MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- General Alexander A. Vandegrift’s granddaughter and great granddaughter, Vallerey and Serina Vandegrift, toured the Blue Diamond more than 70 years after he commanded it during a visit here, Aug. 27.
Vallerey and Serina said they were intrigued and inspired by his legacy and visited the division’s headquarters, toured the Ranch House museum and ate lunch at a dining facility.
General Vandegrift commanded 1st Marine Division during 1942 in its first ground offensive of World War II, the Battle of Guadalcanal.
“Serina reached out to us a couple months ago when she found out there was a boulevard on Camp Pendleton named after her great grandfather and asked if she could visit,” said Col. Jeff Fultz, the 1st Marine Division Chief of Staff. “Their visit is very significant because the Marine Corps is all about history and tradition, and that’s one of our greatest strengths. Although Gen. Vandegrift has been gone for awhile, his family is still very much part of the Marine Corps family. We loved hosting them here, and I think it was great to see that part of the family and hear some of their stories about their grandfather and great grandfather.”
General Vandegrift was the 18th commandant of the Marine Corps, the first Marine officer on active duty to attain four-star rank and was a recipient of the Medal of Honor and Navy Cross. He passed away when Serina was a child and only documents, medals and stories were left for her to learn of his legacy.
“I wish he’d been around a lot longer, and I wish I’d been able to learn a lot more about him,” said Serina, a native of Alexandria, Va. “I’m extremely proud to come from such a rich military legacy. Every now and then I’m invited to a reception at the commandant’s house, and when I go to the parades, I tear up because I see the rich traditions and see my grandfather was a part of all this.”
Faye Jonason, the museum officer for 1st Marine Division, guided the Vandegrifts and Marines around the Ranch House and gave a brief history lesson of the Ranch House and the founding of Camp Pendleton.
During WWII, the Ranch House served as a training facility for thousands of Marines and sailors as they departed for the Pacific. Camp Pendleton’s 125,000 acres continued to serve as a training and staging area for Marines and sailors participating in the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and other commitments worldwide.
Serina and Vallerey told stories and gave light to the kind of man their grandfather was to the Marines with them on the tour.
“Any time I get an opportunity to meet a family member of a Marine Corps legend, I’m more than happy to do so,” Fultz said. “It was great hearing some of the old stories from the Vandegrift family because this is my first tour at 1st Marine Division. It’s great for me to learn as much of the history as I can as the chief of staff. There’s a lot of history to be learned about Gen. Vandegrift and the legacy he left in the 1st Marine Division.”
After their visit to Camp Pendleton, Serina and Vallerey plan to visit the USS Vandegrift, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate commissioned during 1982 that was named after their grandfather.