MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Commemorative stamps issued by the United States Postal Service come out regularly. There are commemorative collector stamps for great inventors and U.S. presidents, for national holidays and remembered events in history, and for almost every special occasion or notable person in history. Now there is a new stamp, which strikes a little closer to the Marine Corps’ heart, of four legendary Marines. While many Americans may not know the names, the four Marines are almost common knowledge to the average Marine.
Gunnery Sgt. “Manila” John Basilone, Sgt. Maj. Daniel Daly, Lt. Gen. John A. Lejeune and Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller were forever immortalized when the USPS unveiled four new stamps on the Marine Corps birthday, Nov. 10, depicting those four legendary Marines.
These new stamps, alongside Navajo code talkers, received recognition at the Distinguished Marines Stamp Unveiling at the Navajo Nation Veterans Memorial Park in Window Rock, Ariz., Nov. 19.
Navajo service members will be forever remembered in the annals of history for their role as code talkers during World War II. Many historians credit the Navajo code talkers as a leading factor in helping win the war in the Pacific.
“It [the event] was a chance to remind me of my roots as a Native American Indian and a Marine,” said Gunnery Sgt. Willena E. Stanley, who attended the event. “During the event, there were veterans from the Navajo Code Talkers Association present who I got to meet.”
“Most Marines don’t realize the value they each contribute to the history of Marines, whether they’re a private to a general. Most [Marines] feel unappreciated,” Stanley, a Kaibeto, Ariz., native, continued. “It was an honor being present to recognize a few of our own who left a significant impact on the Marine Corps.”
Brig. Gen. Douglas M. Stone, Combat Center commanding general, spoke at the event about the importance of the four Marines along with the achievements of the Navajo code talkers.
“Their legacy defines the warrior ethos that we hold near and dear to our hearts today,” said Stone.
“That is why I believe it is fitting that we are conducting this unveiling here, at the Navajo Nation Veterans Memorial Park,” Stone continued. “For, without the history of those who have served before us, traditions and ethos are meaningless.”
Basilone is the only man in U.S. history to receive the Medal of Honor, the Navy Cross and Purple Heart. Gen. Douglas MacArthur even accredited Basilone as being a “one-man army.”
Daly is one of two Marines awared the Medal of Honor twice. He received the first as a private in the China Relief Expedition Aug. 14, 1900, and the second came when he was a gunnery sergeant in a reconnaissance detachment mission in Haiti Oct. 22, 1915.
Lejeune, the 13th commandant of the Marine Corps, and whose address is still read every year at every Marine Corps Ball, served more than 40 years in the Marine Corps. He was the first Marine officer to hold an Army divisional command, and the French government awarded him the French Legion of Honor and the Croix de Guerre because of his leadership in World War II.
Puller, better known among Marines as “Chesty,” was the most decorated Marine in history. He received 14 personal decorations in combat, five Navy Crosses, an Army Service Distinguished Cross, the Silver Star and two Legions of Merit with a “V” for valor. After retiring for medical reasons in 1955, he requested to be reinstated during the Vietnam War. The Marine Corps denied his request because he was 68 years old.
Stone closed his speech by describing the significance of the stamps and what those commemorated would think if they were alive today.
“This unveiling represents more than just four distinguished Marines,” he said. “I believe it represents the legends of the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Armed Forces, and I have a feeling that were these four gentlemen alive today, they’d be the first to thank and give credit to all those who served alongside them for their individual successes.”
Stanley felt the new stamps were a way to show American people the importance of these legendary Marines.
“To have ... [them] commemorated on the USPS stamps will show the public of the important duties they preformed, not only defending their country, but the contributions they made that helped shape American history,” said Stanley.
With these new stamps, Marines can add something new to their scrapbooks of their time in the Marine Corps, because it’s not every day a stamp is released with one of the Marine Corps’ legendary figures.
“The best way I can summarize how I feel is from Gunnery Sgt. Lee Ermeys quote from the movie ‘Full Metal Jacket,’ ‘Marines die, that’s what we’re here for, but the Marine Corps lives forever, and that means YOU live forever.’ The stamps are another way of immortalizing the proud history and leaders of the Marine Corps,” said Stanley.