11th MEU(SOC) pays tribute to fallen comrades of Guadalcanal

15 Jun 2007 | Sgt. Eric McLeroy 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Off the coast of Guadalcanal, Marines and Sailors of 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) and USS Boxer gathered on the flight deck here April 1, to witness an awards and promotion ceremony and to honor servicemembers who fought there during the Pacific Campaign of World War II.The Guadalcanal memorial service followed the awards and promotions ceremony and culminated when Col. Charles S. Patton, commanding officer, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) and Navy Capt. Stuart Markey, commodore, Amphibious Squadron 7, tossed a wreath into the water.During the ceremony, Col. Patton spoke to the Marines and Sailors about the importance and significance of the battles that took place on the island of Guadalcanal more than 50 years ago. "I got chills when I heard the CO talking," Sgt. Jose Bernal, platoon sergeant, Communications Plt., Command Element, said. "I pictured in my mind, the rounds flying by those Marines' heads as they got closer to the island. We might think we have it hard now, but those Marines had it rough."When the Marines landed on the island Aug. 7, 1942, they were part of 1st Marine Division (reinforced) - the largest single formation of Marines in history at that time. It was the first U.S. landing in the South Pacific during World War II.Many battles took place during the time the Marines arrived until they were relieved on Dec. 10, 1942. Colonel Patton mentioned the names of legendary Marines such as LtCol. Lewis B. (Chesty) Puller and Col. Clifton B. Cates who fought Japanese forces on the island alongside lesser-known heroes from 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division like Pvt. John Rivers, Cpl. Lee Diamond and Pvt. Albert Schmid. "What better location to be recognized and promoted than at sea near the first American land offensive in the South Pacific of the second World War," Col. Patton said during his speech after Marines were promoted and awarded. "Young men of the 1st Marine Division sailed these waters as we do today - a long way from home, uncertain of the enemy they faced, uncertain of their abilities and uncertain of their fate."Bernal stood stiff as a board during the ceremony as he held the Marine Corps colors as a member of the Color Guard. The sun crept in and out from behind sagging gray clouds, and later Bernal listened to Sgt. Dnasha Harrison, color guard sergeant, explain the sky's message."He said, 'the spirits of Guadalcanal, thanked us for the ceremony and let us know it was time to leave,'" Bernal recited.The moody clouds wept showers over the ship and ocean moments after the ceremony ended. "As soon as the wreath was tossed, it started to rain," Bernal, a Juan Bautista, Calif. native, said. "Everybody out there probably got a little tingly feeling. If it weren't for those Marines then, we wouldn't be where we are today, because the past shapes the future."When the Battle of Guadalcanal ended in February 1943, more than 1,500 Marines had died. "It is fitting that today we pause and remember our fallen Marines and Sailors," Col. Patton said. "So that the shadows do not obscure their deeds or their sacrifices."

Marine Corps News

Colonel Thomas M. Siverts
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Colonel Tom Siverts is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 1989. He achieved a commission as a Second Lieutenant through the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program following his graduation from the University of Virginia in May 1999. Colonel Siverts has deployed in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD, DESERT STORM, IRAQI FREEDOM, and ENDURING FREEDOM. His other operational deployments include serving with Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/8, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU); BLT 3/8, 22d MEU; BLT 2/8, 26th MEU, and Task Force 61/2.

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Lieutenant Col. Steven M. Sprigg
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LtCol Sprigg was born in Parkersburg, WV. LtCol Sprigg enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in September 2004 and recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC. LtCol Sprigg was selected for the Enlisted Commissioning Program and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in March 2008. He was designated a Naval Aviator in February 2011 and reported to HMLAT-303 for training as an AH-1W pilot. LtCol Sprigg is currently serving as the Executive Officer for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Camp Pendleton, California.

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Sergeant Major Travis L. DeBarr
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