for the packed house.
Before the festivities began, several speakers would address the audience, among them, Master Sergeant Brian Jacklin (1st Marine Raider battalion) who spoke to today's generation of Raiders, sharing his thoughts on the history today's Marines had to live up to as both professional warriors and problem solvers.
Master Sergeant Jacklin was followed by Major General Eric Smith, the Commanding General 1st Marine Division. Major General Smith had just returned from Bloody Ridge in the Solomon Islands, where the Raiders had fought the Japanese in a decisive battle during September 1942. Claiming nearly 40,000 lives in 3 days, the site, also known as Edson's Ridge, was declared a National Park by the Prime Minister of the Solomons and a monument to the battle unveiled to the public. The General had returned with a sample of earth from the ridge and presented it to one of the veteran Raiders who had fought there.
Finally, Colonel Andy Christian(RET) took the podium to announce the merger of the MARSOC Foundation with the U.S. Marine Raider Foundation to form Marine Raider Foundation and screen a short film formally commemorating the union. The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established to provide benevolent support to active duty and medically retired Marine Raiders and their families, as well as to the families of Raiders who have lost their lives in service to our nation. The foundation aims to meet needs unmet by the government with an emphasis on building personal and family resiliency and supporting the full reintegration of wounded, ill, injured and transitioning raiders, their families and MARSOC's gold star families.
The evening then concluded, with the various acts beginning their performances and the dance floor opening to the guests.
Being among so many people who literally forged history and who's actions preserved our nation was a humbling event. It's a privilege to meet such men and reassuring to know that today's Marines are upholding their legacy at the tip of the spear.