Chesty, the future Marine Corps mascot, sits on the red carpet in front of the home of the commandant during a visit to Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 14. (Sgt. Dengrier M. Baez / Marine Corps)
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WINCHESTER, Va. — Chesty XIV will report for duty in a few weeks as the Marine Corps mascot.
The English bulldog was born in Frederick County and soon will be sworn in officially, although a date for the ceremony has not been set.
The 11-week-old puppy is destined to be the latest in a long line of bulldogs serving as the Marines’ mascot, a tradition that dates to 1922.
Bulldog breeder Sara Gomez hasn’t seen Chesty since Marine officials picked him up on the day he turned 8 weeks old to take him to Marine Barracks Washington, his new home.
But she knows the puppy, whom she described as “the most active and vocal” of the litter of three, will serve his country well.
“We are really proud,” Gomez said. “The officers we met are wonderful, and Chesty is going to do a great job.”
As the mascot, Chesty will participate in Friday-night military parades during the summer at the barracks, take part in tours of the Home of the Commandants and greet visiting celebrities and dignitaries, said Gunnery Sgt. Ryan Scranton, public affairs officer for the barracks.
During his time as a mascot, typically three to five years, he will also represent the corps at events around the nation’s capital, including visiting schools and other community events, Scranton said.
“Chesty will be involved in the Marine Corps in a very public way,” the sergeant said.
To do that, of course, he must look the part of a Marine. On March 1, Chesty was taken to Southeast Uniform Co. and measured so he could be outfitted with “all the uniforms that a regular Marine has,” Scranton said.
Gomez and her family plan to attend some of the summer parades to see Chesty as he is escorted in uniform across the parade field at the barracks.
But aside from the acclaim he will receive, she and her daughter and business partner, Abi Callahan, are happy Chesty will be so well-loved.
As small breeders, they do not show their bulldogs, focusing instead on providing “healthy and wonderful pets.”
Chesty was one of three puppies from the first litter of two of Gomez’s dogs, Magnolia Blossom and Old Dominion Dumptruck — “Maggie” and “O.D.,” for short.
He was born Jack Straw on Dec. 19, along with a sister, Sugaree, and brother, Casey Jones.
Gomez said she was referred to the Marines by another small breeder, Becky Rohrbaugh, who had bred a previous Chesty but now focuses on French bulldogs.
Officials contacted Gomez, and she told them when the puppies were born. Three weeks later, they visited and selected him. The sale price was $3,000.
Callahan thinks Chesty stood out because the pattern on his back is similar to camouflage, and his demeanor is the most active.
“He was the instigator to start playing, biting, growling and tugging — typical bulldog play,” said Callahan.
The officials were looking for a dog with the potential to be everything a Marine is — tenacious, faithful and loyal, Scranton said.
“We want somebody who looks good in uniform, just like every other Marine here at the barracks, and one who is squared away, tenacious and is going to be a good representative of the Marine Corps,” he said. “I think we found that in Chesty.”
Chesty and his brother were the only two in the litter considered. The mascot has been a male since the first bulldog, Jiggs, was enlisted Oct. 14, 1922, Scranton said.
Earlier mascots carried different names, but in 1957, it became a tradition to name the dog in honor of Lt. Gen. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller Jr., the most decorated Marine in U.S. history.
Chesty will stay with the family of a senior enlisted member of the U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, Scranton said.
Those Marines tend to be posted at the barracks for an extended period of time, which gives Chesty more continuity.
Chesty XIV will be sworn in as either a private or private first class, depending on his progress during obedience training in the coming weeks, Scranton said.
Along with being trained to sit, stay and heel, he will be “indoctrinated into the Marine Corps way of life.”