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In 2015 a private, non-profit organization known as History Flight excavated what is believed to be Cemetery 27 on the island of Betio, Tarawa, and recovered the remains of multiple individuals, one of them being Whitehurst.
“It’s a very humbling experience and an honor to bring him back home,” Ashley said. “I knew it was going to be a high-visibility event, so I wanted to make sure everything was done right for the family so they could have closure. “It needed to be picture perfect, if for nobody else but him, because that is what he deserved,” he added. “He deserved to have the perfect transportation back home to Alabama soil.”
Before his long, four-day journey began, Ashley began preparing for his task.
“I meticulously went through everything from how the remains were discovered, the fallen Marine’s history and the escort process of the remains from start to finish,” he said.
Ashley also received information that gave him more insight into Whitehurst’s Marine Corps service.
According to a pamphlet Ashley received, Whitehurst was assigned to Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, 2d Marine Division. He was part of the strategic goal of securing the Marshall Islands during World War II where the U.S. forces were ordered to secure the Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Island chain in late 1943.
From Nov. 20-23, 1943, the 2d MarDiv and the U.S. Army 27th Infantry Division landed on the small Tarawa island of Betio against stiff Japanese resistance. Whitehurst was killed in action Nov. 20, 1943, the document further indicated.
“After reading it, I started to get to know who I was escorting and began to relate to him,” Ashley said.
On April 10, Ashley’s journey began as he boarded a flight at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport in Albany, stopping at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta before arriving at his final destination at the Honolulu International Airport in Hawaii.
With great anticipation, Ashley awoke early the next morning and went to the funeral home.
“I showed up at the funeral home to inspect the remains and I made sure the uniform was perfect, to include the presentation of his ribbons,” he said. “The reality of it didn’t set in until I began reviewing the remains. It was at that moment when I realized the magnitude of my assignment.”
After signing for the remains, Ashley went back to his hotel, changed into his Dress Blue Bravo Uniform and went to the Honolulu International Airport where he participated in the first of what would be four plane-side honors ceremonies. Two more ceremonies were conducted in Atlanta and one in Tallahassee, Florida.
“Plane-side honors are a way to show gratitude to the Marine who paid the ultimate sacrifice,” he said. “This is done when the remains are transported to and from an aircraft.”
Ashley admitted his emotion and excitement grew each time for the family as he knew he was one step closer to bringing Whitehurst home.
According to the escort, he did not pay attention to individuals who gathered along the glass of the terminal or those taking photos from the airplane of the plane-side ceremony.
“As an escort, your main focus is to get the Marine home,” Ashley said. “For four straight days, this was my only concern. Nothing else mattered. “(I was) bringing back an American hero,” he continued. “(I was) bringing back (a Marine) who gave up (his life) so we can have freedom and enjoy the things we do in America.”
Ashley said the airline plane-side honor team was impressive.
“I met with the airline plane-side honor team, who were all U.S. military veterans,” he said. “Each one volunteered their own time to come in and be a part of bringing Whitehurst home.”
After arriving in Tallahassee, Ashley met Whitehurst’s family for the first time.
“I thought I was going to be perceived as just the escort,” he said. “You know, just a hand shake and thanks for bringing him home. I thought I had done my duty and that was going to be the end of it, but that is not what happened. “It was hugs and tears,” he revealed. “We had a lot of good conversations about him. It was a welcoming experience, almost like I was part of their family. “At dinner with Charles Odom, Whitehurst’s nephew, he told me I wasn’t just a Marine that escorted his uncle, that I was now kin,” Ashley said. “I was family for the rest of our lives. One of the nephews also said, ‘you’re just not family, you are like a brother to me now.’”
Ashley said he learned more about Whitehurst through the stories told by friends and family members.

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Cpl. Nathan Bryson, a Marine veteran who most recently served as a motor transport operator for Headquarters and Support Battalion, School of Infantry East, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal at the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment headquarters in Brook Park, Ohio, April 13, 2017.

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Dirty Laundry

Sgt. Grit,

Remember in boot camp the scrub brush and the soapy water and the tables we scrubbed our clothes on. Some guys did this in Camp Geiger too! I went home after Camp Geiger on a bus from North Carolina with my sea bag and dirty laundry.

My mom went apesh-t when I emptied my sea bag on the Persian Living room carpet! She made me take it to the Chinese Laundry around the corner. Major cities had these Chinese hand laundry’s – that did predominately linens – table clothes – and shirts. The old Chinese gentleman spoke little English and gave you a receipt with Chinese characters on it for a stub. He weighed the sea bag – and bowed to me. Two days later I went to pick it up – and my mom paid back then like $20.00 (which was very expensive for those days – when a regular laundry would cost less than $5.00.) The Chinese guy went berserk yelling and screaming and pointing at me – the guy’s wife came out of the back to quiet him down – and calmly explained to me that my skivvies and utilities were so dirty I clogged the pipes when they cleaned the dirty clothes. My utilities were now sparkling – and my skivvies were bright white – rough socks were smooth to my skin. A rare treat for a Marine after boot camp.

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First amphibious landing in Marine Corps history

The first amphibious landing in Marine Corps history came on March 3, 1776, when a force under Captain Samuel Nicholas stormed the beaches of the British-held island of New Providence in the Bahamas. The 220 Marines had journeyed to the Caribbean with a Continental Navy flotilla in search of military supplies. After landing unopposed near Nassau, they captured the town and took possession of its two forts, both of which surrendered after a token resistance. New Providence’s British governor managed to ship more than 150 barrels of gunpowder out of the town before the Marines arrived, but Nicholas and his band successfully seized several brass cannons and mortars that were later put to use by George Washington’s Continental Army.

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Second lieutenant Lillian Polatchek, the first female Marine to attend the Army’s Armor Basic Officer Leaders Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, graduated at the top of her class April 12, 2017.

Polatchek, a New York native, was commissioned in November of 2015 after attending Connecticut College. After graduating The Basic School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, she reported to the Marine Corps Detachment at Fort Benning, Georgia to attend the U.S. Army’s Armor Basic Officer Leaders Course.

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IWO TO, Japan — At the base of Mount Suribachi on Iwo To, among the most iconic places in Marine Corps history, U.S. Marine, Army and Air Force veterans, families alongside U.S. and Japanese leaders and other distinguished guests gathered to commemorate fallen service members during the 72nd Reunion of Honor ceremony, March 25, 2017.

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Return from carrier quals

In the early sixties the aircraft carriers at Pearl Harbor docked at the old Battle Ship Row in front of the Arizona Memorial on Ford Island. I was a plane captain on A4Ds in VMA-212 based at Kaneohe Bay on the other side of Oahu from”61” to “63”.  On return from one of these qualification cruises and after 20 or 30 hours of constant flight quarters, without a break, we plane captains were tired and dirty and taking a break on the hangar deck in the number two elevator opening. The elevator being up gave a huge picture window to the passing scene as we passed down the “slot” around Ford Island.  Somebody broke out a deck of cards and several of us were playing eucre on an overturned box.  The ships’ crew had been ordered into dress whites and lined the flight deck, shoulder to shoulder.  As we passed outgoing ships the Captain would announce “Attention to Port”, or “Attention to Starboard” and all the swabbies rendered hand salutes to the outgoing ships, which did the same in response with their crews.  Needless to say, a bunch of dirty, tired Marines looking at these passing swabbies all spit shined and rested did not appreciate the tradition we were observing.  We had our own version of the hand salute that got passed to the outgoing vessels.  This made for very astonished expressions from one sub as I recall.  Sailors in a row, from fore to aft and up the conning tower, mouths agape at the dirty, green humanoids disrespecting their ship.  Anyway, as we rounded Ford Island preparing to dock, the captain announced, “Attention to Starboard” and there coming into view was the new (at the time) Arizona Memorial, flying the stars and stripes as a still commissioned ship of the Navy.  Every man jack one of us stood at attention and saluted that beautiful flag and as we passed slowly by and into the slip just in front of the memorial.  No way could we not honor those brave men. Still brings a tear to my eye remembering. Cpl. Norm Spilleth 1960 to 1964 Sgt Grit wants to hear from you! Leave your comments below or Submit your own Story !

Inspiration Before The Battle (GySgt Walgren)

Take yourself back almost three years to February of 2010.  What were you doing then?  Were you in school, or at your last job?  For the Marines of 1/3, 1/6, 3/6, and 3/10, they were about to begin what was dubbed as the most dangerous combat operation since Fallujah with the commencement of Operation Moshtarak.  Their mission: clear the Taliban-infested city of Marjah, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.  While I have never set foot in Marjah, I did deploy just next door in Nawa district, having gone on many a patrol just outside of Marjah in the “friendly” area of Trek Nawa.  Before you watch this legendary speech by Gunnery Sergeant Walgren of 1/6 (1st Battalion, 6th Marines), try and imagine yourself as one of these young Marines that’s about to climb into a CH-53 helicopter and begin the assault.  Can you imagine the mental preparation you have to do to really prepare yourself for a mission like that, especially with all of the intel/news reports on how heavy the enemy activity was?  That’s where good leadership comes into play, and the video speech you’re about to witness is spine-tingling good.  You don’t have to be a good public speaker to be a good leader, but it is a good quality to have, and Gunny Walgren possesses it in spades.

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Godspeed, John Glenn

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller presents the flag to Annie Glenn, wife of retired U.S. Marine Corps Col. John H. Glenn Jr., during his funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., April 6, 2017. Glenn passed away Dec. 8, 2016. Glenn was a U.S. Marine Aviator who flew 149 combat missions during World War II and the Korean War. He later became a NASA astronaut and was the first man to orbit the earth aboard the “Friendship 7” in 1962. He was then elected to the U.S. Senate for the state of Ohio in 1974 and served four consecutive terms. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by CWO4 Jonathan C. Knauth)

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