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Ahead of Veterans Day, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy E. Black recognized the service of Marine Corps veterans during a private ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, Nov. 8.

This year, the annual wreath laying honored the sixth Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Clinton A. Puckett; the first woman to retire from the Marine Corps, Master Sgt. Catherine Grace Murray; and Sgt. Ronald Ariel Rodriguez who died while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

“It was humbling to place wreaths on the graves of Sergeant Major Puckett, Master Sergeant Murray and Sergeant Rodriguez. These Marines – though serving in different times, under different conditions, and facing different enemies – rest together in Arlington National Cemetery united by their service and sacrifice to the Corps. Semper Fidelis Marines.” Sergeant Major Troy Black, The Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps

Puckett served as the Marine Corps’ sergeant major from Feb. 1, 1973, until he retired from active duty May 31, 1975. A veteran of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, Puckett received the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism for his actions in Korea. He was the last Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps to have served in WWII. At the age of 76, he died Sept. 3, 2002.

Like Puckett, Master Sgt. Murray also left her mark on the Corp’s history. Enlisting in the Marine Corps’ Reserve in 1943, Murray was the first woman to retire from the Marine Corps in 1972. During her career, the WWII veteran was stationed in London, Hawaii and Quantico, Virginia. Murray passed away Dec. 20, 2017, at age 100.

In his eight years of service, Rodriguez deployed twice to Iraq and earned more than a dozen personal service awards, including the Purple Heart. The Falls Church, Virginia, resident was assigned to 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, California. Rodriguez died Aug. 23, 2010, at age 26 in Afghanistan.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton D. Hensler

Puckett, Murray and Rodriguez are among the 400,000 veterans from all services and their families who call the 624 acre cemetery their final resting place. 

The wreath-laying ceremony took place during the days leading up to Marine Corps’ 244th birthday. 

In his birthday message, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger reflected on “the legacy built by those who came before us and in carrying that legacy into the future.” Berger continued, “Since 1775, courageous Marines have answered the call to fight for freedom and shaped our reputation as the most feared fighting force the world has seen. Marines from each generation approached every battle with a lethal combination of versatility, perseverance and adaptability that has allowed us to prevail in any clime and place.”

Berger ended his message by saying, “[the birthday] is a day to look toward future battlefields, to prepare to uphold the distinguished warfighting legacy of our predecessors wherever our nation calls.”

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Author: Jason Kelly

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