Lt. Gen. Rex C. McMillian, commander of Marine Forces Reserve and Marine Forces North, and leaders of MARFORRES participated in multiple events in Denver, Jan. 17, 2017, to celebrate the Marine Corps Reserve Centennial.
McMillian visited Denver to talk to service members and civilians about the current state of the Marine Corps and Marine Corps Reserve, a few select plans for the future, and to remember and honor the past.
To show support for veterans and those who have lost loved ones to conflicts around the world, McMillian attended the National Western Stock Show in Denver to pay tribute to a Gold Star family and three World War II veterans who fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima.
Distinguished guests were invited into the center of the coliseum during the halftime show by horse and carriage to be honored in front of the audience. As the Gold Star family stood up, a deafening roar filled the coliseum from the crowd in support of their son who lost his life in Afghanistan, May 4, 2013.
“It’s always an honor to celebrate the military,” said Paul Andrews, the president and chief executive officer of the NWSS. “Since the beginning of the rodeo in 1869, the military has been celebrated. For this event, of the 12,000 in attendance, between 2,000 and 2,500 tickets were given to military families free of charge. Having everyone here is truly special.”
As the stock show came to its closing act, the coliseum went dark. Spotlights then flashed onto the three Iwo Jima veterans. Screams of applause echoed through the stadium as the announcer spoke about the actions of the veterans, one of whom helped raise the first flag on Mount Suribachi.
Although the audience cheered out of great respect for his service, Jack Thurman, 92, expressed his appreciation for McMillian’s presence.
“Having the general here is great,” said Thurman, who was a sergeant with 2nd Raider Battalion, one of the first two Raider battalions during World War II. “One thing this does for us, that can help with those still serving, is that it shows how strong the brotherhood is. Everywhere you go, there’s a Marine who’s going to be there for you.”
Earlier in the day, McMillian also honored a Marine veteran who fought in Vietnam at an executive breakfast at the Lockheed Martin Deer Creek Facility in Littleton, Colorado.
“The country didn’t treat you right when you came home,” said McMillian as he pinned two Vietnam veteran pins on the coat of retired Col. David Leighton. “It’s about time we make up for it.”
As he continued to speak with executives about historic and current events in the Marine Corps, McMillian highlighted existing issues such as retention and technical proficiencies.
“Where do our pilots go when their contract is up?” McMillian asked the room. “They go commercial or they go to the Air National Guard. We need to start working on keeping them in. And within the coming years, new plans for our retention issues will be implemented.”
McMillian continued to address current Marine Corps Reserve issues by visiting Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado, to speak with Reserve Marines and Sailors from Combat Logistics Battalion 453, Combat Logistics Regiment 4, 4th Marine Logistics Group, about the current and future plans for the Reserves.
“Having Lt. Gen. McMillian here was motivating,” said Gunnery Sgt. Mark R. Gamache, the operations chief for Production and Analysis Company, Intelligence Support Battalion, Force Headquarters Group. “It makes the Marines feel that their efforts are relevant and the effects of their work are seen at the highest level of command. His statements about the future of the Marine Corps were very eye opening and to see the directions the organization is going is really interesting.”
The events are part of a yearlong commemorative celebration across the country to recognize the Centennial of the Marine Corps Reserve.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 86,300 Marines from the Marine Corps Reserve have been mobilized in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Today, Reserve Marines are providing fully integrated operational support to fleet and combatant commanders around the world. For more information on the history and heritage of the Marine Corps Reserve, as well as current Marine stories and upcoming events, please visit www.marine.mil/usmcr100.