May 11, 2015 --
Perhaps the Corps’ most iconic events are the parades of Marine Barracks Washington, D.C. During the summer months in the Nation’s Capital, tens-of-thousands of guests make their way to either the Barracks or Arlington National Cemetery to witness the spectacle, but one guest has spent the last 30 years attending each and every Sunset and Evening Parade.
Cenon Naval II was honored for his three-decade dedication to the “Corps Oldest Post” during the Friends and Family Parade, April 24, 2015.
Naval stood at attention on Center Walk with Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., commandant of the Marine Corps, and Col. Benjamin Watson, commanding officer, Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., as the Barracks Marines marched Pass in Review.
“I was completely surprised,” said Naval. “I'm very honored and touched.”
After living in New York, Naval moved back to Maryland to live with and care for his aging parents. On May 3, 1985, after looking through a local newspaper, Naval stumbled across an article about a parade at the Barracks, so he decided to attend.
“When I first walked in the Barracks I thought this must be what heaven looks like,” said Naval. “Everything was polished and the [Marines’] uniforms were impeccably tailored. Everything sparkled.”
Naval is a self-proclaimed “neat-freak” and lives his life accordingly. His home, decorated with inherited military relics including 17th and 18th Century rifles and swords, resembles a museum. Just like the Marines at the Barracks, Naval diligently prepares his suits for each parade and polishes his shoes to a shine. Also, just like the Marines, Naval stands the entire evening, ensuring his trousers don’t wrinkle.
“I've got a check-off list posted by [my mirrors] to make sure I have everything I need and I’m properly dressed,” said Naval. “So when I walk out the door I don't have to worry about anything else.”
While Naval never served in the military, he feels a special bond with the U.S. armed forces. His father and uncles were soldiers and his maternal uncle died during the Bataan Death March.
“I've always had a love and a respect for military people,” said Naval, “particularly their work ethic and their attention to detail.”
To Marines and parade guests looking closely, they may be able to catch a special tradition between Naval and the A Company officers dating back to 1991. What began with a simple thumbs-up before the company officers marched out on the parade deck, now resembles a silent war - with hurled inaudible grenades and imagined talking guns.
“The weekly fight with Cenon is always a fun, humorous event that helps everyone relax and get their nerves out before it's time to march,” said Capt. Tyler Tidwell, former A Co. commanding officer and current Guard Co. operations officer.
The event takes place behind the bleachers. The A Company officers take their position in the garden opposite the VIP seating area where Naval awaits their arrival.
“The A Co. battle rhythm every Friday night is very deliberate,” said Tidwell. “During the first measure of Over the Seas the A Co. officers disperse into an elongated fire team wedge, sweeping through the garden area while attempting to return fire, as Cenon rains imaginary bullets down on everyone from his elevated, superior fighting position at the top of 1 North seating.”
Throughout the years, one parade in particular stands out in Naval’s mind. It was the last parade of 1990, and Gen. Alfred Gray, 27th Commandant of the Marine Corps, gave a speech.
“It was on the eve of Desert Shield and Desert Storm,” said Naval. “When [the commandant] spoke there was a feeling, at least that I got from listening to him, that this was going to be a horrible bloody conflict. You could feel that kind of emotion, but he said that we're going to do what needs to be done.”
While many Marines spend three to four years calling the Barracks home, Naval has found a second home at 8th and I - a home that epitomizes perfection, where attention to detail and tradition are ever-present.
“There are probably thousands of other people throughout the United States and the world that have ,” said Naval. “I love the Marines and to show my support. I think I'm just an ordinary person that likes parades.”