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Marine Corps Birthday Marred by Accident on Camp Foster

Date Posted: 1999-11-13

The US Marine Corps’ 224th birthday in Okinawa could have been a perfectly colorful event. In fact, it was a day full of brilliance on the Camp Foster soccer field, where the Marines celebrated their anniversary with a historical uniform pageant and an official cake cutting ceremony.

During the parade of organizational colors, the Marine Corps’ proud history was recounted to an audience of over 2000 marines and other invited guests. They were tales of success, bravery and achievements over the centuries, from the liberation of America, through the Civil War, the two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and so on, to the present day. The Commandant of the Marine Corps, General J. L. Jones, was present at the occasion to cut the birthday cake after a brilliant speech by Okinawa’s US Forces Commander, LtGen. Earl B. Hailston. The audience was reminded that, among many heroes – dead or alive – the Marines can claim former Senator John Glenn, the famous astronaut, and Ted Williams, a baseball hall-of-fame veteran.

However, as the magnificent event went on, there were silent whispers of sorrow on all lips, as images of a dead soldier were still fresh on several minds.

Just the day before this ceremony, a young Marine from the 3rd Force Service Support Group perished in an explosion. According to a release from Camp Butler’s Media Relations Office, the fatal accident occurred while Lance Cpl. Gabriel L. Mewhinney was using an oxyacetylene torch to dismantle a 122mm display Howitzer. He died at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, November 9th, from head trauma. Mewhinney, who is survived by both of his parents, was born 21 years ago in Cottonwood, Arizona. He was a metal worker with the material Readiness Battalion in Okinawa at the moment of his death.

A memorial service will be held at the Camp Kinser Chapel at 1:30 p.m. on November 15th.

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