News: LAAD warriors honor history
Story by Lance Cpl. Lisa Tourtelot
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - In March 1982, 3rd Low Altitude Aerial Defense Battalion first was established to provide close air defense for Marine Air Ground Task Force assets.
In their short history, 3rd LAAD Marines have distinguished themselves with valor in combat time and again.
On May 27 the unit gathered to celebrate the completion of their “Wall of Warriors” to honor 3rd LAAD Marines who have earned valor commendations in combat, as well as Purple Hearts.
“It’s motivating, seeing what LAAD Marines have done,” said Lance Cpl. Julian Gonzalez, a gunner with 3rd LAAD. “The Marines on that wall are courageous. It makes me want to do the same.”
Lt. Col. Aaron Weiss, the commanding officer of 3rd LAAD, first proposed the “Wall of Warriors” idea when he assumed command of the unit in 2010, explained Maj. Tom Chhabra, the executive officer of 3rd LAAD.
“We wanted to dig into our history,” said Chhabra. “We wanted to find those Marines who’ve gone above and beyond, and recognize them.”
Marines compiling information for the wall faced a number of challenges in finding correct names and citations.
U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Matthew Sladek, the battalion special projects manager for 3rd LAAD, explained that there is no way to search for valor and Purple Heart awards by unit.
“I spent hours just checking names,” said Sladek. “I had to make sure it was the right person with the right unit.”
Sladek and Gentile found many names and citations for recent 3rd LAAD Marines, but they are still struggling to fill in the gaps from the past 30 years.
They have invited anyone with information about distinguished 3rd LAAD Marines to contact the battalion adjutant at (760) 725-3821.
Sladek has already found Marines to add to the Purple Heart tribute.
Another problem 3rd LAAD faced was finding the money to make the display cases.
“A lot of the funding came out of pocket,” said Master Sgt. Anthony Gentile, the logistics chief of 3rd LAAD. “It was worth it to give the Marines a good dedication.”
Chhabra described the wall as a living tribute to every 3rd LAAD Marine, because they are always ready to add a new name.
“The wall is going to be passed on to the next generation to come,” said Gentile.