TINIAN, Mariana Islands --
Approximately 200 Marines with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, collaborated with locals to celebrate both Veterans’ Day and the 238th Marine Corps Birthday Nov. 11, 2013, at Tinian’s North Field’s 2nd and 4th Marine Division Monuments.
Marines and residents of Tinian fostered relationships as they remember those who have fallen in the line of duty and bring Marine Corps’ traditions to Tinian. The Marines are on Tinian for exercise Forager Fury II, which is designed to employ and asses combat power generation in a deployed and austere environment.
To commence the day’s festivities, Veteran’s Day began with an introduction from Zania Fleming, ceremony hostess, followed by an invocation by Pastor Jim Howard. The Tinian Junior Senior High School Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Color Guard conducted a presentation of colors.
The color guard, more than anxious to perform in front of veterans, according to Retired 1st Sgt. Peter Salas, Senior army instructor for TJSHS JROTC.
“When I first mentioned it to the (children), they were more than excited because it’s going to be the first time they did a Veteran’s Day and a combination with the Marines’ birthday day,” said Salas. “They found it as a unique opportunity. One, to participate with the Marines and two, to learn what the Marines really do other than the stuff they see in the movies. They were arguing who was going to hold the Marines colors because, (three of the color guard) aspires to be Marines.”
One of the members is a junior at TJSHS who has been on the color guard for two years with the intention of becoming the battalion commander before he graduates.
“I’m honored and very happy that I got to march the Marine Corps flag with the Marines here, but I have to admit, I was very nervous,” said Cadet Capt. Christian Miasha, Company B commander for TJSHS JROTC. “The Marines talked to us afterwards and when they explained things, they were specific and very detailed. In comparison, we hardly knew anything so it was indescribable, being able to learn from those men.”
Joe Delacruz, mayor’s office senior policy advisor, was in charge with organizing the event with the Marines as well as all the components. Delacruz mentioned if it wasn’t for the staff at the mayor’s office and the Marines working together this event couldn’t have been the huge success it was because of their effort and commitment. He also mentioned the enormous impact Marines had on the TJSHS JROTC.
“This particular event brings a multi-phase interest to our community because of the Marines presence and a lot of our young people want to contribute and be a part of the U.S. armed forces,” said Delacruz. “This gives them a glance into the future of what they are trying to enter.”
Don A. Farrell, Tinian mayor’s office chief of staff, gave welcoming remarks to everyone who attended after the presentation of colors and a special thanks to veterans’ both retired and active duty. Farrell helped attendees to be aware of the historical value North Field contains.
Farrell gave an overview how Tinian played a major role in wining World War II. Speaking from his book, “Tinian, A brief history,” he talked about the Naval Construction Battalions (Seabees), landing with the Marines July 24, 1944, and made the Japanese runway operational just two days later, allowing transport aircraft from Saipan to lift out the wounded and bring in medical supplies.
Preceding the Veterans’ Day, a presentation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ 238th birthday cake brightened the atmosphere and raised the morale of the celebration.
Two Marines spoke on the behalf of the birthday ceremony to help inform the people of Tinian why Marines celebrate the birthday. One of those Marines read Commandant James’s F. Amos Birthday Message and General John A. Lejeune’s Birthday Message and realized they mean more than just words.
“It’s an honor and I think they are incredibly important messages,” said Cpl. Michelle Reges from Wilmington, Del., administrative clerk with Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, 1st MAW, III MEF. “It’s a good reminder to remember what we stand for and why we join; to defend our nation, our constitution and our freedoms. When you read the messages it starts to sink in that Marines are here for one another and we are a reflection of our history. We should continue to strive to reflect our history as the Marine before showed us. No matter what battle they were fighting, whether it was Tarawa or Baghdad, Marines took care of one another whether they like him or not because we, as Marines, look out for each other and things like the Marine Corps Birthday and Veterans’ Day helps to remember those important values.”
With all messages read, Marines introduced their custom of cutting the cake to the local community members with the oldest Marine taking the first bite and then giving it to the youngest Marine to take a bite as a symbol of the passing of knowledge. The oldest Marine was Master Sgt. Juan Carlos Areiza from Brooklyn, N.Y., with MWSS 171, 1st MAW, III MEF, and the youngest Marine was Lance Cpl. Alan Beatty from Bradford, Maine, with Marine Wing Communication Squadron 18, Marine Air Control Group 18, 1st MAW, III MEF.
With emotions high, Taps was played to remember and embrace the men and women who give the ultimate sacrifice to their family and country.
“I think having this event right now is good towards attraction,” said Aiyla Cing, vendor. “It gives the people of Tinian the opportunity to meet the Marines one by one and see what they’re using to improve our island.’
Major Aaron E. Heisinger from Albany, Ore., Tinian Detachment officer-in-charge with MWSS 171, 1st MAW, III MEF, had several remarks of his own after the event was winding down.
“It was beautiful day with a wonderful turn out having the (community members) spend Veterans’ Day with all the Marines and sailors,” said Heisinger. “It was awesome to see that many people up here, at North Field, to commemorate Veterans’ Day as well as our 238th Marine Corps Birthday. The interaction between the Marines and local community members was absolutely positive.”
There were no Marines in their Dress Blues, no parade of uniforms, no fancy ballroom elegantly decorated; just Marines in their woodland utility uniforms covered with sweat and debris from working at North Field.
However, according to Heisinger, this shared a moment of another year’s conclusion of the Marine Corps with the people of Tinian cannot be described with words.