News: Blast from the past, Edson’s Raiders visit Quantico
Story by Sgt. Christopher Zahn
QUANTICO, Va - The grizzled veteran’s hands show the story of his years, knotted, callused and worn with age. The fingers don’t bend the way they used to, the strength of his youth has faded with time, but once they touch the familiar wooden buttstock of a M1 Garand service rifle, the firm, sure grasp of the weapon returns like a handshake with an old friend.
The lessons learned in combat are still remembered. Slow, steady, breaths; high firm pistol grip; don’t jerk the trigger but squeeze it instead. A shot pierces the air followed by the distant ping of the round striking the steel target 200 yards away. The warrior smiles, knowing that he still lives up to the motto “Every Marine a rifleman.”
This was one of many scenes as Quantico hosted the 63rd Annual Edson’s Raiders Association Reunion at the range, providing an array of World War II weaponry for the Raiders, their families and friends, to fire and familiarize themselves with. For the Raiders it was a chance to touch the type of weapons that they used in combat. For the families and friends, they got to see firsthand the tools that their loved ones used to survive the many battles they fought.
They were welcomed at the range by Col. Timothy Armstrong, the commanding officer of Weapons Training Battalion who said, “The weather has been rainy all week and of course, when the Raiders come, it’s a sunny day.”
A quick retort came from the crowd however as one Raider said, “That wasn’t always the case.”
The sunny weather meant plenty of time to fire every weapon available including the M1 Garand service rifle, M1 Carbine, M1903 Springfield rife, M1911A1 Pistol, M1A1 Thompson Submachine Gun, and M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle.
There was also a demonstration of a M1919 Browning machine gun and, the cake-topper, the M2 Flamethrower, which threw a stream of flame 20 yards and torched the targets used.
“We come to Quantico every year because it’s the original home of the 1st Raider Battalion,” said former Sgt. James “Horse” Smith, 1st Raider Bn. “We have always been treated royally by everyone on base and (the reunion) gives people a chance to visit the Capitol and sightsee every year.”
This may be the last reunion for the few survivors remaining, but every year since 2006 has supposedly been the last one. The bond that unites these men will keep them coming back every year to their birthplace as a unit.