Members of High Country Detachment 1389 of the Marine Corps League participated in a charter ceremony Saturday afternoon at the National Guard Armory in Jefferson. They welcomed special guests from the Department of North Carolina Marine Corps League and members of fellow detachments in Watauga, Alleghany, Surry and Lincoln counties.
It was a sea of red coats as Marines from near and far gathered to perform the official ceremony, which opened with the haunting sounds of bagpipes played by detachment member Jim Gee. Dressed in full Highland regalia, he performed “Amazing Grace” and the Marine Corps Hymn.
Cadets of the Ashe County High School JROTC presented the colors, and later in the ceremony, Darby Chapuz from the Ashe County High School Band performed “Taps” on the trumpet.
The dignified and ritualistic ceremony included presentation of the official charter to the detachment, led by Commandant Buddy Greer of Ashe, and passing of the gavel to Greer from Bruce Rakfeldt, commandant of the Department of North Carolina Marine Corps League.
Tom “Tugboat” Northrop of Ashe County is among the area Marine veterans who helped form the High Country Detachment 1389 of the North Carolina Department Marine Corps League. Senior Vice Commandant of the Mountaineer Detachment in Watauga County, Northrop said once his term is up with that group he will transfer to the High Country Detachment.
About the formation of the Ashe County group, Northrop said, “A little more than a year ago a couple of Marines started a small breakfast club on Friday mornings. (called the Semper Fi Breakfast Club) At first we met every other Friday and moved our location. After a couple of months, around 12 to 18 Marines started attending. So we chose Smitheys on the Backstreet as a permanent location. Chuck Wright is Western Regional Commandant. I invited him to attend the breakfast and basically explained the advantage of forming a detachment in Ashe. Ashe County has a large number of Marine veterans. So back in the summer the Marines in Ashe County began the process of forming a detachment here in Ashe.”
Northrop said he invited Wright, of Boone, to the breakfast with the local Marines and then Wright took on the job of forming the High Country Detachment along with the Ashe County Marine Corps veterans.
At the charter ceremony on Saturday, Commandant Rakfeldt said to the local Marines who organized this detachment, the 58th in North Carolina, “Thank you, Marines, for what you have done.”
“That mission was easy,” said Wright. “They were ready.”
Buddy Greer, a Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War, said, “It was a great ceremony. All the members have been just wonderful.”
The High Country Detachment has 22 members with several more applications ready to go in. Eligibility to join is open to anyone who has spent at least 90 days in the Marine Corps, and auxiliary membership is available to members and veterans of any other branch of the military. Greer said he can be contacted at 977-3795.
The purpose of the High Country Detachment 1389 Marine Corps League, Inc., is “preserving the traditions and interests of the United States Marine Corps, rendering assistance to all Marines; Active, Inactive, Retired and Reserve; and to their widows and orphans and to promote the common good of our community and nation,” according to the detachment's mission statement. “The Detachment's mission is to be carried out in a spirit that demonstrates love and respect for our God, our Corps, our families and our communities.”
The Marine Corps League perpetuates the traditions and spirit of all Marines and Navy FMF Corpsmen, founded in 1923 by World War I hero, then Major General Commandant John A. Lejeune. The League was approved by an act of Congress and signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Aug. 4, 1937. The League today has a membership of more than 76,000 men and women, officer and enlisted, active duty, Reserve Marines, honorably discharged Marine veterans and qualified Navy FMF Corpsmen, and increases every year.
The Marine Corps League, a not-for-profit organization, is headed by an elected National Commandant, with 14 elected national staff officers who serve as trustees that coordinate the efforts of department, or state, entities and the activities of over 1,000 community-based detachments throughout the United States and overseas. An annual convention is held each August.
The League supports the interests of Marines, including assistance for Marines and their families through the Wounded Marines Program, scholarships for former Marines and children of Marines, participating in national and state legislative issues that affect military readiness, benefits and entitlements of active duty personnel as well as veterans benefits programs affecting former and retired Marines, taking part in the annual Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots campaign, participating in patriotic functions, and representing Marine and veterans interests in Congressional matters.
Greer said the High Country Detachment also plans to work with Hospice patients in the area.
Officers with the High Country Detachment 1389 sworn in by Cmdt. Rakfeldt are: Commandant Buddy Greer, Sr. Vice Commandant Jim Prim, Jr. Vice Commandant Caroll Pollack, Judge Advocate Ed McClearen, Adjutant Ron Oliver, Paymaster Jim Coombs, Chaplain Mac Hunt and Sgt. at Arms Bob Phipps.
Once the charter was official, Rakfeldt noted that the new detachment needed funds for services and for flags. He was proud to present $100 in seed money from the Department of North Carolina Marine Corps League.
Greer then accepted a donation from the Alleghany County detachment, and a member of the Lincoln County detachment presented a personal donation. Watauga County offered a donation and presentation of the “Guide Arm” flag.
A concrete replica of the Marine Corps emblem was presented by the Surry County detachment.
The ceremony closed with everyone singing the first verse of the Marine Corps Hymn, known as the oldest official song in the U.S. Military:
“From the Halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli; We fight our country's battles, in the air, on land, and sea; First to fight for right and freedom and to keep our honor clean; We are proud to claim the title of United States Marines.”
And of course, following each acknowledgment of the Marines, and their song, was heard the gutteral shout “Oorah!”