World War II heroes unite at Camp Lejeune

6 Oct 2000 | Lance Cpl. Charles W. Palmer IV

WWII Veterans from the 8th Defense and Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion met at Marston Pavilion here recently to celebrate their 30th annual reunion since 1970.

The 8th Defense & AAA Bn. Reunion Association travels to different places every year for their reunion.  Normally, the reunion is held in a hotel, but this year they chose to come to Camp Lejeune due to the size of the base.

Maj. Gen. Ronald G. Richard, commanding general of Marine Corps Base here, was the speaker.  He spoke about his concerns for the future, regarding lessons of the past not being passed to the next generation.

The 8th Defense Bn. is one of 20 other defense battalions that were organized to defend forward American holdings between 1939 and 1946, according to Staff Sgt. Keith A. Milks, assistant community relations chief at Headquarters Marine Corps.

The 8th Defense Bn. was compiled from Marine units at Tutuila, Samoa, by Lt. Col. Augustus W. Cockrell in 1942.

"Our unit was created on April Fools' Day, so that tells something about our group of characters," said Powers. "We have a lot of jokesters."

The "8th family" first started when many of the members met to celebrate one of the members being ordained as a priest, said James H. Powers, secretary of the 8th Defense & AAA Bn. Reunion Association.

The veterans also toured here and Marine Corps Air Station New River during their visit here.

The veterans were very pleased with their experience here.

"I'm impressed with today's Marines.  It's not 'Old Corps' against 'New Corps' we're all Marines," said Powers.

"Every Marine from private to the highest ranking officers treated us with the most respect and professionalism," said Robert Ellis, Chairman of the 8th Defense & AAA Bn Reunion Association.