BOSTON – A convoy of military vehicles rolled down the street, interrupting the quiet morning. Civilians on the side of the road stopped and pointed at the strange sight. Marines peered out of the windows surveying the city for any threat, but there was nothing in this city to fear. Instead, the Marines were in Boston to showcase the Corps’ culture, history and traditions in a weeklong series of events dubbed Marine Week.
“There’s a great tradition of Marines in Boston,” said Lt. Gen. Joseph Dunford, the commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force and a Boston native. “To have the opportunity to come back here and influence a new generation of young men and women, and let them know about the Marine Corps, is just tremendous.”
Marines from units across the country converged on Boston to show the American public what the devil dogs do and work with, a task the Marines said they took to heart.
“Growing up as a kid, everyone has their Army men,” said Lance Cpl. Steven Beck, a mortarman with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, and a Springfield, Mo., native. “However, you never get to see it up close. This is our chance to show it up close.”
Marines set up displays across the city to give Bostonians a chance to see the gear, weapons, vehicles and aircraft that leathernecks use on a daily basis. There were demonstrations of various Marine capabilities, ranging from military police dogs and the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program to larger productions of full-on assaults on schools and beaches in the greater Boston area.
“The crowd’s intensity is what makes the (demonstration),” said Sgt. Steven N. Richardson, a MCMAP instructor trainer from Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., and a Broken Arrow, Okla., native. “When we get volunteers to come out and get involved in the techniques, they get to see firsthand what we do.”
Community service was an integral part of Marine Week. Marines participated in approximately 20 volunteer opportunities during their stay.
“By doing these volunteer outreach projects, we can come in and leave a lasting impact and a lasting impression on the community that supports us and that our Marines come from,” said James Scott, the volunteer outreach coordinator for Marine Week.
One of the larger missions of the week provided support for the city’s water supply after a ruptured water main left most of Boston in a state of emergency. Marines from Company L, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, out of Johnson City, Tenn., cleaned up an emergency water reservoir to help alleviate the problem, as well as cleaning up the adjacent park.
“The Marines contributed a lot to this community by cleaning up this park and that means a lot considering the status of Chestnut Hill Reservoir and the water that it’s supplying for the people of Boston,” said Merri Pearson, the executive director of Outdoor Explorations, one of the organizations that helped clean the area.
Marines assisted again when the water emergency was over by flushing the pipes at the West Roxbury campus of the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System.
“It was outstanding to have the Marines come here and help the hospital get uncontaminated water flowing once again,” said Wayne Crawford, a patient who served in the Marine Corps from 1976 to 1997. “We all share a common bond in the military of leaving no man behind and it’s great to see the Marines take time to help us with our problems here at the medical center.”
In addition to putting in physical labor, Marines participated in several leadership panels with Boston youth. The children were given an opportunity to ask questions about overcoming hardships and life in the military.
“We want to expose (the children) to positive role models and (educate them) that there are options out there for them no matter what their upbringing or current situation is,” said Lori Copeland, a coordinator for one of the panels.
Some of the artistically talented Marines got to share their gift with the city. Combat reproduction specialists from MCB Quantico spent ten days painting a mural at Hyde Park. To ensure the longevity of the mural, the Marines applied a finish that protects the wall from future unwanted additions.
“Even after all the Marines leave Boston this mural will be sure to leave a lasting impression on the people of Boston and will continue to build a positive community relationship between the city and the Marine Corps,” said Staff Sgt. Jorge Dimmer, a combat reproduction specialist from MCB Quantico.
Bostonians made sure to repay the Marines for their hard work. The Boston Red Sox, the city’s Major League Baseball team, declared May 3 Marine Appreciation Day at Fenway Park. Marines and their family members were invited to not only watch the game, but participate in several honorary positions, including bat boy and bat girl during pre-game warm-ups and the first pitch.
“It was a dream come true being on the field at Fenway,” said Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Murphy, the staff non-commissioned officer-in-charge of Recruiting Substation Boston, who threw the first pitch. “As a kid, I grew up watching Red Sox games and never dreamed I would be sitting on the Green Monster watching the game, let alone on the field throwing the first pitch.”
Fans were treated to a short concert by the Albany Marine Band, as well as witnessing 20 local young adults take the oath of enlistment, one of the first steps to becoming a United States Marine.
“It makes me so proud and happy to have people like this in town,” said Red Sox fan Tom Bisson, a resident of Plymouth, Mass. “I cannot believe I just witnessed all of those guys swear to serve our country – right in front of us – while we’re still at war.”
The Marines’ hard work was recognized by top officials in the Marine Corps, including Gen. James Conway, the commandant of the Marine Corps, who spent time in Boston to see the city’s reaction to the Corps’ second Marine Week.
“I’m really encouraged,” said Conway. “Everything I hear is about the turnout, the reception that the Marines have received in Boston, and that all the displays and all the interaction with the people have been very good.”
The week ended with a Mother’s Day celebration and a rededication of the Marine Barracks at the Charlestown Navy Yard. Bostonians crowded the area to watch the Silent Drill Platoon and get one last look at the Marines in their city.
“We’re just happy that (the Marines) came out to Boston,” said David Blum, a Boston resident. “(Marine Week) is one city a year, so this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
While organizers were already discussing what city the leathernecks will invade next year, the Marines who came out to Boston already were promoting the chance to give American citizens an in-depth look at the Marine Corps.
“This was to give a firsthand look and experience of what we do in the Marine Corps,” said Sgt. Scott Savontes, a Grand Rapids, Mich., native with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment. “We can’t really tell them, but we can show them.”