JACKSONVILLE, N.C. -- U.S. Marines are considered a band of brothers. Whether it’s brotherhood in combat or back home, Marines stick together.
But what about after they get out of the Marine Corps? Does the bond break?
For the Marines of 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company, who served in Vietnam from 1965-1970, the answer is no.
On May 5, the unit reunited for a weekend of camaraderie and reminiscing.
To these Marines the only thing that has changed over the years is their appearance. Stories and memories of the times they spent together in the Corps could be heard throughout the picnic area.
The reunions started around 1989. A few of the members gathered for a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. Retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Ron Lauzon was one of those Marines.
“We decided that this is not the way to get together. We should get together while we’re still alive,” Lauzon explained.
Over the years, the Marines have met in various fashions and each time the gathering continued to grow.
“This is a 40-year friendship. It matters that we all get together,” said Retired Sgt. Dick Crepeau.
The reunion was an open invitation to the Recon community and the Marine Corps community.
The majority of the Marines at the event were from 1st, 3rd and 5th Platoons of 3rd Force Recon.
According to Retired Capt. John Borst, reunions later down the road are not uncommon.
“A lot of times I’ve read of units that have been in combat together coming back home, and they don’t see each other because of jobs, busy lives and going separate ways. But then 20 or 30 years later, they want to reunite and re-bond as they get older,” explained Borst.
Due to the nature of their missions in Vietnam, there is little record of the unit in Marine Corps history. But one thing is for certain; the men of 3rd Force Recon were and are a tight-knit group of combat veterans, who fought on freedom’s farthest outpost in the Vietnam War.
“It was an honor and a privilege to serve with these men, and it’s an honor to meet up with them and their families now,” Borst said.
During the ceremony, the veterans got a chance to meet and talk to some of today’s heroes from the Wounded Warrior Battalion-East, Wounded Warrior Regiment, Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Washington, D.C.
For many of the Recon Marines, meeting the younger Marines was a reminder of the harshness of war and got retired Marines, like Retired Col. Gregory K. Manary, thinking, ‘I wish I were out there with them.’
“I wake up at night sweating, because I’m not there (in Iraq) and they are,” Manary explained. “I could yell out the door right now, ‘hey we just got permission to take 10 volunteers from Force Recon, Vietnam era, to Iraq,’ I’d be trampled by wheeled-chairs, walkers and canes. It’s like family when a part of your family is in harms way, you’re going to go and help them.”
Although the unit was disbanded more than 35 years ago, the Marines of 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company are living proof that Marines are a band of brothers and that band will not break and can stand the test of time.
“There’s a saying, ‘once a Marine, always a Marine,’ well that’s what (we’ll) always be,” Manary said.