Marines herald 243 years of service, sacrifice, fidelity

By John R. Bell

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It was only a dog tag — a United States Marine’s government-issued combat identification.

But to a Marine Corps general officer, the small piece of metal carried by a fallen comrade in World War II represented so much more:

The bravery and sacrifice of one Marine to secure victory.

The nearly two-and-a-half centuries in which a unique, tightly knit military force has fought America’s enemies with valor, on land and at sea.

An ongoing history of sacrifice that unites all Marines, past and present, in unremitting devotion to the nation, fellow Marines and the values of the Corps — semper fidelis.

At a celebration of the 243rd birthday of the Marine Corps, Brig. Gen. David Maxwell recounted his role in returning the relic of Marine Cpl. Hugh Vogel to his family members a few years ago. Maxwell, the Corps’ assistant deputy commandant for installations and logistics, was the guest speaker at the Nov. 8 event in the McNamara Headquarters Complex.

The general had been serving in Afghanistan as the director of logistics for the NATO Combined and Joint Command. It was there that Australia’s ambassador to Afghanistan asked Maxwell to help him return two U.S. Marine dog tags he’d found while stationed in the Solomon Islands. One tag belonged to Vogel, a reconnaissance noncommissioned officer in Fourth Marines, Sixth Marine Division.

Vogel, Maxwell recalled, ultimately received the Navy Cross for his bravery during combat in Okinawa in May 1945, only three months before the Japanese surrendered.

He read from the award citation, describing how Vogel went beyond the front lines under heavy fire from enemy machine guns and mortars. Finding a machine-gun nest, Vogel “quickly annihilated the crew, captured the gun and turned it upon the enemy, destroying a mortar position and killing all the members of the mortar crew,” the citation read. Vogel then used explosives to destroy two caves full of enemy fighters.

Maxwell’s NCO in charge helped find Vogel’s surviving family members, who were very grateful to receive the memento of their loved one’s service, he recalled.

“For me, the opportunity to deliver that dog tag reflected a part of the lineage that we as Marines have been entrusted to pass down from generation to generation,” Maxwell said. “It was a significant event.

“And then before you know it, you realize that you stand and serve with many Marines who will be legendary for those who follow — who have their own stories.”

The general hailed the legacy of Marines in conflicts around the world before and since Vogel’s valiant WWII service — including Vietnam, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan, where he noted a retired Marine in the audience served with him: Patrick Dulin, DLA’s executive director of logistics operations.

But it’s a war of long ago that has special relevance for Marines in 2018, Maxwell said. This year marks 100 years since the World War I Battle of Belleau Wood, in which Marines fought alongside U.S. Army soldiers to defeat five German divisions in France. More than 1,800 Marines gave their lives in the June 1918 battle, which was key to the Allies’ victory and the armistice to come that Nov. 11, now marked by Veterans Day.

“I believe it’s also important as we head into this weekend, that it was the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 100 years ago, that the guns fell silent on what came to be known as the First World War — the ‘war to end all wars,’ ” Maxwell said.

He noted WWI was one of “incomprehensible cost” in lives lost, military and civilian. It also marked a shift from regional conflicts, sometimes between just two nations, to those involving nearly the entire world. And the Great War — in particular the Battle of Belleau Wood — was a turning point for the Marine Corps in becoming America’s worldwide expeditionary force.

Maxwell’s remarks, introduced by Marine Col. Steven de Lazaro, DLA’s Marine Corps national account manager, were part of a celebration hosted by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Defense Logistics Agency.

Also in attendance were Air Force Maj. Gen. Mark Johnson, director of Logistics Operations for DLA, and Army Lt. Gen. Darsie Rogers, DTRA deputy director.

The event began as 30 Marine Corps musicians marched in to a drum cadence, not in dress blues but in their unit-exclusive red dress jackets. The United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps, “The Commandant’s Own,” based at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., played a medley of patriotic pieces that rang through the atrium. This event’s performance featured trumpets, mellophones and tubas, kept in time by drums and cymbals.

In longstanding tradition, Marines in dress blues used a ceremonial sword to slice sections of a birthday cake for the guests of honor and participants.

The audience also viewed a short film following a Marine’s journey from civilian to boot Marine to leader; highlighting the actions of a Marine recently awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Vietnam; and honoring important events in the history of the Marine Corps.