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Herbert J. Thomas Memorial Marine Corps League Detachment turns 70 years old

By Ben Calwell, Metro Reporter
Members of the Herbert J. Thomas Detachment No. 947 of the Marine Corps League participated in a veterans’ recognition ceremony last fall in Winfield. In front, from left: R. Michael Lynon, William Lipscomb, Richard Lipscomb; in back: Owen Stout, Curtis Winter and Dexter Owsley.
The Herbert J. Thomas Detachment No. 947 of the Marine Corps League in a flag-folding ceremony in Winfield last year. In front, from left: Richard Lipscomb, Dexter Owsley, Curtis Winter and William Lipscomb; in rear, on stage are R. Michael Lynon and Owen Stout.

It’s been said that “once a Marine, always a Marine.”

The spirit of that statement is upheld every day by members of the Herbert J. Thomas Memorial Detachment No. 947 of the Marine Corps League. The detachment was formed in 1947 in honor of fallen Marine and Medal of Honor recipient Herbert J. Thomas, whose namesake hospital, Thomas Memorial Hospital, is in South Charleston.

Now in its 70th year, the Herbert J. Thomas Memorial Detachment 947 “perpetuates the traditions and spirit of all Marines who proudly wear or who have worn the eagle, globe and anchor of the Marine Corps,” said league Service Officer R. Michael “Mike” Lynon.

According to Lynon, the Marine Corps League is the only federally chartered U.S. Marine Corps-related veterans’ organization in the United States. Among its goals are community service and promoting the interests of the Marine Corps.

“We band together those who are now serving in the United States Marine Corps and those who have been honorably discharged from that service,” Lynon said.

Additionally, Marine Corps League members voluntarily aid and render assistance to all Marines and former Marines and to their widows and orphans.

Lynon said the Herbert J. Thomas detachment formed in 1947 “a year before his (Thomas’) remains were returned home from the Soloman Islands. It was nationally chartered in 1996 and has met at Thomas Hospital since.”

In addition to helping Marines, Detachment 947 is actively involved in a number of community projects. Among them:

• Junior ROTC support

• Flag-folding ceremonies at churches, schools and community events

• Honor and Color Guards

• Herbert J. Thomas Hall of Honor sponsors

• Caretakers of two Medal of Honor recipient burial sites and more than 40 Killed In Action burial sites at Sunset Memorial Park in South Charleston

• Vietnam War Commemoration partner

• Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service program

• Eagle Scout programs

• Donel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery

• Marine for Life program

• Golden Living Center: bingo, veterans’ support, fitness and beautification projects

• Awarding those in the community who display patriotism and support veterans.

Detachment 947 Commandant Owen Stout said the Marine Corps League is there for all veterans, not just Marines. Stout called attention to the rising rates of suicide among veterans.

“There’s 22 veterans committing suicide every day, and we try to bring awareness to that,” Stout said. “And any veteran that’s down and out, we try to help them financially. Anything to do with veterans, we try to help with.”

Marine Corps League members have many opportunities to stay busy in the local community by supporting such efforts as Junior ROTC programs in schools and being present at military funerals.

“We support the Junior ROTCs in the area by trying to send some of those kids to camp every year,” Stout said.

Providing a patriotic presence at military funerals is also a Marine Corps League function.

“We do veterans’ funerals; we believe veterans of any branch deserve military funerals.”

During such funerals, members of the Marine Corps League provide a flag-folding ceremony and a rifle salute.

Detachment 947 members are also available to visit schools, where they talk to students about the flag.

“We go to grade schools and teach flag etiquette. We do a little speech on what each fold (of the flag) represents,” he said.

Stout served as a Marine during the Vietnam War. He said being in the Marine Corps League helps him stay connected with his fellow Marine Corps veterans.

“It’s the camaraderie and talking with other Marines,” he said.

The Herbert J. Thomas Memorial Detachment 947 is open to new members. Qualifications include: Any Marine or Navy (Fleet Marine Forces) Corpsmen currently on active duty or who have served honorably for not less than 90 days and have earned the Eagle, Globe and Anchor or are serving or have served in the Marine reserve and earned 90 reserve retirement credit points or have served as a FMF Navy Corpsmen and trained with FMF units for not less than 90 days and earned the Marine Corps Device (clasp).

Discharged members must have served honorably. A General Discharge under Honorable conditions is acceptable.

The detachment meets at 6 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month at Thomas Memorial Hospital in South Charleston.

For more information about the Herbert J. Thomas Detachment, visit www.mcleague947.com or call Lynon, 304-542-2609, or send email to airlock@mcleague947.com


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