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thedrifter
10-20-07, 05:27 AM
A farewell dinner and reception was held for Gen. Peter Pace at Marine Barracks Washington on Oct 5. During the dinner, Pace received many salutations for his service to country and Corps, but one gift in particular struck an emotional chord in the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- Colonel W. Blake Crowe presented Pace with a small cement block.

It wasn’t a bullet from Belleau Wood, or a grain of sand from Iwo Jima, but in Pace’s eyes, it may as well have been. This particular piece of cement, complete with engraved bronze plaque, came from the Barracks' historic Center Walk, and seeing it brought Pace back more than 16 years, to a time when he was the Barracks commanding officer. Pace had marched on the hallowed grounds as a captain and Silent Drill Platoon commander, a colonel and MBW commanding officer, and witnessed countless parades, both as a reviewing officer and guest of honor.

Moments after receiving this piece of sedimentary nostalgia, Pace revealed to Crowe and other Barracks’ officers that he had buried a time capsule next to the Barracks flag pole back in 1991. This revelation could not have been more timely. Under the auspices of the Barracks Logistics Officer, Maj. Mike Castellano, the Barracks' parade deck and surrounding sidewalks were undergoing a renovation project to repair irrigation, and drainage problems and replace the sidewalks A plan was quickly forged to ensure the time capsule would be found -- hopefully in one piece.

On Oct. 17, the sidewalk around the flag pole was demolished. Once the rubble was cleared and with some persistent digging and axe-picking by Cpl. Evan Slates and Cpl. Brent Cross from MBW's Ground Combat Element, Pace's buried treasure was finally unearthed! What was its condition? Like any good Marine on a patrol in inclement weather, Pace and his Barracks' troops from yesteryear had sealed their memorabilia in an air-tight, water-proofed Mark-19 ammo can. There was a nervous buzz in the air as a crowd of more than twenty Marines, everyone from Lt. Col. Miles to lance corporals and civilian workers, gathered around to see what Pace had bequeathed the Marines of "The Oldest Post."

Slates and Cross stripped away the plastic, then pried open the rusty ammo can to revealed a letter from then-Col. Pace dated, "26 April 1991" sitting on top a cache of local newspapers, the 1991 Kelley's Blue Book, a Barracks' Alpha Roster, a bible, the U. S. Constitution, Marine Corps stickers and posters, photos of barracks' officers, Center House and the Staff Club, an audio cassette of Drum & Bugle Corps music, a Pass in Review magazine, and a G.I. Joe-type military action figure ready to low crawl to victory!

Pace's letter read, "Dear Fellow Marines, The placement of this 'Time Capsule' was not the result of long study, but rather a target of opportunity when a cement slab near the flagpole required replacement. We have assembled items of current interest which we hope will give you the flavor of our time at 'The Oldest Post of the Corps.'"

Pace continued in typical war-fighter fashion, expressing his appreciation of the 163 Marines who had deployed and successfully returned from Operation Desert Storm during his time at MBW. He wrote, "We hope you are not called on to fight, but we know that our/your Corps will be in good hands if you do." Presently, the Barracks has a platoon of Marines preparing to deploy to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Col. Pace's time capsule also included a bottle of Budweiser, "our favorite beer," and a bottle of whiskey. "The Jack Daniels,” Pace explained, “is a toast from us to you. Please enjoy a drink on us -- a salute from one generation of Marines to another!"

Col. Pace -- for your selfless dedication to Marines everywhere, for your service to your country, and, most of all, for your uncompromising love of the Corps, this generation of Marines salutes YOU.

Lance Cpl. Jacob H. Harrer contributed to this story.