USS JOHN F. KENNEDY -- Saturday May 21, Marines and sailors of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina’s 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit marched in the city of Boston’s parade to observe Armed Forces Day and honor the men and women serving in the United States Armed Services.
The people of South Boston gave the men and women of the 24th MEU a warm welcome as they arrived by police escort for the parade.
“It felt good,” said Sgt. Michael A. Kiggins, radio technician, 8th Communications Battalion, “People actually appreciated us for a change; instead of taking us for granted.”
Despite the cold weather a large crowed gathered along the streets to cheer the 24th MEU as they marched through the streets to South Boston’s Medal of Honor Park.
Members of the Boston police department led the parade with members of Boston’s Gallic Fire Brigade playing bagpipes as they marched.
“Nothing beats hearing bagpipes played at a parade,” said Justin T. Dawson, Small Arms Weapons Repairman, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Command Element.
The Second Marine Aircraft Wing’s band followed the Gallic Fire Brigade as the 24th MEU marched through South Boston.
Upon reaching the Medal of Honor Park the Marines and Sailors stood in formation for a wreath laying ceremony and welcome home from city officials.
Thomas Lyons a member of the South Boston Viet-Nam Memorial Committee, lead the proceedings and welcomed Col. Ronald J. Johnson, commanding officer of the 24th MEU, and the Marines and sailors to South Boston and home from Iraq.
“I can not thank all of you enough for being here today to salute and welcome home our Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit as true American heroes,” said Lions to the crowd gathered to watch and listen to the speakers. “Poor is the nation that has no heroes; shameful is the nation who has them and forgets. Thank you ladies and gentleman for not forgetting these young heroes we have with us today.”
The last speaker was Col. Johnson who thanked the people of Boston for their warm welcome. “When I see you here today,” said Johnson, “That’s the reason I serve and I stay in defense of my country.”
During the ceremony the 2nd MAW band played a few selections for the crowd, and to end the parade and ceremony, two wreaths were laid in front of the South Boston Viet-Nam Memorial; one wreath was laid by Gunnery Sgt. Kenneth Barnes and Cpl. Alhaji Fofanah for the Marines of the 24th MEU, and one wreath was laid by Col. Ronald Johnson in honor of the Marines and sailors lost in Iraq.
In closing his speech, Col. Johnson said in remembrance of Armed Forces Day, “Of all the guys I lost. I lost 18 the first time in Iraq, and we lost almost 36 the second time. I keep their names in my pocket, because I’ll never forget them. And I’ll never forget the guys and gals that have gone before us, and I think that’s the tribute we do today, especially like this. And in closing I’m going to make you the solemn vow, with God as my witness, the United States Marine Corps will never fail the United States of America.”