View Full Version : MCB Quantico honors a hero

07-26-04, 06:12 AM
MCB Quantico honors a hero
Submitted by: MCB Quantico
Story Identification #: 2004722174611
Story by Sgt. Salju K. Thomas

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. (July 15, 2004) --

"But the journey must continue...
and so along life's path we go,
to somewhere far more glorious
than any other place we know.
We are only here to visit, to pause and do our best.
But we'll meet again in glory, where the Lord will give us rest."

These words, from a poem a Marine hero wrote to his wife before he passed away, give a glimpse of the man he was.

Retired Sgt. Maj. Louis Roundtree, who passed away July 8, was laid to rest at Quantico National Cemetery on July 15. Roundtree enlisted into a Corps very different from today. He faced the hardships of a segregated nation, where anyone could die for their country, but not sit at the front of a bus.

June 25, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802, which allowed people of all ethnic backgrounds to enlist into the armed forces. Recruitment began one year later.

While whites were trained at Paris Island, S.C., and San Diego, "people of color" were trained at Montford Point, N.C. Headquarters and Service Battery of the 51st Composite Defense Bn. was activated at Montford Point on Aug. 18, 1942. Roundtree joined the Marines in 1948, and President Harry S Truman ended segregated units in 1949. Even with this new order, it would still take decades for blacks in the military to be part of mainstream society.

Roundtree is one of the most decorated warriors in Marine Corps history, said retired Capt. Samuel Saxton, past president of Montford Point Marine Association. Roundtree's combat awards included three Purple Hearts, three Silver Stars and four Bronze Stars. Roundtree participated in actions in Korea, Cuba and Vietnam. He was part of the landing at Inchon, Korea, as an automatic rifleman with 2nd Bn., 1st Marine Regiment, which was commanded by Lt. Gen. Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller. Roundtree's company destroyed three enemy tanks and decimated a reinforced North Korean enemy battalion. He also fought battles in Seoul and at the Chosin Reservoir and was seriously wounded in action at the battle of "Gung-Ho Hill."

Roundtree again saw action in Vietnam while assigned as an infantry advisor. In one battle his entire unit was decimated and he was listed as being killed in action. When reinforcements arrived at his unit's position and couldn't find his body or dog tags they changed his status to missing in action. Roundtree fought his way out of an enemy encirclement into the jungles and river, through and around guerrilla and North Vietnamese forces, until he managed to reach a South Vietnamese unit. Roundtree, severely injured and with only scraps of clothing left on his body, was flown to Da Nang for recovery. When his condition improved, he was flown to Saigon where he was interviewed on NBC's Today Show. Roundtree's family members and friends were shocked and elated to see him on television because they had just recently attended his funeral.

Despite seeing so much combat and being so highly decorated Roundtree was very humble, said Saxton.

"I don't feel as though I have to go around bragging or continuously speaking about what I have done," Roundtree once said. "I know what I did. My friends, fellow Marines, Army, and Navy Corpsman know the story. It is all history now and that is where I prefer it to stay. There is certainly enough going on in the world today to constantly remind each of us what we have been through in our lives and what we have had to face daily."

"Roundtree was a Marine's Marine and warrior's warrior," said retired Master Gunnery Sgt. John M. Meyers, also a Montford Point Marine.

He personified the Marine Corps values of honor, courage, and commitment, said Saxton. "He made the phrase come alive."

"To those I love and to those who love me;
When I am gone, release me...let me go.
You must not tie yourself to me with tears.
Be happy for all the years we shared.
I gave you my love...
You can only guess how much you gave me in happiness.
I thank you for the love you each have shown,
But now it's time I traveled alone.
So bless the Memories within your heart.
It's only for a while that we must part.
I won't be far away, for life goes on
And when you must come this way alone,
I'll greet you with a smile
And say, welcome home."
-- Sgt. Maj. Louis Roundtree