Vietnam veteran forever cherishes Marine Corps experience
Jacksonville, Ill., Journal-Courier
C.O. Smith still proudly wears the eagle, globe and anchor emblem — the symbol of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Although his actual service as a Marine lasted but four years, he makes it clear that once a Marine, always a Marine.
“Most Marines you talk to are proud of their service and of wearing the eagle, globe and anchor emblem,” said C.O. Smith of Jacksonville, who served in the Marine Corps from 1964 to 1968 with the 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Marine Division. He served in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967.
“I’m a life member of every military veterans organization in Jacksonville, but when the opportunity arose to become active in the Marine Corps League, I was very excited about it,” Smith said.
To say he has been “active” in the Marine Corps League somehow seems like an understatement; he’s been involved in almost every aspect of the organization, especially the West Central Illinois Leathernecks Detachment 1177 of the Marine Corps League.
“There was a Marine from Alton who came to Jacksonville and held an organizational meeting,” Smith recalled. “Several local Marines went to the meeting and once we had 20 members, we applied for a charter.”
Detachment 1177, which was chartered in 2004, now has about 75 members, all of whom served in the Marine Corps or were Fleet Marine Force corpsmen. Corpsmen are Navy medical personnel who accompany Marines into combat.
“I’ve belonged to a lot of fraternal organizations in my life, but the Marine Corps League is my passion,” Smith said.
Smith was Detachment 1177’s first commandant, serving from 2004 to 2011. Currently, he serves as the detachment’s judge advocate.
“Some of the larger Marine Corps League detachments have so many members that they have the luxury of delegating certain duties, such as color guards, parades and funeral details, to a few members,” Smith said. “But in smaller detachments there are fewer active members, so they are the ones that shoulder the responsibilities.”
Those responsibilities that Smith and a dozen or more Detachment 1177 members perform include:
- The color guard, which participates in parades and patriotic occasions;
- The honor guard for deceased Marines;
- Hosting a Christmas party every year at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy;
- Hosting bingo games at the Veterans Home in February;
- Operating the Toys for Tots program;
- Providing speakers for schools and civic organizations;
- Providing flag-folding demonstrations for schools, churches and community organizations;
- Sponsoring the U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, which performed at Illinois College in 2008;
- Sending care packages to deployed Marines and Fleet Marine Force corpsmen;
- Presenting Good Citizenship Awards to Eagle Scouts;
- Supporting the Land of Lincoln Honor Flight;
- Supporting the Jacksonville Area Community Food Center and the Crisis Center Foundation in Jacksonville.
Assisting with Detachment 1177’s many project is C.O. Smith’s wife, Carol, who founded West Central Illinois Leathernecks Auxiliary Unit 462 in 2006.
“We have a core group of members who volunteer in most of our endeavors,” Carol Smith said. “Our success depends on all of them.”
Carol Smith said she really got interested in the Marine Corps League after accompanying her husband to a national Marine Corps League convention in Cleveland and to a couple of state staff meetings.
“When I came home I joined the Gem City Auxiliary Unit in Quincy and three months later I held an informational meeting in Jacksonville,” Carol Smith recalled. “And three months after that Auxiliary Unit 462 received its charter.”
Today, Auxiliary Unit 462 has 18 members.
Carol Smith served as president of the local auxiliary unit from 2006 to 2011 and today serves as Department of Illinois president of the Marine Corps League Auxiliary and as national vice president of the Central Division of the Marine Corps League Auxiliary.
C.O. Smith also now holds a state office, serving as senior vice commandant of the Department of Illinois of the Marine Corps League.
“For Carol and me the most rewarding aspect of our involvement in the Marine Corps League is being able to support our deployed Marines, our wounded and our community,” C.O. Smith said.
“One of the things our detachment will soon be more involved in is helping our Marines transition back into civilian life. One of our biggest missions is taking the funds we raise in our area and giving that money to support wounded Marines.”
Among the organizations Detachment 1177 provides financial support to are Marines Helping Marines, the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.
Distributed by MCT Information Services