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1st Marine Division welcomes veterans for 67th anniversary

28 Jan 2008 | Sgt. M. Trent Lowry

Marine Corps history books are teeming with the exploits of thousands of leathernecks of the 1st Marine Division who, throughout the years and numerous conflicts, have done the most to define the warrior ethos of the Corps.

 Some of those men, veterans of combat in places like Peleileu, the Chosin Reservoir and Hue City, sat flanking either side of the division’s logo, the Blue Diamond, outside the division’s headquarters building Jan. 31 at the rededication ceremony commemorating the division’s 67th anniversary.

 More than 120 members of the 1st Marine Division Association – established in 1947 and comprised of Marines and sailors who served with the division – brought their family members and joined active duty Marines in celebrating the Feb. 1, 1941 birth of the division.

 Tears of pride and remembrance crawled down the rugged faces of the combat veterans as they watched Major Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, division commanding general, hang battle streamers from the division colors at the rededication ceremony. Active-duty Marines from Headquarters and Service Battalion handed the streamers to Major Gen. Waldhauser in succession, giving the audience a moving summary of the division’s combat history.

 If the rededication of the colors was the most traditionally significant event in a week’s worth of activities, starting Jan. 28 and ending Feb. 1, it wasn’t the most active. The

 division offered action to the Association members by hosting a golf tournament, dining-in, static displays, unit tours, field demonstrations and, finally, a review of recruit training

 graduation at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.

 “Just being part of the Marine Corps family, and seeing all the people every year, fills him up with pride,” said Yolanda Latvala, wife of former corporal James Latvala. The

 former Marine served with 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Mar Div., from 1969 to 1971, including service in Vietnam.

 “There is nobody more proud of being a Marine and a member of 1st Marine Division than me,” said Latvala, a resident of Two Harbors, Minn., who was attending his fifth division anniversary. “I’m a strong believer in keeping traditions alive, and I’m still so much a Marine at heart.”

 Current Marines from the division’s units put maximum effort into assuring the veterans had all the support necessary for an enjoyable week of witnessing how Marines train


 “Obviously the support of the different battalions within the division was crucial to make sure the (1st Marine Division) Association members were well taken care of,” said Lt. Col. Michael J. Mooney, the training officer for 1st Marine Division.

 The most popular activity throughout the week, according to the “old breed,” was getting the chance to talk to young Marines about their lives as today’s generation of


 “I’ve got all the respect in the world for these young men,” said Charles Frankel, a retired New York City police lieutenant, a current resident of Sun City West, Ariz., and

 a “plank owner” – a Marine who was present on the USS Texas in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 1941, when the 1st Marine Brigade became the 1st Marine Division. “They’ve been in combat; they’re the real thing.”

 “I love this stuff,” said Staff Sgt. John P. Neary, staff non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer at the School of Infantry. “The older

 Marines always have a lot of questions and are very interested in the new training.

 “To all of us, they’re legends,” Neary said of the guests.

 Many active Marines were in awe being in the presence of the Corps’ living history, and thanked the older leathernecks for their sacrifices in wars past.

 “When you hear the battle history of the division and see these men here, you feel a great connection with the past,” Mooney said. “The hope is that you will live up to the

 expectations of those Marines who came before.”

 Though the current Marines held the 1st Marine Division Association members in high esteem, it is true, too, that the feelings of admiration were mutual.

 “You hear the Marines tell us at these anniversaries, ‘it’s an honor to be in your presence,’” said Latvala, whose father and uncle were both Marines who served in Pacific battles.

 “In my eyes, the honor is all mine. I see the sharpness and the alertness of the Marines of today, and I feel the pride that we’re still in good hands.”