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thedrifter
11-12-06, 12:13 AM
Semper Fidelis Park has special name
By AILEEN M. STRENG
astreng@potomacnews.com
Sunday, November 12, 2006

"We lost two brave Marines today. One was my friend. It was strange to have someone you shared a mess with in the morning be gone forever by that evening," wrote a Marine named Jeremiah to his mother from aboard a ship during the Revolutionary War on April 10, 1776.

"I'm glad you're not here to see the things that I have seen. It would be enough to give a fella nightmares. We're here to get the job done and we will," wrote a Marine named Bill to his wife from Iwo Jima during World War II on Feb. 24, 1945.

"I haven't been warm for so long, I don't remember what it feels like," wrote a Marine named Sam to his wife from the Chosin Reservoir in Korea in December 1950.

"The Iraqis love their families. They want to live in safety and security. I want to give them that," wrote a Marine named Jim from Iraq to his wife on April 4, 2003.

These and other passages of actual letters written by Marines throughout the Corps' 231-year history were read to the crowd of a couple of thousand Marine veterans and their families who gathered on the grounds on the National Museum of the Marine Corps Saturday evening for the dedication of its Semper Fidelis Memorial Park.

The park is designed to be a place of remembrance and reflection dedicated to honoring the service of all Marines.

Before the ceremony began, Robert and Peg Rossetti of Stone Harbor, N.Y., walked down the pathway to the park that is lined with bricks purchased by patrons and engraved with the names of those who have served as well as those still serving.

"Look, there they are," Robert Rossetti said to his wife, pointing at the brick that bears his name as Pfc. Robert Rossetti during World War II and another engraved with the names of the couples' three deceased children. Rossetti was 16 when he joined the Marine Corps and although he served for just 18 months, he said he felt it was important not only buy a couple of commemorative bricks but to attend the museum dedication events.

"It's been wonderful to be here, to talk to Marines about my experiences, including to talking with some of those who have shared my experiences," Rossetti said. "I'm very impressed and very happy. Everyone has been so nice."

"This is wonderful to see this park dedicated to the people who died during the wars and to the former Marines who have died," said John Poggio who traveled from New Cumberland, Pa., with his wife Ellen to attend the dedication events. Poggio was a Marine from 1948 to 1952.

"Tonight we are taking the first steps to provide all Marines with a very special place, to honor those who have gone before us," said retired Marine Lt. Gen. Ron Christmas, president of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, during the park's dedication.

The foundation raised more than $60 million to build the museum. The Marine Corps spent an additional $30 million to build the exhibits and furnish the museum.

The Semper Fidelis Memorial Park is located on about three acres of high ground adjacent to the museum.

Interwoven paths cross and meet as rally points where monuments - some still to be erected - honor various Marines Corps organizations and those who served in them.

Such rally points already in place include a statue of former Marine Commandant Lt. Gen. John Archer Lejeune, etched footprints aligned in formation and a mosaic of the Marine Corps emblem, the Eagle, Globe and Anchor.

"This park - Semper Fidelis Park - has a very special name for Marines," said Gen. Robert Magnus, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps. "It says we will always be ready. We will always be relevant and we will always be capable. We will always be there even when the nation is least ready for emergencies and war because to our fellow Marines and to the Constitution, we will always be faithful. We will always be 'Semper Fidelis.'

"When people come to this park they will reflect on the meaning of this great museum," Magnus said. "This is not about generals. This is about the individual Marines."

"This is a very special place. It will commemorate the brave deeds of Americans in all wars," said retired Marine Col. Harvey C. "Barney" Barnum Jr., deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for reserve affairs and Medal of Honor recipient.

Barnum spoke about the importance of the park and the future memorials that will be built at the park to honor the various Marine Corps units.

"Memorials are erected to serve the living, rather than the dead," Barnum said. "They are to remind the living of the accomplishments and of the valuable lessons learned by those who died in the service of this great country."

At the conclusion of the ceremony a Marine in Dress Blues played taps. All in attendance stood. Many of the veterans either stood at attention and saluted or placed their Marine-insignia caps over their hearts.

Before Saturday night's park dedication buses again shuttled invited Marine Corps guests from the Pentagon and the Stafford airport throughout the day for tours of the museum.

On Friday about 10,000 invited guests were shuttled to the museum for its official dedication attended by the president of the United States.

Private tours will continue today. On Monday, following a public dedication at 8:40 a.m. the National Museum of the Marine Corps will be open to everyone.

Ellie