By Jordyn Grzelewski
From the Halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli; We fight our country’s battles in the air, on land and sea.
First to fight for right and freedom, and to keep our honor clean. We are proud to claim the title of United States Marine.
A packed banquet hall full of Marine Corps members and their families proudly sang those words Saturday night, followed by a resounding “Oorah!,” at the 35th annual Marine Reunion hosted by the local chapter of the Marine Corps League at the Saxon Club.
Veterans of every U.S. war and conflict since World War II, as well as active-duty marines, were honored at Saturday’s event, which drew a crowd of nearly 300.
“It’s basically 80 years of Marine Corps history in the room tonight,” said Mike Shepherd, League member and emcee of the event.
Of the 38 detachments of the Marine Corps League in Ohio, Youngstown has the third-largest chapter, according to Shepherd. Not everyone in attendance was a member of the league, however, nor were they all from Ohio — some traveled from California, New Jersey, Virginia, Pennsylvania and many other places to be a part of the reunion.
The guest of honor was Sgt. Major Mike Mervosh, a Pittsburgh native who enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942 and fought in the battles of Roi-Namur, Marshall Island, Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima during World War II, as well as serving during the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Mervosh remarked on what it means to be a marine and on some of his personal experiences.
“Hard work is something that comes naturally to us marines,” Mervosh said. “Being a marine is not a job. It’s a way of life.”
Honor, duty, courage, commitment, self-discipline and mental toughness are just a few of the qualities the Marine Corps embodies, he said.
Mervosh said Marines today face new challenges, and should strive to do better than their predecessors, but must adhere to the same values and maintain the legacy of past Marines.
One member of the current Marine Corps present at the event was Ken Kirkland Jr., who belongs to the third generation of Marines in his family. His father, Ken Sr., and his grandfather, Bruce, were also present. Kirkland served in Afghanistan from last July to January.
Along with Mervosh, several other Iwo Jima veterans, as well as other World War II veterans, attended.
“These World War II veterans will always be remembered as the epitome of the Greatest Generation,” Mervosh said. “At Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue.”
Jim Tuohy, former National Commandant of the Marine Corps League who has spent decades working as an advocate for veterans, said one of the biggest issues facing veterans is access to quality health care, in light of the recent revelations about VA hospitals delaying access to care and covering up long wait times for veterans.
“What really needs to happen is they need to take better care of our veterans in hospitals. They need to see them in a timely manner and take care of their issues,” he said. “They need more counselors at the VA to help those returning from combat suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Tuohy would not, however, comment on the military conflicts in which marines are engaged in today, saying the Marine Corps League is a nonpolitical organization.
“We support our troops in whatever endeavor they’re involved in. We support the Marine Corps,” he said.