FORT LEE, Va. --
Lt. Gen. Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller is a legend in the Marine Corps.
In the award category alone, he amassed five Navy Crosses, an Army Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star Medal and much more during his illustrious career. He fought enemy guerrillas in Haiti and Nicaragua and participated in some of the bloodiest battles of World War II and the Korean War. It’s a legacy that all Marines learn early in their career and do not forget even after they leave the service.
A reflection of the reverence for Puller occurs every year when the Marine Corps Detachment at Fort Lee conducts a 67.2-mile relay and formation run to his final resting place near Christ Church in Saluda. More than 200 Marines participated in the 20th annual event Friday. As in years past, the observance also included a graveside tribute and toast to the famous general. He is buried next to his wife, Virginia.
“Chesty Puller is an iconic figure in our ranks,” said Lt. Col. Skip Schoen, detachment commander. “His courage under fire and Marines’ Marine leadership style are legendary and have inspired generations of Marines. Due to our proximity to the birthplace and burial site of Puller, the Marine Corps Detachment at Fort Lee is privileged to honor his legacy by conducting an annual event that combines physical fitness, espirit de corps and historical insight.”
For the first 63 miles of the annual run, a pair of Marines carry the detachment guidon on two-mile legs. For the last 4.2 miles, all of the participating Marines run in formation to the gravesite.
The Marines also visited Puller’s birthplace in West Point and the home he lived in as a boy. During the formation run, the runners passed the home that Puller lived iin during his retirement.
“The city of Saluda comes out for our run,” said Schoen. “They line the streets and cheer us while we run. It’s a special feeling and the Marines love it.”
During the ceremony, Schoen discussed Puller’s career and other Marines read the citations for the five Navy Crosses Puller earned. The Marines also placed wreaths on the two graves and made a traditional toast to Puller.
“This event allows some of our newest Marines to feel a connection with the ‘Old Corps,’” build camaraderie with their peers, and reinforce good relations with the public we serve,” said Schoen. “Chesty would appreciate all of these aspects.
“Marines lead by example and we often tell our junior members about the importance of honoring our heritage,” he continued. “The Chesty Puller Run gives us the opportunity to lead our Marines and honor the memory of one of the Corps’ greatest leaders.”