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Marines look up to fallen brothers

13 Jul 2009 | Cpl. Daniel Blatter

Although many Marines may not know where the heart and soul of 1st Marine Regiment is, they have two ways to find it: either look far off behind Camp Horno or run up the hill and see it firsthand.

“It’s the biggest hill around here,” said Sgt. Parker C. Vaculik, a reconnaissance Marine with Company B, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division. “Really, by coming up here, you are killing two birds with one stone. You’re exercising and you’re showing your respect to the fallen.”

“If you look way up to the top of the hill, you will see a cross,” said Col. Daniel J. O’Donohue, the commanding officer of 1st Marine Regiment. “It is the heart of 1st Marines. It’s a monument put up by Marines for Marines.”

At the top of the grueling climb up San Onofre Mountain, planted more than four miles from Basilone Road, lays a cross built as a memorial in remembrance of fallen Marines. The cross was placed up there by Marines of 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

“If you go up there, you will notice that it is very much like the Vietnam wall,” said O’Donohue.  “There are dogtags put up there as well as many tributes to the fallen.”

The cross stands proud, surrounded by inscripted rocks and other memorabilia, such as rank insignia, pictures, and plaques.

“Up there is a quote that I think epitomizes everything 1st Marines is about,” said O’Donohue. “It goes like this; ‘just as iron sharpens iron, men sharpen men’.”

Although the original cross was put there in 2004, it was replaced early in 2008 after an October 2007 wildfire. The memorial expanded after the fire and now contains memorabilia from units all over Camp Pendleton.

Very few people realize how little they sacrifice until they become witness to others who sacrifice more.

“It is breathtaking; to run these hills and pass by the memorial of Marines who gave everything they had,” said Vaculik, 22, from Missoula, Mont. “The memorial is definitely in the right place; overlooking Marines.”