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Gen. Pace, 2nd platoon reunited

Sept. 5, 2007; Submitted on: 09/05/2007 11:10:19 AM ; Story ID#: 200795111019

By Cpl. Ryan Blaich, II Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)


KARMAH, Iraq -- ? Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, meets with Marines of 2nd platoon, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, at outpost three, Sept. 4. Gen. Pace was platoon commander for 2nd platoon in Vietnam during the Tet offensive and never forgot about his time with Co. G, 2/5. Photo by: Cpl. Ryan Blaich
KARMAH, Iraq -- – Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, meets with Marines of 2nd platoon, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, at outpost three, Sept. 4. Gen. Pace was platoon commander for 2nd platoon in Vietnam during the Tet offensive and never forgot about his time with Co. G, 2/5.
KARMAH, Iraq -- ? Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, gathers with Marines of 2nd platoon, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, at outpost three, Sept. 4. Gen. Pace was platoon commander for 2nd platoon in Vietnam during the Tet offensive and never forgot about his time with Co. G, 2/5. Photo by: Cpl. Ryan Blaich
KARMAH, Iraq -- – Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, gathers with Marines of 2nd platoon, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, at outpost three, Sept. 4. Gen. Pace was platoon commander for 2nd platoon in Vietnam during the Tet offensive and never forgot about his time with Co. G, 2/5.
KARMAH, Iraq -- Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, speaks openly with a member of 2nd platoon, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Sept. 4. Gen. Pace said he wanted to be with original platoon in a combat zone before he retires Oct. 1. Photo by: Cpl. Ryan Blaich
KARMAH, Iraq -- Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, speaks openly with a member of 2nd platoon, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Sept. 4. Gen. Pace said he wanted to be with original platoon in a combat zone before he retires Oct. 1.
KARMAH, Iraq ? Marines of 2nd platoon, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, gather around the gym area to listen as Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, recalls the stories of his past. Gen. Pace was also a member of 2 nd platoon as a platoon commander during Vietnam. He never forgot the men who died following him throughout the 13 months and said he has served everyday in their honor. Photo by: Cpl. Ryan Blaich
KARMAH, Iraq – Marines of 2nd platoon, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, gather around the gym area to listen as Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, recalls the stories of his past. Gen. Pace was also a member of 2 nd platoon as a platoon commander during Vietnam. He never forgot the men who died following him throughout the 13 months and said he has served everyday in their honor.

KARMAH, Iraq (Sept. 5, 2007) -- Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, made a unique visit to Marines stationed here, Sept. 4. As far as meetings with four-star generals usually go, this event was much less formal. It seemed more like a gathering of relatives, a way for Gen. Pace to connect the hardened war fighters of today to the heroes of his past. It was evident he saw himself, and his old unit, in the Marines who stood in front of him.

Nearly 40 years have passed since then 2nd Lt. Pace first stepped into a combat zone as a platoon commander. The year was 1968 and the battle was infamously known as the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. It was there he battled against communism and the hand of fate, which made a profound impression on Gen. Pace's commitment to country and Corps. The event marked a time in his life never to be forgotten throughout his career as a Marine infantry officer.

Decades later and less than a month before he retires from office, Gen. Pace returned to the battlefield to join the same platoon of Marines he led into combat as a final salute to the Corps and to those who have ever served in 2nd platoon, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

Gen. Pace stood stoically in front of men who have seen many recent battles, some just weeks prior. He shared much of his past with them as they stood silently, gathered around weight benches and dumbbells at their outpost, known as Observation Post 3, near downtown Karmah. Only the hum of a lone generator could be heard as Gen. Pace not only recalled the full rank and names of the men who perished under his command, but his fight to make sense of it all as well.

"Guys to the left of me got shot. Guys to the right of me got blown up and nothing happened to me at all. I didn't understand that. I got out of Vietnam without even a scratch on me," Gen. Pace said. "But, I made a promise to myself back then that I would continue to serve in the Corps, in their memory, and try to do my job out of respect for them."

Gen. Pace said he would only retire after he stopped getting promoted, and in his words, "It worked out OK."

Most people would agree it worked out a little better than OK.

On Sept. 30, 2005, Gen. Pace was appointed to his present position, making him the first Marine to ever serve as the president's top military advisor. He also serves as the military advisor to the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security. Until recently, no other Marine had ever made it to vice chairman, except Gen. Pace.


Despite the long list of successes on Gen. Pace's resume, he never forgot where and with whom it all started.

"After just over 40 years of service, when I do get out, I will still owe the Marines of 2nd platoon, Golf Company, more than I could ever repay," he said. "I'm so proud to be here with you."

The platoon seemed in awe, almost speechless by his visit. Maybe they were trying to digest the idea of a top-ranking, four-star general who humbly made it his priority to meet each of them individually, hand out coins and take personal photographs while thanking them for their sacrifices.

As Marines maneuvered around the outdoor gym for a group photo with the most distinguished member of their platoon, Gen. Pace said, "I'd love to be able to show my guys from Golf, 2nd platoon, your picture. I know they'll be proud of you," referring to the Marines of his Vietnam platoon, who he still visits.

It is this close knit bond between Marines, officers and enlisted, which Gen. Pace said is the foundation to the health of the Corps.

After each Marine had their photograph taken with the general, got their coin and asked their questions, he had one final gift to give, a knife. Both symbolic and traditional, the K-bar knife has been a staple of Marine combat gear for generations. It was this he chose to bestow upon the latest platoon leader of 2nd platoon.

"I wanted to give you this. From one 2nd platoon leader to another," he said. "Out of respect for who you are, out of envy for your future time in our Corps and out of envy for your opportunity to lead these Marines."

1st Lt. Chad Cassady, a former sergeant, was the proud owner of the new knife and said he felt privileged to receive such a gift from a man he has long respected. Cassady had met Gen. Pace nearly two years ago at the Marine Corps Ball ceremony, not long after Gen. Pace was elected to chairman. He did not think their paths would ever cross again.

"I didn't think I'd ever see him again," Cassady said. "I never could have imagined we shared a connection."

Cassady does not plan to use the weapon in combat, but instead will proudly display the grand memento in his house. Not everyone there got a K-bar, but perhaps was able to take away a sense of belonging.


As the platoon's corpsman, Seaman Kyle Bourgeois, put it, "I just feel fortunate."

Silent admiration filled the eyes of lance corporals and captains alike and everyone present received something less tangible than a steel blade or a metal coin. Gen. Pace was handing to each of them an item that never fades or gets dull; a sense of pride and the relentless will to succeed.

The bonds formed and shared between Marines, units, and platoons are timeless.

"Forty years from now, you'll remember these officer's names and they'll remember yours," Gen. Pace said. "A lot of stuff is going to happen between now and then. You are going to have a lot of experiences, most of it is going to be a blur, but you remember this, you'll remember each other and I'll bet you, you'll find ways to get together."

"It'll be very difficult for me to walk away," he said. "I was shaking hands the day before yesterday in Afghanistan and a soldier came through and said, 'Sir, thank you for your service. We'll take it from here.' As I look at you, that's spot on. You have taken it."
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 KARMAH, Iraq -- ? Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, meets with Marines of 2nd platoon, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, at outpost three, Sept. 4. Gen. Pace was platoon commander for 2nd platoon in Vietnam during the Tet offensive and never forgot about his time with Co. G, 2/5. Photo by: Cpl. Ryan BlaichKARMAH, Iraq -- – Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, meets with Marines of 2nd platoon, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, at outpost three, Sept. 4. Gen. Pace was platoon commander for 2nd platoon in Vietnam during the Tet offensive and never forgot about his time with Co. G, 2/5. Photo by: Cpl. Ryan Blaich
 KARMAH, Iraq -- ? Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, gathers with Marines of 2nd platoon, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, at outpost three, Sept. 4. Gen. Pace was platoon commander for 2nd platoon in Vietnam during the Tet offensive and never forgot about his time with Co. G, 2/5. Photo by: Cpl. Ryan BlaichKARMAH, Iraq -- – Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, gathers with Marines of 2nd platoon, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, at outpost three, Sept. 4. Gen. Pace was platoon commander for 2nd platoon in Vietnam during the Tet offensive and never forgot about his time with Co. G, 2/5. Photo by: Cpl. Ryan Blaich
 KARMAH, Iraq -- Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, speaks openly with a member of 2nd platoon, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Sept. 4. Gen. Pace said he wanted to be with original platoon in a combat zone before he retires Oct. 1. Photo by: Cpl. Ryan BlaichKARMAH, Iraq -- Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, speaks openly with a member of 2nd platoon, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Sept. 4. Gen. Pace said he wanted to be with original platoon in a combat zone before he retires Oct. 1. Photo by: Cpl. Ryan Blaich
 KARMAH, Iraq ? Marines of 2nd platoon, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, gather around the gym area to listen as Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, recalls the stories of his past. Gen. Pace was also a member of 2 nd platoon as a platoon commander during Vietnam. He never forgot the men who died following him throughout the 13 months and said he has served everyday in their honor. Photo by: Cpl. Ryan BlaichKARMAH, Iraq – Marines of 2nd platoon, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, gather around the gym area to listen as Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, recalls the stories of his past. Gen. Pace was also a member of 2 nd platoon as a platoon commander during Vietnam. He never forgot the men who died following him throughout the 13 months and said he has served everyday in their honor. Photo by: Cpl. Ryan Blaich