Pace: Today's Marines Build on Proud Legacy
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 6, 2005 Marines serving today in Iraq are living up to the legacy Marines of previous conflicts have passed on to them, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told a gathering of Korean War era veterans June 4.
"They're out there, they are proud of what they're doing, and they understand what they are doing," Marine Gen. Peter Pace told members of the 15th Special Basic Class, which graduated from the Marine Corps basic officer course in 1952. "And when they get into fights like they got into in Fallujah (November 2004), they have taken the lessons of Injon (Korea), and the have taken the lessons of Hue City (Vietnam), and they have polished them and made them better. And they have made us proud."
Today's Marines have better training, thanks to lessons passed on to them from their predecessors, and more advanced equipment than Marines of past generations, Pace said. But just as importantly, he said, they have the benefit of the legacy they inherited from those who served before them.
More than 100 members of the 15th Special Basic Class wrapped up a five-day reunion here June 5, visiting war memorials, touring the White House and meeting Vice President Dick Cheney. But a highlight of the visit, according to retired Lt. Gen. D'Wayne Gray, was a trip to Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., to see second lieutenants going through the basic school they attended nearly 53 years ago.
Gray retired from the Marine Corps as commanding general of Fleet Marine Force Pacific and commander of Marine Corps Bases Pacific.
The visitors were struck by "the magnitude of changes" that have taken place in the military since they served, Gray told the American Forces Press Service. Today's Marines, he said, are better educated, more technologically oriented, and able to process information and issue orders far faster than their predecessors. "It's exciting to see," he said.
Despite the changes, Gray said today's new officers have much in common with the veterans. "Like them, we were training for war," he said, noting that most of his classmates deployed to Korea shortly after graduation. And like the veterans did, today's Marines "have a seriousness of purpose, but still the easy laughter of youth," he said.
Today's young Marine officers "know as we did that they are going off to a big adventure," the retired general said. "They're apprehensive in a sense because they're smart enough to know there's danger involved. But they want to be part of something important happening in the world. They're super young men and women."
These troops are building on the legacy of those who served before them, Pace told the Korean War-era veterans, thanking them for "the incredible gift you gave to this nation and to your families."
"You took a corps that had a reputation for combat excellence in World War II and you applied it repeatedly during your watch," in Korea, and in many cases, in Vietnam as well, Pace said.
The vice chairman said all Marines feel fear in combat, and recalled the fear he personally felt as a second lieutenant platoon leader in Vietnam. "I looked to my left and I looked to my right and I saw Marines," he said. "And I knew in my heart of hearts, there was no way I would ever let down the legacy you gave to us."
He thanked the veterans and other former Marines for helping build the tradition that continues to drive today's Marines. "We as a corps of Marines inherit everything that our predecessors have done," he told them.
Referring to his nomination to become the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after Air Force Gen. Richard Myers retires later this year, Pace said he couldn't have done it without the mentoring and support of his fellow Marines. "If I can see the chairmanship," he said, "it's because I stand on the shoulders of the giants of the Corps."