Sgt. Grit Community
Submit Your Story


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.

read more


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.

read more

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.

read more

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.

read more

A Lesson in War

Not one to romanticize war I simply write my impressions and conclusions, like this poem: A Lesson of War

No one wins in war.
Aside from the stories, legend and lore
The only gain
From war
Is an unremovable stain:
After war, some who fought
May boast that they served in battle.
I don’t think I ever will.
The lesson I learned in war is
That it is not who you fight
But who you kill.

read more

My story about jumping into foxholes

The date was Feb 67. I was on my way back after a 30 day free leave for extending 6 months. Flew in to DaNang with a E-7 sitting next to me asking a billion questions. Now at that time transit was in hardbacks near the airfield, no Hilton yet. It is night and I am BSing with a team from 26 Marines. They there for rabies shots. All the sudden we hear a “freight trains” going over our heads. Then loud explosions on other side of airfield. Well this same E-7 runs in yelling about getting into the trenches. So being good Marines we get up go out and proceed to watch the FNG’s jump into a trench 1/2 full of water and mudd. We did not say a thing, just walked back to the hootch a went to sleep. Funny, never saw that Gunny agian. Semper Fi

read more

Lori ivy

While in artillary stationed in ICorps I got very sick. I was med evaced to a hospital in Danang. While I was hospitalized I got a dear JOHN letter from my girl at home. There was a list at the hospital of girls who would write to service personnel in Vietnam. I began writing to Lori Ivy. When I was released from the hospital I was still weak from my illness. I was sent home. I lost Lori’s address. I never could thank her. I couldn’t tell her what her letters meant to this young Marine sick on the other side of the world. I couldn’t even tell her I was sent home. To this day I think of her and hope somehow she will know how important she was to someone she never met. Semper-Fi Lori Ivy. 🇺🇸

read more


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.

read more


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.

read more