RARITAN BOROUGH – Earl Miller wasn’t certain why he joined the Marine Corps.
He knew he had one thing to show to himself, and with the inspiration from a neighbor’s Marine son, Miller thought becoming a member of the navy could be the avenue to realize his purpose.
In 1962, 17-year-old Miller, together with 74 different New Jersey recruits, discovered themselves headed in addition camp at Parris Island, South Carolina, as members of the newly created John Basilone Honor Platoon 251, named after the Raritan-born and bred World Conflict II hero. The platoon included Basilone’s nephew, William D. Brownson from Clifton.
“It was a giant deal on the time,” stated Miller, who was from Brief Hills. “It was an uncommon occasion with all 75 recruits from New Jersey. We knew that we have been a particular platoon as a result of our senior drill teacher knowledgeable us about all the things, and he was well-versed in Marine Corps historical past. We have been very proud to characterize a hero, particularly one from New Jersey.”
Miller confessed he didn’t know of Basilone earlier than he headed to Parris Island. That new data instilled much more satisfaction and bonding among the many Backyard State recruits, and the expertise, for Miller and most of the different younger males, proved to be life-changing and life-affirming.
“I had a bit of little bit of an insecurity complicated, I assume, and I simply stated, ‘If I make it by means of Marine Corps boot camp, I could make it by means of something in life,’” stated Miller, who celebrated his 18th birthday at Parris Island. “It was a problem and it set a path for me extensive and clear, and it actually helped create the individual that I, finally, have change into. And, you already know, President Reagan had stated, ‘Some folks spend their whole lives questioning in the event that they made a distinction. Marines do not have that downside.'”
Right now, the Basilone Honor Platoon is among the first teams to march within the annual John Basilone Memorial Parade. On Sunday, about 10 members are anticipated to hitch to honor the platoon’s namesake on the forty first annual Basilone parade stepping off at 1 p.m.
This 12 months’s parade marks the platoon’s sixtieth anniversary, stated Angie Bowden, who took over the organizing effort a number of years in the past after Miller moved to Florida. Her father, George Marish Jr., an unique member of the platoon, died in February 2021 at age 76. He had at all times been proud to march, Bowden stated.
The John Basilone Memorial Parade is the one parade within the nation honoring a World Conflict II hero. Basilone, a member of the U.S. Marines, obtained the Congressional Medal of Honor for his motion in the course of the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942 and the Navy Cross posthumously for extra heroism within the Battle of Iwo Jima the place he was killed in 1945. He’s the one Marine to have obtained each honors in addition to return to motion after which be killed in motion.
The Basilone Honor Platoon first received collectively once more to take part within the 2011 Basilone parade. The subsequent 12 months, about 30 platoon members marched to mark the platoon’s fiftieth anniversary, full with vibrant yellow matching T-shirts and pink hats. Family and friends are at all times welcome to hitch, Bowden stated.
After they march, the group and their family and friends head to the American Legion Submit 12 in Somerville for a luncheon the place about 25 are anticipated this 12 months, Bowden stated.
Whereas a number of the platoon members nonetheless reside within the Backyard State, others, like Miller, now make the trek from locations reminiscent of Florida, Pennsylvania and Georgia. This 12 months Miller, Bob Pruchnik, Jimmy O’Neill, Invoice Boseski, Andy Liebhauser, Dave Jenkins, John Kovac, Invoice Joseph and Ron Weckenman are planning to attend. One instructed Bowden that this 12 months would be the first time he’s becoming a member of the platoon to march, and one other member of the family is coming for the primary time to march in his father’s honor, she stated.
“It is actually been superb to see how this has developed through the years,” stated Bowden. “Fewer of the platoon members are in a position to make it, so it has gotten much less and fewer through the years, however we nonetheless have a great core group that need to hold this going.”
“I feel the general public are simply comfortable that we’re in a position to get collectively,” stated Miller. “We’ve got a few hours of camaraderie and it is only a great afternoon. It has been actually nice to have the ability to reunite with folks and their youngsters and their youngsters.”
The group marches with a banner and a pair of 2½- ton vans pushed by Rick Pizzaia and Glenn Frank. The platoon members are recognized to toss sweet at parade viewers alongside the route whereas Diane Hawkins, a niece of Basilone, normally marches alongside.
Bowden is grateful to Miller, who initiated getting the platoon again collectively and stored detailed data. Miller and Oliver Petit, a fellow Marine Corps veteran, have been in a position to find 61 members of the boot camp’s graduating class. The hassle started when Miller acknowledged Pruchnik behind an airline counter at Newark Liberty Worldwide Airport. Blanking on his title, Miller blurted out his platoon nickname: Sputnik.
“He instructed me concerning the John Basilone parade,” stated Miller, who stated that members had met through the years for lunches on the Fontainebleau Diner in Piscataway. “That began it.”
Like Brownson, Basilone’s nephew who died a number of years in the past, and Miller, Bowden’s father was solely 17 when he enlisted.
“My father, who was from Sure Brook, signed up after some recruiters got here to his highschool,” stated Bowden, whose son Matthew additionally joined the Marine Corps following in his grandparents’ footsteps. “My dad and mom met within the Marine Corps. My mom was a Marine as effectively. They met and received married and when my dad’s service was performed, they moved again to Sure Brook. We lived there for a pair years, however then moved to Bridgewater.”
After the Basilone Honor Platoon was created, a swearing-in ceremony was held on the recruiting station in Somerville and Basilone’s father, Salvatore Basilone, attended for images with the younger males. On the day they left for Parris Island, the lads gathered on the Basilone statue in Raritan, Bowden stated. They then headed with a police escort in a line of about 50 vehicles to the airport.
“There’s a image of William Brownson going up the airplane, he led the platoon up,” stated Bowden. “As soon as they graduated on Oct. 8, 1962, they then went their separate methods to do fight coaching and their very own particular education or no matter their job goes to be. They cut up up then, however there have been the blokes that did boot camp collectively. Some went to Vietnam, some didn’t. Some made a profession out of the navy and a few did their 4 years and went again to civilian life. Seventy-five went in addition camp and 69 graduated.”
That is the second parade since Bowden’s father died. Final 12 months, she marched for the primary time alongside the vans.
“I am normally within the truck, however I wished to march for my dad. So I marched with the blokes on the bottom,” stated Bowden. “And I had certainly one of my dad’s canine tags. Simply to form of have his spirit there. This 12 months, what would have been my father’s 78th birthday can be on the day of the parade. And my brother’s going to be right here this 12 months. So the 2 of us can be marching in our dad’s honor. I am actually comfortable for that.”
This 12 months’s parade, which marches alongside Somerset Avenue, will embody navy teams and veterans’ organizations, floats, Boy Scouts, Woman Scouts, ROTC items, Civil Air Patrol Cadets, navy autos, Marine detachments, fireplace corporations, rescue squads and different civic and patriotic teams.
Korean Conflict veteran Charles Wynn, a Somerville resident, has been chosen because the grand marshal for this 12 months’s parade. Wynn joined the Marine Corps in 1951.
The weekend’s occasions start on Saturday with a 5K run, which is able to begin on the Basilone statue at Somerset and Canal streets at 10 a.m., with registration starting at 9 a.m. Previous the parade on Sunday, the John Basilone Museum on the Raritan Public Library can be open to guests at 10 a.m. and a memorial Mass can be celebrated at St. Ann Church at 10 a.m.
The parade was held every year since its inception in 1981 till 2020 when the COVID pandemic pressured organizers to transition to a motorcade and ceremony on the Basilone statue.
Final 12 months, regardless of the remnants of Hurricane Ida inflicting large flood harm within the neighborhood nearest the statue, the parade returned.
Cheryl Makin is an award-winning options and schooling reporter forMyCentralJersey.com, a part of the USA Right now Community. Contact: Cmakin@gannettnj.com or@CherylMakin. To get limitless entry, please subscribe or activate your digital account right now.