Marines reunite in Wadena
The Marines landed in Wadena last Friday and promptly established a beachhead at Sunnybrook Park. It was the first reunion of Hewitt graduate Don McKnight with Bill Merry and Don Miller since December 1955 when they were soldiers in the Third Mar...
The Marines landed in Wadena last Friday and promptly established a beachhead at Sunnybrook Park.
It was the first reunion of Hewitt graduate Don McKnight with Bill Merry and Don Miller since December 1955 when they were soldiers in the Third Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force, assigned to the Seventh Fleet.
Wadena was chosen because it afforded the two men a good central meeting point. McKnight lives in Post Falls, Id., Merry lives in Monmouth, Ill. and Miller is from Saxton, Pa. McKnight set up the Wadena meeting point because he has returned to Minnesota frequently to visit relatives and friends in the Hewitt area.
All three were 19 years old when they enlisted in the USMC -- which they did to avoid being drafted and assigned to a branch of military service they did not like. They took basic training at different locations -- McKnight and Merry were in the same company in boot camp at Camp Pendleton, Ca. Miller took basic training at Parris Island, S.C. While they shipped to Far East together, they did not all get to know each other until they embarked in Japan.
A marine's first duty is to be a infantryman and everyone starts out as one. They were told they would be replacement troops for Marines serving in Korea. The Korean War had just ended by truce but an uneasy peace was maintained across a demilitarized zone -- a zone that still exists between South and North Korea today. The three men were posted to duty in a camp motor pool in Japan. McKnight served as a dispatcher while Merry became a truck master and Miller served in the parts department. Their camp was located at the base of Mount Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan.
Marines are trained as assault troops and after duty in Japan, they made a beach landing on Okinawa, a large island off the coast of Japan, where they were assigned to a new camp and finished out their tour of overseas service.
All three men went into private business after their tour in the USMC. The two Dons both married women named Esther. Bill picked out a Loetafor himself. McKnight has visited both of his buddies separately in the last 54 years but the realization that old age was creeping up on the three made their Wadena reunion a timely one.
"My biggest regret is that I didn't do is sooner," Miller said, echoing the sentiments of all three.