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A color guard commences a ceremony for the dedication of plaque commemorating the actions and valor of 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion during its service in Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

Photo by Adele Uphaus-Conner

3rd Recon Battalion Vietnam veterans donate memorabilia to Museum

11 May 2016 | Adele Uphaus-Conner Marine Corps Base Quantico

“These guys were basically teenagers when they were out there,” said Barry Colassard, a retired Marine colonel and current docent at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, gesturing to the assembled group of men in their 60s and 70s.

Colassard and the other men are all veterans of the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, who served in the Vietnam War between 1965 and 1969. On May 4, they gathered at Semper Fidelis Memorial Park on the campus of the National Museum of the Marine Corps (NMMC) to dedicate a memorial plaque to Vietnam veterans of the battalion. They also officially presented their battalion colors and Company C guidon to the museum.

“We were worrying what would happen to our colors when there are no more of us left,” Colassard said. “The museum is a natural home for them.”

3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, deployed to Chu Lai, Vietnam, on May 7, 1965. Over the next four-and-a-half years, it ran patrols from Da Nang, Phu Bai and Quang Tri combat bases.

“You were the eyes and ears of the 3rd Marine Division,” said retired Maj. Gen. Donald Gardner, who commanded Company C of the battalion and was the guest speaker at the ceremony. “You were tough, brave and sometimes scared, but each one of you could be counted on in a firefight.”

Two thousand eight hundred Marines and sailors attached to the battalion served in the Vietnam War and 1,333 were killed in action or declared missing.

“We paid a dear price,” Gardner said.

Four battalion members—1st Lt. Frank Reasoner, 2nd Lt. Terrence Graves, Pfc. Robert Jenkins and Lance Cpl. Richard Anderson—posthumously received the Medal of Honor for their actions in Vietnam. Thirteen received the Navy Cross and 72 the Silver Star. Approximately 40 percent received Purple Hearts, Colassard said.

Gardner brought a message to the veterans from Lt. Col. Scott Gehris, the current commanding officer of the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, which operates throughout the Pacific out of Camp Schwab in Okinawa, Japan.

“He told me that his Marines know where their history and traditions come from,” Gardner said.

“Serving and leading the Marines of 3rd Recon remains my proudest achievement,” he concluded.

“It’s been a long road for our association,” said Bob Hoover, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion Association president, about the process of completing and dedicating the memorial plaque. “Those of you who went to Vietnam on May 7, 1965, didn’t have a choice. Today you do have a choice, so thank you for being here.”

After NMMC director Lin Ezell accepted the battalion’s colors and guidon on behalf of the museum, the memorial plaque, which salutes “those Recon Marines and Navy Corpsmen who fought and died with the sacrifice of their lives for our Recon Battalion, our American Flag, and the Freedom of our country,” was unveiled. It will be installed on the memorial wall on Devil Dog Trail in Semper Fidelis Park.

“The commandant has called NMMC ‘almost a cathedral’ for Marines,” Gardner said. “I feel this site is a special place set aside for Marines, where we can remember those who went but didn’t come back.”

“I remember the Marines I lost in Vietnam every day,” he said. “How does one forget?”

Writer: auphausconner@quanticosentryonline.com

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