MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- “I think a true measure of success is how many people show up to honor you when you’re gone,” said Richard Reid, surrounded by dozens of his late father’s close friends, family and fellow Marines. “Looking around, the quality of people and the number of friends that are here is a testament to the lives he touched.”
More than 150 people gathered for a memorial service and celebration of life for retired Brig. Gen. Ernest “Ernie” R. Reid, Jr., at the Protestant Chapel and the Officer’s Club Jan. 27.
Reid, who passed away at the age of 80, served as commanding general aboard the Combat Center from July 1975 to July 1976, and who friends say devoted himself to his family, the Corps, and the community of Twentynine Palms.
Reid was born July 10, 1925, in Dallas and retired from the Marine Corps in 1976 after 33 years of active service.
“I didn’t expect this many friends to show up because many of them are older or live far away,” said his wife, Lou, who was presented with a crisply-folded American flag by Brig. Gen. Douglas Stone, Combat Center commanding general, in honor of her husband.
“I thought it was marvelous,” Mrs. Reid continued. “I’ve been to others and I don’t like them, but this one was magnificent.”
Friends took turns leading the group in prayer and song throughout the memorial, often smiling and sharing fond memories and stories about a man many seemed to hold in the highest regard.
“We had a sign language interpreter for my oldest son, Rodney,” said Mrs. Reid about her son who is deaf. “He had never heard some of those things about his father so that was great for him.
“Everybody who spoke today was wonderful and really made this very special,” she continued. “But it was so great that my son could understand these things about his father.”
Retired Col. Bill Bouldin, who served as chief of staff during Reid’s command here, eulogized Reid.
Bouldin spoke about Reid’s career; how he was commissioned in 1945 as a second lieutenant, how a grenade injured him before he was captured and held as a prisoner of war for three years in Korea, and his service at Headquarters Marine Corps and his command here at Twentynine Palms.
During his command, Reid was one of the driving forces in establishing the expeditionary airfield at Camp Wilson to integrate the base with the air-ground combat training concept the Marine Corps is familiar with today.
“I have never seen a broader grin on the general’s face than when Lt. Gen. [John N.] McLaughlin arrived [by plane] at the recently-completed airfield,” said Bouldin. “General ‘Mac’ was in that North Korean POW camp with Ernie and was one of his buddies who saved his life.”
Renowned to those who knew him throughout the years was his unwavering support from and for his wife Lou. Not many eyes were without tears at the chapel as Bouldin described the love and dedication the two shared throughout their lives.
Mrs. Reid heard nothing from her husband for nearly five months while he was a POW in Korea, and gave birth to their first son while he was behind enemy lines.
After his retirement from the Marine Corps, Reid completed a career as an organizational and management troubleshooter for Hughes Aircraft, and traveled the world until finally settling down in Twentynine Palms in 1990.
“He was very pleased to have been a board member of the Friends of Copper Mountain College where he was highly respected for his continued enthusiasm and wise council,” Bouldin said.
The board of trustees at the college recently announced the next expansion of the campus: the Brigadier General Ernie Reid Bookstore, which will be dedicated this year.
Bouldin also spoke of Reid’s work as a founding father and his service as the Executive Director of Action Council for the City of Twentynine Palms. His contributions can be seen every day in the world-class murals he helped have painted around town.
The Armed Forces YMCA located aboard the base also owes its establishment to Reid’s hard work, said Bouldin.
As Bouldin closed his remarks, “Ruffles and Flourishes” was played along with “Anchors Aweigh”, the “Marines’ Hymn” and a rifle salute accompanied by the stirring echoes of “Taps”.
Though the memorial carried a somber tone and those close to Reid mourned his passing, nearly all in attendance said they reveled to know him in life and to have had the chance to pay tribute, share memories and say goodbye to their friend, Ernie.