ATLANTIC OCEAN, USS Iwo Jima --
With less than a week remaining on their four-month deployment in the U.S. Southern Command’s area of responsibility, Marines and sailors with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Continuing Promise 2010 gathered in the hangar bay of the USS Iwo Jima to celebrate 235 years of the Marine Corps, off the coast of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Wednesday.
Approximately 500 Marines and sailors with Special-Purpose MAGTF CP10 embarked on the USS Iwo Jima in July of 2010 to support Operation CP10, a Navy-led operation which delivered humanitarian-civic assistance to Caribbean, Central and South American nations.
After spending four months out at sea and conducting humanitarian-civic assistance operations in eight different countries, the Marines and sailors of Special-Purpose MAGTF CP10 had the unique opportunity to celebrate the 235th birthday of the Marine Corps aboard a vessel that carries a symbolic name to them.
“Today, we honor our 235th birthday as soldiers of the sea embarked on a ship whose namesake comes from the defining battle of World War II,” said Lt. Col. Chris S. Richie, the commanding officer of Special-Purpose MAGTF CP10. “The image of the flag-raising on Mount Suribachi is one of the most recognized images of all time. It is fitting that the six flag-raisers included both Marines and a Navy corpsman … demonstrating what we call the blue/green team.”
During his speech, Richie made reference to a sailor who attended the ceremony with a unique tie to the USS Iwo Jima.
Chief Petty Officer Wayne A. Gonsorcik, a Fleet Marine Force hospital corpsman chief is currently assigned to the USS Iwo Jima, and is grandson-in-law of the late Pfc. Jacklyn Harrold Lucas, a veteran of the Battle of Iwo Jima and youngest recipient of the Medal of Honor.
During the keel laying ceremony of the USS Iwo Jima more than a decade ago, Lucas placed his Medal of Honor citation in the hull of the ship, where it is sealed to this day.
The flight deck of the USS Iwo Jima is named after Lucas and in memory of his heroic actions during the Battle of Iwo Jima, where he saved the lives of his squad after throwing himself over a Japanese grenade and sustaining serious bodily injuries.
Now his grandson-in-law serves aboard the USS Iwo Jima after serving two combat tours in Iraq as a Fleet Marine Force Corpsman with two different Marine ground units.
Speaking of Jack Lucas, Richie said, “He represents the defining esprit-de-corps and character of what is known simply as; a United States Marine.” Gonsorcik stood humbled at the recognition of his grandfather-in-law and the mention of his relationship to a Marine Corps’ legend.
“It’s not at all about me,” said Gonsorcik. “It’s about ‘Grandpa Jack’ and Navy/Marine Corps tradition. If anything, I feel like a vessel that can show service members how the past lives in each of us. We are all proof of the living past, simply by wearing the uniforms we wear and upholding the values that men and women like ‘Grandpa Jack’ gave their lives for.”
In keeping with the tradition of celebrating the Marine Corps’ birthday, the oldest Marine, Lt. Col. Hubert A. Davis, a CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter pilot and executive officer of HMM-774 from Norfolk, Va., and youngest Marine, Lance Cpl. Kimberly James, a radio operator with Marine Air Control Squadron 2 from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., were recognized during the event and participated in the cake-cutting ceremony.
The Marines and sailors of Special-Purpose MAGTF CP10 are slated to return to their home bases in North Carolina and Virginia later this month.
For more information on the Continuing Promise 2010 Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, please visit the unit’s official website at http://www.marines.mil/unit/2ndMAW/SPMAGTF.