Known Marine Memorial
In 1969 then-SSgt Bill Paxton read a small story in the back of the Navy Times that one of his idols, GySgt Roper had died in a mortar attack in Vietnam. GySgt Roper had been an instructor at DI School and had inspired SSgt Paxton. SSgt Paxton felt that GySgt Roper, as well as other DIs who had passed on, deserved to have a place that memorialized them. He imagined a memorial featuring a statue of a DI with his hands on his hips standing atop a marble block.
SSgt Paxton took his idea to the regimental sergeant major but his idea was turned down. Paxton then went to the Depot Sergeant Major, SgtMaj Natasi, and he once again submitted his idea. SgtMaj Natasi told Paxton that his idea was something that would require the approval of the Commandant, as well as the Secretary of the Navy. SgtMaj Natasi made a phone call to then Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, SgtMaj Joseph Daley. During the phone call SSgt Paxton was able to speak to SgtMaj Daley and Paxton agreed to fly back to meet with the sergeant major.
During his meeting SgtMaj Daley advised SSgt Paxton that the Marine Corps could not provide a memorial, but suggested that an outside organization such as a drill instructor association would be eligible to do that task, and thereby suggested that a drill instructor association be created for that purpose. SgtMaj Daley then introduced SSgt Paxton to Army Colonel Woods who was in charge of military memorials. Col Woods provided SSgt Paxton with an approved list of architects and designers who were eligible to provide design services. With that SSgt Paxton flew back to San Diego with knowledge about what needed to be done. However, when he arrived home he had orders to go to Vietnam and had to put the plan on he back burner.
In the mid-1985’s retired former Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, SgtMaj Leland D. “Crow” Crawford formed a group of local retired DIs and held a reunion that resulted in the forming of the National DI Association. By that time Bill Paxton had retired as a sergeant major and he proceeded to push for the DI Memorial and the memorial idea became a quest. The DI Association began to raise funds for the project by getting donations and other forms of fund raising for the expensive project.
Depot engineers had to locate an adequate site on MCRD that would not interfere with underground conduits and tunnels that ran in all directions under the surface. A site was located to the west of the Regimental Headquarters and the recruit barracks.
Sculptor John Chalk created a design with a male and female DI and the plan then became having twin memorial sites—one at San Diego and the other at Parris Island. There was a major pushback of having a female DI statue since San Diego MCRD did not have female DIs. However, the designed stood. The design cost was $36,000. The estimated total cost would be $130,000 for the two projects. Fund raising went into high gear for the two sites. The Parris Island memorial was to be finished first because they were planning on having the memorial dedication take place in April at their DI Reunion. San Diego’s memorial was set for dedication on 11 September 1999, but there was a $29,000 shortage of funds to complete the San Diego project, so the 11 September dedication was put off.
MGySgt Bobby Biers, the San Diego member who was in charge of fund raising made a phone call to former Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, SgtMaj Dave Summers. The shortage was explained to SgtMaj Summers who then made a phone call to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Jones. After hearing of the dilemma General Jones called a good friend of his and said the DI Association needed $29,000 to complete the project—the friend instead offered $40,000. With the funds on hand to complete the installation there then became a mad dash to finish the San Diego memorial in time for the 11 September 1999 dedication ceremony at the San Diego DI reunion. Memorial bricks had to be installed, as well as the monuments and marble headboard.
The DI Memorial was properly deeded to MCRD as a gift.
Finally the ceremony began. The Depot Commanding General, then Major General H. P. Osman, began the ceremony. Temporary bleachers had been brought in and a large contingent of active duty Marines, retirees, and many high ranking officers were also standing to witness the historic dedication. Even actor GySgt R. Lee Ermey was on hand. The statues and marble heading had been covered with sheets, and one by one the sheets were pulled off to reveal the finished project. It was a glorious moment that came to fruition after thirty years from the first dream to the reality.
After the last newsletter regarding bricks we had some inquiries to get a better look at what the recently upgraded area around the Known Marine Memorial looks like.
Below are some photos that show the new border walls and the planter box to the rear of the monument.