Detachment 1328

Veteran praise: Local detachment celebrates former Marine's 91st birthday

Reprinted here with Sun-News Permission

By Christine Steele / Sun-News Bureau Chief

 

SILVER CITY - When Frank Donahue and other Marines in the area heard there was a 90-year-old Marine in their midst, they knew they had to meet him.

Friday night, Donahue and other members of the Marine Corps League Gaffney-Oglesby Detachment 1328, helped fellow Marine Jason Baker celebrate his 91st birthday.

"This is the way it is supposed to be," said fellow Marine Mike MacDonald. "Marines take care of Marines. We don't leave our men behind and we still don't leave our men behind. I have boy that's a Marine and a son that's in the Army and I would expect the same thing of them."

And that's the way it's been since the fellows of the Gaffney-Oglesby Detachment discovered fellow Marine, and WWII veteran Jason Baker.

Baker and his wife were living in the Boston area until a few years ago when his daughter Bonnie Kydd brought her parents out to live with her near the Lake Roberts Cabins, which she co-owns with a partner.

"We don't know a lot of people here, but we heard once a Marine, always a Marine. They're brothers. The Marine Corps League is the best bunch of guys. When they heard my dad was here and was the oldest Marine around, they came up and brought food and visited with him."

Last year when a member of the local Marine Corps League stopped in at the Lake Roberts store, Bonnie got to talking to him and mentioned her dad. And just like how things often happen in a small town, that Marine got to talking to someone else, who passed the information on.

Then Charles Howard, a salesman for Scott Nichols Motors Inc., gave one of his business cards with Baker's name and phone number written on the back to Donahue, who took the information to the next meeting of the Gaffney-Oglesby Detachment.

"I said, what do you say we go out and visit this 90-year-old Marine," Donahue said. "So 12 of us went and took a picnic dinner and we just sat down and talked to him. Mr. Baker was overwhelmed, and we began our relationship. It was pretty neat how it all began."

Baker joined the Marines out of college, heading to Officer Candidate School from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

But when he returned from the war and had a family, he didn't talk much about his time in the service.

"I remember as a child playing with his medals and ribbons," Kydd said. "I probably ruined them."

"I didn't mind," Baker said amicably.

This past winter, when things quieted down at Lake Roberts and after her mother passed away last November, Kydd began researching her father's military service and trying to get copies of his records and replacements for his medals and ribbons, but she hasn't had much success.

Baker was one of the first group of Marines to hit the island of Guadalcanal.

"We captured it. I was on the island 19 days. The first week we had nothing to eat except coconuts," he said. "After we captured Guadalcanal they sent us down to Australia. The people of Australia were wonderful, they and the New Zealanders."

Baker, who was in the 6th Marine Division, served all over the South Pacific and in the Battle of Okinawa, but it wasn't something he much talked about to his family.

"I knew nothing of the Marines," Kydd said. All I knew was Semper Fi and Marines stick together. I never understood my father until I began researching families of men who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. It affects everyone, the women, the families," she said.

Kydd was a nurse for 30 years, specializing in head injury rehabilitation in Encinitas, Calif. She retired just as the Iraq War began seeing such injuries.

"The Marine Corps League means so much to my dad," she said. "These guys made him a full-fledged member. He keeps the card in his pocket and pulls it out all day long."

"Marines live by the credo that Marines take care of each other," said Dean Bearup, the detachment's commandant. "We celebrate the history of our older Marines, and it's our responsibility to pass it on to our younger Marines, and future Marines," he said. "This Fourth of July we asked Mr. Baker to be on our float in the parade. He was our guest of honor."

"It's nice to be a Marine anywhere and under any conditions," Baker said, "and I've been in some unpleasant conditions. I'm just very happy I was asked to come over here," he said. "Once a Marine, always a Marine. It's nice to be around at 91, and to look upon 92."

Christine Steele can be reached at csteele@scsun-news.com; (575) 538-5893.

Gaffney-Oglesby Detachment 1328

• The Gaffney-Oglesby Detachment 1328 formed in April of 2009 and is named for two local Marines who have died. The detachment honored Kenn Oglesby in a wreath-laying ceremony at his grave in July, on the six-year anniversary of his death.

• The detachment has approximately 38 members. It has sent out 200 invitations for its Marine Corp Birthday Ball Nov. 10. The Marine Corps is the only military unit that celebrates its birthday every year with a Marine Corps Ball.

• Members meet the first Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. at the VFW Post on Highway 180.

• Membership is open to any Marine or Navy Corpsman who served with the Marines. Individuals can join as associate members without having been in the military.