News: MALS-24 celebrates Navy, Marine Corps birthdays
Story by Kristen Wong
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR–HICKAM — Marines and sailors of Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 24 dressed in their finest blues and whites at the Hickam Officers’ Club, Oct. 26.
This is the first time the squadron has hosted a joint birthday ball. Cmdr. Hillary Darby, the executive officer of MALS-24, said many MALS-24 sailors did not get a chance to attend the regular Marine Aircraft Group 24 ball, because the venue was not large enough.
“Our (commanding officer) wanted to ensure we had a venue that allowed all warriors to attend — not just the Marine warriors — and an opportunity to celebrate our heritage together,” Darby said.
Lt. Col. Edwin R. Rich, commanding officer, MALS-24, made a few remarks before introducing guest speaker Johnie E. Webb, deputy to the commander for External Relations and Legislative Affairs at the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command.
“We’ve been fighting many, many wars together, since 1775,” said Rich. “We’re celebrating our birthday together, so happy birthday!”
For this special occasion, a row of Marines and sailors lined the path along which a cake half-lined in blue frosting and half-lined in red was rolled up carefully to the front of banquet hall. The oldest and youngest sailor, as well as the oldest and youngest Marine, marched up to the front, where they each took a ceremonial bite out of the cake.
At 18 years old, Seaman Gaetan Malutshi, a logistics specialist with MALS-24 was the youngest sailor at the ball.
“I was really happy to be chosen,” Malutshi said. “(Though) I was afraid of messing up the ceremony.”
Lance Cpl. Diego Solis, an aviation supply clerk with MALS-24, is 17 years old and the youngest Marine attending the ball. The Hightstown, N.J., native had always wanted to join the Marine Corps and immediately enlisted after high school last year.
“It was really nice to see the Navy and Marines together,” Solis said.
Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey T. Dixon, MALS-24 sergeant major, was the oldest Marine attending the ball, at 48 years old. Dixon grew up in Greenville, N.C., with a cousin in the Marine Corps. He admired his cousin being “physically fit and always sharp” as a Marine, and was inspired to enlist.
“The Marines and sailors did an awesome job in their performance,” Dixon said. “It was definitely an honor to witness (a dual ceremony with Marines and sailors). We constantly speak to the Marines and sailors about ‘one team, one fight.’ We’re on the same team, doesn’t matter if you’re blue or green.”
Master Chief Kenneth D. Parker, senior enlisted adviser, MALS-24, was the oldest sailor at the ball, at 43 years old. Parker, who grew up in Memphis, Tenn., found in the Navy an “opportunity to leave (home) and explore.” His 25 years in the Navy gave him the “adventure” he’d been seeking.
“The Marines are so strict and so regimental in their movements,” Parker said. “To include us in the whole ceremony was amazing. I’m looking forward to next year. We’re going to make it even bigger and better next year and just keep it going.”
The squadron watched both birthday messages from Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert.
Webb, a retired Army colonel and a Vietnam veteran, shared two stories about Medal of Honor recipient Mitchell Page, who fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal, and Lt. Jose Holguin, who survived a plane crash in Papua New Guinea after being shot down by the Japanese, and kept his promise to his fallen comrades that he would return for them.
“President Calvin Coolidge said ‘a nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten,’” Webb said. “I believe those words, and that’s why this proud nation has not forgotten our defenders nor will we forget these defenders and for those of us who have worn the uniform in the past, it’s important that we learn and that we know about those who have gone before us because they have established the legacy, they have established the tradition that we have today.”