Marines

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Korean War veterans smile while visiting Lejeune Memorial Gardens in Jacksonville, N.C. October 11. The veterans reunite annually and visit sites relating to their military experience, this year they visited Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Jackeline Perez Rivera

After decades away, Korea vets visit Lejeune

25 Oct 2012 | Lance Cpl. Jackeline M. Perez Rivera

Marines who served with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment during the Korean War visited Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune Oct. 11 for their annual reunion.

The Marines were invited to see today’s military including a Marine Corps Martial Arts Program and a military working dog demonstration. They visited Lejeune Memorial Gardens and Marine Corps Air Station New River where they saw an Osprey and shopped at the Marine Corps Exchange.

Many of the Marines were stationed aboard MCB Camp Lejeune, said John Corzan, a Korean War veteran who arranged the visit.

“We’re coming back to see our homes,” said Corzan. “It brings back old memories. We can see how the base changed, and we can see how the Marines are doing.”

The Marines were last stationed here more than 60 years ago. The men said there is a world of difference between the Corps today and the one they served in. There were no lance corporals at the time; the rank was informally present before World War II and was permanently added in 1958. Other big changes noted by Corzan are Marine’s fitness levels. Corzan said today’s Marines are more physically fit than those he served with.

“It’s changed so much,” said Sandy Soufrine, a Korean War veteran. “I don’t recognize (the base). (In comparison to 1950’s-era MCB Camp Lejeune)I wouldn’t know where I’m at.”

Fellow Korean War veteran Jack Dedrick said the only familiar sight was the movie theater.

The demonstrations seemed to be a hit with the veterans. The martial arts and working dogs showed them true hints of today’s Marine Corps.

“It was surprising,” said Corzan. “In our times, we weren’t taught martial arts. It’s surprising to see so many black belts. The dogs were awful smart and the trainers are superb. The Marine Corps is doing a great job of keeping up with the times.”

The reunion was an opportunity for the veterans to spend time with and talk to the people who understand their experience the best- other Korean War veterans.

The veterans’ families found these events to be a great benefit.

“You never see them talk about it unless they’re in a group,” said Rita Ibarra, the daughter of a veteran attending the reunion. “They don’t talk about it in their living room.”

Ibarra enjoyed the opportunity to learn about her father’s experiences through the reunion.

Throughout the war the veterans braved the icy temperatures of the Chosin Reservoir. Many lost friends and limbs to the war. The trip gave them an opportunity to remember the past, while seeing the Marine Corps’ present.

“We’re still Marines,” said Corzan. “We still love the Corps.”