In the Jan. 8, Sgt. Grit, Gunny Rousseau's letter concerning leggings prompted me to submit this old photo. The photo is of my Uncle Henry Billert, as a young Marine at Quantico from 1935, wearing his greens and leggings. Talk about one squared away Marine! I wasn't born when the photo was taken. The only time I ever met him he was already out of the Corps, having served around 8 years. He traveled from Rockford, IL to Boston to visit his sister (my Mother) back in the fifties. I was around 12 or 13 at the time. I always looked up to him because he was a Marine, the same as John Wayne, Randolph Scott and others, who portrayed hard charging Marines on the big screen. What kid back then at that age did not eat up all those movies about WWII?
Since my uncle lived so far away, if it were not for the old family photos, I would not have known that he had been in the Marine Corps and had served as part of the Marine contingent aboard the U.S.S. Constitution. Back in the thirties the Constitution actually visited different ports-of-call up and down the east coast. Other old photos show my Uncle at the White House with the President and aboard the Constitution during a Presidential tour when the Constitution went up the Potomac River. President Calvin Coolidge was the Commander-in-Chief at the time.
My uncle was part of the motivation for me to become a Marine. In 1964 while I was home on leave after Parris Island, my uncle phoned to congratulate me. To this day I treasure the memory of that call and still feel the pride I felt when he told me how proud he was of me.
Here's to you Uncle Henry, after all these years. Semper Fi.
North Reading, MA
Cpl. of Marines
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