Middle school students in NC get 'uniform' Marine education
By BILL HAND | Gaston Gazette | Published: November 6, 2019
NEW BERN, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — Grover C. Fields middle school students got a little uniform history from the Marines on Wednesday morning.
Or, rather, they got a little history about the uniforms of Marines.
Marines from Cherry Point arrived at the school sporting 10 uniforms from 11 eras of Marine history. The annual program is part of the Marine Corps birthday celebration (they started with a recruiting drive in Tun Tavern in Philadelphia. The date was Nov. 10, 1775).
Ordinarily it is held in the base theater, but Hurricane Florence has left it unusable. Thus, according to Sgt. Maj. Paul McElearney, who hosted the school program, the Marines decided to take it on the road.
As students watched Marines were sent on stage, one at a time, as McElearney briefly discussed each uniform.
The first was colonial from 1775, when the Marines were first formed to help protect naval ships and to assist in the firing of their guns. Marines were know to climb into the rigging as sharpshooters in many ship-to-ship battles.
This was followed by the well-known blues of the Civil War, where Cpl. John F. Mackie became the first Marine to receive the Medal of Honor for his action in the attack of Fort Darling at Drewry's Bluff in Virigina. Another 16 would receive the medal during that war.
The Spanish-American War uniform had that definite Teddy Roosevelt and San Juan Hill vibe going for it — with a hat that seemed a cross between a highway patrolman's hat and a Texas Ranger's.
Following this were more recognizably modern uniforms from World War I, and both a man's and a woman's uniform from World War II — McElearney noted that "we had really overlooked female service members" before that period, and noted how the many female clerks aided the war effort. "Women bring just as much fight as the men," he said of marines.
The uniform of the Korean War — begun in 1950 and, technically, still on with a cease-fire that has been in operation since July, 1953.
This was followed by Vietnam, the uniform worn in 1983 in Beirut when suicide bombers killed 241 American marines and 58 French military personnel. The last uniform was the one worn in the Iraq War (2003-2011).
The program opened with Grover C. Fields 7th grader and Boy Scout Auston Dunn leading in the Pledge of Allegiance and closed with a small cutting of the cake ceremony — a Marine birthday tradition in which the cake is cut by the top officer and slices are given to an honorary guest, the youngest marine and the oldest marine. Cherry Point commander Col. Mikel Huber cut a small cheesecake on stage, with school principal Renee Whitford and teachers taking the place of marines.
At the end, McElearney attempted to convince students to embrace education. "If you think school ends, it doesn't," he said. He noted that allt he marines on stage are all taking classes and waiting to transfer to other areas for school "School never really ends. Hang onto it. You'll be learning all your life."
The program was presented twice at Grover C. Fields, and will also be presented at Jones Senior High School and Annunciation School in Havelock.
Marines from Cherry Point visited Grover C. Fields Middle School in New Bern, North Carolina, sporting 10 uniforms from 11 eras of Marine history. Here, a uniform from World War I.
BILL HAND, SUN JOURNAL/TNS