CAMP LEJEUNE, NC, UNITED STATES
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — Amid a crowd of almost 16,000 Marines and sailors from the 2nd Marine Division, Sgt. Ruben Diaz posted his regiment’s colors high above the rest, listening to the division’s commanding general speak as the unit’s numerous battle streamers moved ever so slightly with the morning breeze, April 20.
The Marines and sailors just finished a three-mile run, led by Maj. Gen. John A. Toolan, the 2nd Marine Division commanding general. Though some deployed elements were unable to attend the run, Marines from each battalion throughout the division represented their brothers-in-arms deployed around the world.
“I want to go back to Afghanistan,” said Diaz, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native and color sergeant for 8th Marine Regiment. “Why? It’s simple. There’s still a job to do.”
Other Marines who haven’t yet had the opportunity to deploy to a combat environment saw the run as a time to stop and think about fellow Marines and the sacrifices they are making every day while deployed.
“I wanted to go to Afghanistan but ended up deploying with the (26th Marine Expeditionary Unit),” said Cpl. Ronald Canales, an amphibious assault vehicle crewman with 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion and a Miami, Fla., native. “But, I’m praying that all our guys over there are safe and that nothing bad happens.”
Regardless of combat experience or deployment know-how, every Marine on the run was reminded of the bad things that can happen in combat when Lance Cpl. Adrian Simone was heard shouting “1/6” over the cadences of nearby units.
Simone, a rifleman with 1st Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, is a double amputee who ran at the front of his battalion to motivate his fellow Marines. The 19-year-old, from Boonton, N.J., incurred several injuries after being hit by an improvised explosive device last August in the Sangin District of Helmand province, Afghanistan, the worst of which resulted in the amputation of both of his legs from the knee down.
After the run, the division huddled around the commanding general and sergeant major to hear them speak.
“Keep your honor clean,” said Toolan, looking into the crowd of green shirts and desert uniform trousers, “because we owe it to those who have served before us.”
Sgt. Maj. Michael F. Jones, sergeant major of 2nd Marine Division, made his final address to the division as a whole, as he prepares to move on to become sergeant major of Marine Corps Forces Command.
“I am a blessed man,” said Jones, “to be able to say that I have been the sergeant major of the 2nd Marine Division for the past four years. For the rest of my life I will remember serving alongside you Marines in combat and in garrison.”
In his closing words, Toolan encouraged the division to understand the purpose of runs like these and to look back at the accomplishments of Marines past. He cited historic events in April from as far back as 1st Lt. Presley O’Bannon’s successful attack in the Battle of Derna to 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment in the 2009 Battle of Now Zad.
The run was the first division-wide function since 2nd Marine Division (Forward) returned from serving as both the Task Force Leatherneck command element and ground combat element in Helmand province, Afghanistan, during 2011.
“For the past 237 years, Marines have been getting some- and they’ll continue to do it for the next 237 years.”
||CAMP LEJEUNE, NC, US
This work, 2nd Marine Division: Running ‘til the running’s done, by Sgt Timothy Solano, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.