JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — Spectators who braved chilly winds lined both sides of the street Saturday as more than 5,000 Marines and sailors paraded their power as part of the 2nd Marine Division's 75th anniversary celebration.
The 1.5-mile parade featured everyone from World War II veterans to the future Marines in who now comprise JROTC. The division marched in step beneath a large U.S. flag that marked the reviewing area. Veterans along the route sported Marine memorabilia and gave shouts of "ooh-rah," which were quickly answered by the war cries of the passing platoon. The 2nd Marine Division band's rendition of the Marine's Hymn earned an ovation.
This was not a day for Marines alone. The division has upwards of 900 sailors, who have an equal share in the heritage of this blue-green team.
"When you see the Marines walking by, it is hard to pick out a sailor," said Command Master Chief (FMF/SW) Russell Folley. "The sailors in this division are in lock-step with the Marines. They train with them, they live with them, and they are a part of their unit. And when they leave the 2nd Marine Division, they are the best sailors in the Navy."
The events were an opportunity "to celebrate heritage and legacy, both past and present," for Sgt. Maj. Jim Boutin, 2nd Marine Regiment sergeant major. Roughly 1,200 regimental Marines joined him; 3rd Battalion was conducting preparatory training at Fort AP Hill, Virginia, in anticipation of an upcoming unit deployment to Okinawa.
Such dispersion is par for the course for the "Follow Me" division. Marines from 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion are conducting cold weather training in Norway, 1st BattalionBn., 8th Marines is serving as the Black Sea rotational force, and 8th Marine Regiment has taken the helm for Special Purpose MAGTF-Crisis Response Africa in Spain and Italy
Cpl. Anthony Silkwood, a tank commander with 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, gives a firsthand tour of an Abrams to Jake, the son of Capt. Jason Dequenne.
Photo Credit: Lance M. Bacon/Marine Corps Times
Division leaders felt it was important this be a community celebration. As such, the parade was held in Jacksonville rather than on Camp Lejeune, and culminated with a community festival at Jacksonville's New River Waterfront Park. There, Marines and citizens enjoyed some dodge ball, live music, and plenty of food. The M1A1 Abrams tank, assault breaching vehicle, and light armored reconnaissance vehicle were big hits, as the young — and young at heart — crawled through crew compartments and took countless selfies.
"Today is a very special day for us because we get to play host to the 2nd Marine Division," said Jacksonville Mayor Sammy Phillips. "This gives us an opportunity to recognize the heroes who live among us."
The three-day celebration included a memorial ceremony to honor the division's dead and missing warriors. Veterans from each era also placed battle streamers on the division colors. The division band wrapped up the two-day celebration with a concert at Northside High School.
The "Follow Me" division organized Feb. 1, 1941, at Camp Elliott, California. Its Marines have fought in every clime and place, from Guadalcanal in the Pacific to Afghanistan's Helmand province.
Three of the division's former commanders — Gens. Al Gray, Randolph Pate and James Jones — went on to serve as commandant. Lt. Gen. Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, also led the division as a two-star general from July 1954 to February 1955.