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Lieutenant Colonel Brian S. Middleton, commanding officer of 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, salutes the colors during the unit’s reactivation ceremony aboard Marine Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Sept. 17, 2015. The Marine Corps’ reactivation of the “Thundering Third” officially starts Oct. 1, 2015, which marks exactly 90 years of dedicated service within the Corps.

Photo by Cpl. Demetrius Morgan

Thundering Third returns: 3/4 hosts reactivation ceremony

17 Sep 2015 | Cpl. Demetrius Morgan 1st Marine Division

3rd Battalion, 4th Marines has answered the call to battle for almost a century as one of the Marine Corps’ flexible and dedicated units. 3/4 has been deactivated and reactivated seven times throughout its history and once again has received the call to support and defend the nation.

On Sept. 17, 2015, Marines, sailors and distinguished guests gathered for the reactivation of 3/4, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California.
The unit was originally established Oct. 1, 1925 aboard naval base San Diego and the Marine Corps’ reactivation of the “Thundering Third” officially begins Oct. 1, 2015, marking exactly 90 years of dedicated service to the Corps. The reactivation is due to high demand in operations around the world, including future deployments and 3/4 will be ready to take on any challenge in its path.

“I can think of no greater communion than between those in the stands and those on the field,” said Maj. Gen. Daniel J. O’Donohue, commanding general of the division. “We’ve got the seeds of what will be 3/4 and those seeds are grown in a legacy of valor.” 

Marines with 3/4 stood in formation with the colors and guidons still covered which symbolized the state of the unit before reactivation. As the ceremony progressed, the order to unveil the colors and guidons was given, marking the beginning of a new era for 3/4. 
Marines in attendance also took time to honor the veterans present and to those who could not attend because of the ultimate sacrifice they paid in the line of duty.

“I want to take this time to give thanks to those who came before us here today. A mixture between the timeless aspects of what makes Marines strong and what we see in terms of the future are represented in this community,” said O’Donohue. “The most important thing we can do is transition that legacy of valor to those Marines.”

One of the veterans in attendance was Sgt. Maj. Ray V. Wilburn, who joined the Corps in 1939 and served in three wars and over 30 years in the Corps, including time in 3/4, ultimately retiring in 1971. Wilburn said he still calls the Marine Corps home.    

Wilburn stated that the Marine Corps will always need units ready to respond to anything thrown their way and that Marines must “go with the fold” in order to succeed in future operations.  

Following the formal reactivation ceremony, the Marines proceeded to conduct one of the unit’s treasured traditions, the Thunder Mug Ceremony. The ceremony originated in 1966 during Operation Prairie in the Vietnam War. After 40 days of continuous combat, the battalion was able to break and indulged in hot food and French 75 to rest and refit. The supply sergeant at the time had accidentally sent a toilet bowl instead of a punch bowl for the meal, and thus the Thunder Mug was born.

Much like other traditions in the Marine Corps, the Thunder Mug Ceremony is a symbol of inspiration and brings Marines and sailors together. During the ceremony, Marines reflected on tales of 3/4 and gave thanks to those who have gone before, to those who now serve. 

“Overall the Marine Corps is still built on history and tradition and that’s what keeps a guy like me around for so long,” Wilburn said. “I had a good career, I wouldn’t change a thing and I would do it all over again.”
Lieutenant Colonel Brian S. Middleton will take on the task of leading the newly activated battalion in all future endeavors, including pre-deployment training and designated operations.

“We will carry the burden every day to get better, bigger, stronger, faster … to be the most ready, when the nation is least ready”, he said.

Although the unit is still in the process of building its forces, training and preparation is continuous and the Corps is fortunate to have back this storied unit.

1st Marine Division