CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Warfighters from the past came together in New York and formed the Renegade Platoon for yet another exciting Marine Corps adventure here hosted by 21st century Devil Dogs.
The former active-duty Marines were kept busy during their five-day trip with demonstrations and a tour of Camp Lejeune, Camp Geiger and Marine Corps Air Station New River.
Many of the warriors are from the Marine Corps League's Niagara Frontier Detachment #239. They also have men from the Conrad Kaina Detachment and one from the Hansen Brothers from Batavia, N.Y., according to Russ J. Korey from Buffalo, N.Y., who enlisted in the Corps in 1957.
"This is the first trip back here for some of these fellows. Most of them haven't been here in forty or fifty years," said Korey, a former corporal and swim instructor. "The spirit of the Corps remains alive. Words can't describe how proud we are to have served in the Marine Corps."
Throughout the trip, the Renegades saw state-of-the-art equipment starting with the School of Infantry's Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer where they received hands-on experience shooting different types of machine guns. They also saw the Capabilities Exercise on the second day hosted by the II Marine Expeditionary Force. The CAPEX is an exhibition that shows the various capabilities of the Marine Corps. After the Military Operations in Urban Terrain Exercise, the Renegades formed their platoon and marched in front of the young Marines singing 'The Marines' Hymn.'
"The Marine Corps today is more advanced. You have professional leaders. I was proud before, but I am more proud now," Korey said.
"It doesn't make any difference if a Marine is eighteen or eighty-eight. We are just as proud today as we were the day we graduated boot camp," he said.
The group consisted of 55 Marines who are veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm. Many of who were eager to tell their story to young Marines who had the opportunity to meet them.
One story told was of former Cpl. Norbert Pudlewski of Lancaster, N.Y., who landed on Iwo Jima with the 425th Brigade, 4th Marine Division. After the unit took extensive casualties, he rejoined the 3d Marine Division and focused on taking the Motoyama Airfield.
"I lasted eighteen days while we were invading the island," said Pudlewski, who enlisted in 1942 and served in Guam. "I was wounded twice before I had to leave. A concussion bomb hit me on March 3 and on March 8, 1945, I was hit in the arm and leg by a Japanese machine gun."
"The one thing that I learned and still know is that Marines watch each other's back. There was never a Marine that I didn't trust. We had to. We lived together, ate together and slept together. Over there, we slept back to back. Lying among the dead was a weapon of survival. It gave us a stable position during the day. At night we moved by squads," Pudlewski said.
He was awarded two Purple Hearts.
Pudlewski spent two-and-one-half years in the hospital recuperating, then continued his education with help from the Marine Corps and later worked in Civil Service.
Among the many stories of the past told by the Devil Dogs, new stories were also made during this visit.
For one Vietnam veteran, who was with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division in 1968, this trip brought with it an overwhelming surprise.
After seeing a man wearing a leather jacket with a 1st Marine Division patch, John P. Huntz went to introduce himself and discovered the man standing on Riseley Pier here was the artillery officer he served with outside of Anhoa, Vietnam.
"I was the one who told him that his wife just had a little girl. Seeing him today feels beyond overwhelming, especially after meeting his wife," said Huntz.
On the last day, these heroic warriors held a Silent Salute Ceremony for all of the Marines who gave their life for this country. The narrator was former Staff Sgt. Cliff Nelson of Buffalo, N.Y., who served in World War II. A poem written by a man known as Gannon titled 'A Helmet On A Rifle' was read and enacted. A gun salute concluded the ceremony.
"They took the island of Iwo Jima, Korea and Vietnam. It was because of these people we now have a Marine Corps legacy. They are the heroes, the reason we wear the eagle, globe and anchor, why we have a Marine Corps today," said Brig. Gen. Robert C. Dickerson Jr., commanding general, 2d Force Service Support Group.
"I want the young Marines today to know that we are with them in spirit when they get called to answer a situation anywhere in the world. We know what's going to happen, we know. We also know the Marines and the country are in good hands," Korey concluded.