Arlington, Va. --
Whether Marines are deployed or stateside, the Marine Corps celebrates its birthday in a number of ways every year. Part of those festivities includes honoring the leaders from our past.
Annually, Marines from Marine Barracks Washington, along with the commandant and sergeant major of the Marine Corps, pay their respects to former commandants, sergeants major of the Marine Corps and other Corps heroes who are laid to rest in and around the Capitol.
This year on Nov. 10, six teams, each comprising a Marine Corps body bearer, Marine Drum and Bugle Corps bugler, and either a Barracks officer or the Barracks sergeant major, visited 25 graves of prestigious Marines throughout Arlington National Cemetery, Congressional Cemetery and Oak Hill Cemetery, as well as Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, Md.
"It’s important to remember and honor those who preceded us," said Sgt. Maj. Eric Stockton, Barracks sergeant major. "This is not just for the birthday, but also to honor our veterans for Veterans Day."
The Marines honored included Brig. Gen. Archibald Henderson, Lt. Gen. John A. Lejeune, Cpl. Rene Gagnon, one of the famous flag raisers on Iwo Jima, Lt. Col. William Ward Burrows, the Corps’ second commandant and founder of the Barracks, and Gen. Leonard Chapman, the 24th commandant and "Father of the Evening Parade."
"It’s a unique privilege that we can honor some of the Marines that made the Barracks what it is today," said Stockton.
Four of the wreath-laying teams preceded a modified parade, in which Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, Col. Paul D. Montanus, Barracks commanding officer, and Sgt. Dakota Meyer, the guest speaker and first living Marine Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War, laid a wreath at the foot of the Marine Corps War Memorial.
Following the ceremony, Dunford and Sgt. Maj. Micheal P. Barrett, sergeant major of the Marine Corps, visited the graves of former commandants and sergeants major, respectively. Barrett’s group, which included the Barracks sergeant major, also laid a wreath at Gagnon’s grave.
After paying respects to each individual, Barrett began coordination to incorporate a visit to the grave of Cpl. John Mackie, the first Marine Medal of Honor recipient, into next year’s event.
"We’ll invite Sgt. Meyer to place a wreath at Cpl. Mackie’s grave here at Arlington next year," said Barrett. "Connecting these Marines is a befitting way for one great warrior to honor the other."