Raritan, NJ - Fifty-two officers and cadets of Civil Air Patrol (CAP) Group 223 honored the memory of Gunnery Sergeant John A. Basilone by marching in the annual parade in Raritan on September 26th. They joined 110 military, ROTC and veteran's units marching that day. Civil Air Patrol Pilot Major Pat Lott, a resident of Somerville, and photo-observer 2nd Lt. Claire Rybczynski, a resident of Branchburg, overflew the parade and took aerial photos of the CAP Group as they saluted USMC Major General Steven Hummer and other military, veteran and government dignitaries on the reviewing stand.
USMC Gunnery Sergeant John A. Basilone
Basilone, born in Buffalo New York, was a resident of Raritan prior to his two US Marine Corps tours in the Pacific during World War II. He first distinguished himself in battle on Guadalcanal where he and 15 fellow marines, vastly outnumbered by 3000 Japanese attackers, held off and virtually annihilated a complete Japanese Regiment at Henderson Field. Gunnery Sgt. Basilone commanded two machine gun emplacements and four fellow marine gunners - two of which survived the onslaught. For his numerous actions of bravery that day Sergeant John A. Basilone was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He returned to the states and toured with a group selling war bonds. He soon requested a return to his unit in the Pacific.
USMC Major General Steven Hummer converses with a disabled marine veteran prior to start of the John A. Basilone Day parade in Raritan on Sunday, September 26th. General Hummer's entourage included active duty marine veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Photo courtesy CAP Major Marvin A. Goldberg
On February 19th 1945 during D day on Iwo Jima, Basilone again distinguished himself by single-handedly destroying a Japanese blockhouse that was laying down murderous fire on his fellow marines. Hours later a Japanese mortar round found its mark on his squad and John Basilone's brave heart was stilled. For his actions on Iwo Jima, Basilone was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross. He is the only enlisted marine to have been awarded both high honors in World War II. Basilone's and his fellow combat marine exploits were recently honored in the HBO mini-series - "The Pacific ".
Jon Seda, who portrays Gunnery Sergeant John A. Basilone in the mini-series The Pacific, waves to cheering onlookers. This is the second year Seda has attended the parade. The series produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg first aired in March 2010. Photo courtesy CAP Major Marvin A. Goldberg.
Interred at Arlington National Cemetery, Civil Air Patrol annually honors Basilone's memory by taking part in ceremonies that places a wreath on his grave and other honored veterans as part of the Wreaths Across America Program. Last year over 10,000 wreaths were placed at Arlington on the graves of our honored dead of all wars. CAP members both attend and run the wreath laying ceremonies held in December, just before Christmas, at over 400 veteran's cemeteries and monuments across the nation. Veteran's cemeteries in New Jersey are part of this CAP yearly tradition.
Aerial photograph of CAP cadet and officer formations passing in front of reviewing stand in Raritan, New Jersey. Photograph courtesy CAP Major Pat Lott and CAP 2nd Lt. Claire Rybczynski.
Major William Pittenger, Commander of Group 223, a resident of Readington, spoke of two moments during the parade that touched him. At the end of the parade route, the CAP group stopped marching in front of a home to figure out where they were to go next. The owner came outside and asked if the group would stand in front of her house for a photo. "Our son-in-law is deployed overseas with the U.S. Air Force and he would love to get this photo of the smart way your young men wear his chosen uniform." Major Pittenger was also touched by the reaction of an active duty be-medaled Marine who shouted "Hoorah, Sir" as the CAP group officers passed by. One could only wish that it was Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone himself paying homage to our veteran officers and future marines, soldiers and airmen.
CAP cadet and officer formations saluting active duty military, veterans and local dignitaries on reviewing stand in Raritan, New Jersey during annual John A. Basilone Day Parade. Over 10,000 spectators lined route of parade. Photo courtesy CAP Major Marvin A. Goldberg.
A non-profit organization with more than 58,000 members nationwide, CAP officers play a leading role in fostering aerospace education and serve as mentors to over 28,000 young people currently participating in the CAP Cadet Program. New Jersey CAP pilots are continuously poised to fly missions for the U.S. Air Force, Department of Homeland Security, Red Cross Disaster Operations, and the New Jersey State Police Office of Emergency Management. CAP performs 95 percent of inland emergency air and ground search and rescue missions and last year was credited by the U.S. Air Force Rescue Coordination Center with saving over 100 lives.