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Sergeant Major Gerald Saunders, MCINCR - MCB Quantico sergeant major, thanks Fannie Black, the widow of Sgt. Maj. Henry Holstead Black during a wreath laying ceremony Nov. 10 at Quantico National Cemetery in Triangle, Va. Sergeant Major Black served as the seventh Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps from 1975 to 1977. During his career Black served as a drill instructor, recruiter and infantryman. His was deployed to the Dominican Republic, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. His success in the aforementioned duties warranted the Bronze Star with valor device and two award stars, Purple Heart and Combat Action Ribbon

Photo by Ida Irby

Sergeant Major Black, Forever Faithful

10 Nov 2015 | Ida Irby 10th Marine Regiment

Thousands of Marines celebrated the Marine Corps birthday on Nov. 10 and what it means to be a comrade in an organization who has served this country for 240 years. Young veterans in the ranks were honored in addition to those who have entered an eternal resting place.

The Marine Corps Base Quantico sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. Gerald Saunders, presided over a wreath laying ceremony Nov. 10 at the Quantico National Cemetery to commemorate the legacy of the seventh Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Henry Holstead Black.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be here today,” said Saunders to Black’s widow Fannie Black, who was accompanied by one of her four children.

Saunders thanked Black’s family in attendance and ensured them that the honor, courage and commitment of a U.S. Marine never dies.

“Part of our legacy is remembering and teaching Marines about those who have come before us that’s why this is important to have Marines present to pay their respects,” said Saunders. “Even when we’re running in cadence and chanting about our heroes and our fallen, we pay respect to their legacies.”

Black met Fannie at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, Va. where Fannie worked. The couple was soon married and began a life as a military family.

“Over the years, we usually went to the ball on the Marine Corps Birthday. When he was ill, the Marines came and brought cake to our home,” said Fannie, his wife for sixty years and the keeper of his legacy.

The Imperial, Pa. native, enlisted on April 12, 1948 and trained as a recruit at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C.  

After two years, Black was awarded the Silver Star, for his service in the Korean War.

“We had four children, and as he moved around we went along with him. Sometimes we stayed back and waited while he deployed,” said Fannie. The children even attended school at Quantico while Black was on active duty.

During his career, Black served as a drill instructor, recruiter and infantryman. His served in Dominican Republic and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. His success in the aforementioned duties warranted the Bronze Star with valor device and two award stars, Purple Heart and Combat Action Ribbon.

Following his retirement, Black’s family settled in Fredericksburg, Va. He died at age 83 on Aug. 24, 2012.

Black continues to make an impact in the Marine Corps today.

“We are always faithful to each other no matter what. We come here to not only be faithful to Sgt. Maj. Black but also to his family. We take care of our own in life or death,” said Saunders.