Annette C., 84, from Brookdale Waxahachie, TX, lost her husband, James, on June 25, 2014. The two were married for 61 years. A few years ago, Annette and James visited the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Annette and James walked the brick winding pathways to the rally points in Semper Fidelis Memorial Park overlooking the Museum’s structure. These bricks are engraved with the names of Marines who have served our nation. After Annette’s husband passed in 2014, Annette purchased a brick in her husband’s memory. Annette dreamed of seeing James’ brick in person and wanted to see where it is laid among the other brothers of the Marine Corps.
James served in the Marine Corps from 1952-1987. The Korean War was at its height while James was a freshman in college; the call to serve his country became his priority. Annette said, “he started as just a grunt in the military and worked his way up to full Colonel.” James was what the Marine Corps refer to as a “Mustang,” any Marine that joins as enlisted and is promoted into the officer ranks. At his retirement, James was the only Marine mustang present.”
In the past, in order to rise to the rank of a Colonel, Marines had to have a college degree. However, in 1981, James’ commanding General from Headquarters Fleet Marine Force Atlantic in conjunction with other U.S.M.C. Generals that held James in high regard put forth a requisition that James’ status be re-classified, and he is promoted to Colonel in the United States Marine Corps. The requisition was approved by the commandant of the Marine Corps and formally acknowledged by the President. James was the first Marine without a college degree to achieve the rank of a Colonel. Today, there is a special program that allows young men and women to advance within ranks as James did.
James served in Hawaii, California, North Carolina, and Virginia as well as a tour in Vietnam. No matter where her husband was stationed, Annette found a volunteer position. For example, Annette served as a volunteer dental assistant for the Navy and Red Cross for about two years. She also volunteered for Meals on Wheels for about seven years and helped with gardening at the various Meals on Wheels locations.
Wish of a Lifetime and Brookdale Senior Living were excited to send Annette with her son, Jeff, to the National Museum of the Marine Corps from November 9-12, 2016. Although the visit was emotional, it brought much-needed closure to Annette’s life. Jeff said “Mom played such an instrumental role in [James’] career. She stood by his side through thick and thin. They were the best of friends.” Annette said this wish was as dear to her “as walking through the pearly gates of Heaven" and "I will cherish the memories for the rest of my life. The brick was laid in the ideal spot. I've always wanted to paint a picture in my head around where his brick is. It was gorgeous. It was sitting in a small gully of wildflowers, and there were a stream and aspens, maples and pine trees. The sun was shining down through the trees right on the brick."
Photo credit: Lisa Hourin