ST. LOUIS – The city of St. Louis will never be the same.
Following successful campaigns in Chicago and Boston, more than 700 Marines descended upon the city of St. Louis to conduct the third annual Marine Week June 20-26. In a series of displays, demonstrations and community service events, the Marine Corps brought to life the strength, values and heart of U.S. Marines.
The people of St. Louis received the Marines with open arms.
“St. Louis is honored to host Marine Week 2011,” said Francis G. Slay, mayor of St. Louis. “The Marines’ commitment to community, country, and Corps is woven into this city’s culture and is one to which St. Louisans can certainly relate. We welcome our men and women in uniform and look forward to bolstering St. Louis as a gateway to the Corps.”
Marine Week allowed St. Louisans to experience Marine vehicles and equipment, as well as interact with the Marines who operate them. Static displays were set up in three locations around St. Louis where citizens could climb in and around equipment, try on gear, and get a feel for Marine Corps weaponry. Among the aircraft and vehicles on display were the MV-22 Osprey, AH-1W Cobra, CH-53E Super Stallion, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle, Amphibious Assault Vehicle, the M777 Howitzer and High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, all of which are used in combat zones today.
“Marine Week directly connects our Marines to the American public,” said Col. Bryan Salas, director of public affairs, Headquarters Marine Corps. “St. Louisans will have the opportunity to hear Marines’ first-hand stories of service and to talk to Marines about their day-to-day job responsibilities.”
Along with sharing the Marine Corps culture, the Marines raised awareness about veterans who fought and died in service to the country. A Marine honor guard was posted at the War Memorial, which honors World War I veterans, to stand watch 24-hours a day during the week.
“The Marine sentry posted at the War Memorial shows St. Louis we are always on duty,” said Lt. Col. T. Shane Tomko, commanding officer, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force Marine Week.
While the displays and demonstrations highlighted the strength and power of the Marine operating forces, the local community experienced another side of the Corps. All week, Marines performed community service projects in and around the city to restore parks, beautify gardens, assist in a food drive and visit hospitalized veterans. The projects enabled Marines to give back to their fellow Americans, in response to their continued support.
“I had a deep respect for the Marines to start with,” said Kim Dauwalter, a multiple sclerosis patient whose farm was made handicap-accessible by Marines. “For them to take time out of their day to help me … I don’t even know how to describe how I feel.”In true Marine Corps fashion, the Marines made sure they left St. Louis with something to remember. At the close of the week, the Marines shook the ground at Gateway Arch Park with a Marine Air Ground Task Force demonstration, flexing the massive muscle of the Corps.The demonstration gave visitors and spectators the opportunity to see the organizational structure of the Marine Corps MAGTF in action. Marinesstormed the shores of the Mississippi River in force, bringing to life the Corps’ land, air and sea capabilities.Reconnaissance Marines landed in the park by parachute and combat rubber reconnaissance crafts, followed by the thunderous arrival of light armored vehicles and amphibious assault vehicles. The crowd was further awed by aerial demonstrations, including an air-to-air refueling and a SPIE-rigging maneuver.
“It demonstrates that not only can we do it in St. Louis, but we can do it in far-off, distant lands,” said Maj. Gen. Anthony Jackson, the commanding general of Marine Corps Installations West.
Jackson spoke at the closing ceremony, thanking the city of St. Louis for their support and hospitality. “As you return to your daily lives, I ask you remember the Marines still in combat. I ask you all, thank the servicemen for their sacrifices, thank their families for their sacrifices, and St. Louis: thank you for being so warm to us.”