By Connie Pool, F140306
As I approach the 10th anniversary of my retirement from the United States Marine Corps, I have had several opportunities to witness firsthand the rebirth of patriotism in this wonderful country of ours. I also have had three opportunities to participate in ceremonies recognizing the contributions of former service members.
The first occasion arose this past year when Genny Lucky, L26, a fellow member of the Woman Marine Association, asked me to unpack my Marine Corps dress blue uniform and assist her in the Memorial Day ceremony she conducts at the G.L.A.S.S. Rally each year. FMCA members from the Great Lakes Area organized a parade that included uniformed members of the various branches of the U.S. military. The parade was followed by a flag-raising ceremony, and then a solemn message and prayer written and delivered by Genny. The playing of taps concluded the ceremony, and, especially for those of us who have served in the military, it was a moment not soon to be forgotten.
I must admit that when Genny first asked me to participate, I was taken by surprise, and I hesitated before responding. It took me awhile to answer all of the inner questions, such as where had I stored my dress blues and all the items of the uniform I would need, and could I still fit in them? I also was concerned about protocol, as it has been almost 10 years since my retirement from active service. Once the initial hesitation passed, I was very proud to have been asked, and to have participated.
The next occasion for me to break out my dress blues came when Northeast Area vice president Bill Gowen, F93847, asked me to attend their area rally this past August and participate in a ceremony recognizing both U.S. and Canadian service members. By that time I was feeling awfully good about having the opportunity to get back in those dress blues again, and there was no doubt in my mind this time as to whether I could fit in them. Also, patriotism continued to grow throughout our land, and this was another way to demonstrate just how proud I am to be an American.
A third opportunity presented itself this past January during the Western Area Rally in Indio, California. My husband, Corbett, also is a retired Marine officer. During the early stages of planning for the 2003 rally, Bill Walker, F56746, immediate past president of the Western Area, and Bob Newby, F108350, parade coordinator and also master of ceremonies for evening entertainment, approached us and asked for assistance in arranging for a Marine Corps Color Guard to participate in the parade and a ceremony on the opening night of the rally. The Marine Corps Air/Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California, answered the call by providing a four-man color guard that performed to the highest Marine Corps standards. They seemed as excited about participating in the ceremonies as we were about having such fine examples of American youth in our midst. I can’t begin to tell you how proud I was to don those dress blues again, this time to participate with those outstanding young Marines and to serve as the reviewing officer during the evening ceremonies. The parade and evening ceremony included other FMCA members who are veterans and chose to put on a uniform at least one more time.
As I think over the events of that day in January, I fondly recall how pleased those Marines were to be included in the activities, and the wonderful response they received from the members attending the Western Area Rally. It was most fitting that the theme for the Western Area Rally was “Salute The Troops.” We escorted Sergeant Orr, the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC), and his three Marines to dinner with the Golden Spike chapter. Tony Vincent F161584, Western Area vice president, introduced the Marines to the group, and they were seated as individuals among the rest of the dinner participants. Needless to say, there was no lack of conversation at the tables where the Marines sat; they were bombarded with almost every conceivable question.
As Corbett and I stood in the back of the auditorium at the conclusion of the evening’s ceremonies, we watched one FMCA member after another go over to Sergeant Orr and his Marines and thank them for such a terrific performance and their service to our country. I can assure you that no one left entertainment early that night.