Two men took a motorcycle trip to the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King. Their conversations on that trip were the start of an organization that had its official birth last Saturday.
Both men were Marines. Both men recognized the strong bond among those who serve. Both men realized strengthening that bond among Marine veterans, including those returning to civilian life, could help ease the transition for returning warriors. For one man this mission was very personal. His three sons were all active duty Marines.
“The bond between Marines is some times stronger than blood,” he told me.
Saturday night the Andrew Blackhawk American Legion Post 129 hosted a ceremony chartering the new detachment of the Marine Corp League. I was honored to attend and to speak at the ceremony at the Legion hall.
The Legion hall is a special place for the Ho-Chunk Nation. The walls are covered with pictures of the many tribal members who have served. Each picture has many stories.
As I looked at each photo I was joined by a non-Native man who said, “These stories need to be told.”
One story told during the ceremony was that of the man for whom the new Detachment of the Marine Corp League is named.
Mitchell Red Cloud was born in Hatfield. He attended the Indian School in Neillsville and Black River Falls High School. At age sixteen he asked his father if he could join the Army. The year was 1941. Mitchell joined Carlson’s Raiders, a select group of highly trained young Marines that served many missions including the defense of Henderson Field in Guadalcanal.
Like many whose relatives served in Guadalcanal, I was fascinated by the story of extreme hardship and difficult conditions faced by those who served to secure this South Pacific Island which helped turn the course of World War II.
Like so many that served and survived, Mitchell was ordered home with malaria in 1943. But he refused medical discharge and returned to the South Pacific to serve until the end of the war. Red Cloud saw many cherished comrades die in combat. Dan Marsh’s Marine Raider Website records Red Cloud’s words remembering his Raider buddies “... may their spirit ever inspiring courage strengthen me to carry on to finish the task for which they gave their all... ”’
In November of 1945, Mitchell was given an honorable discharge after a bullet pierced his shoulder. But by 1948 the 23-year-old Marine reenlisted, this time in the Army and he was sent to Japan. By 1950 he was serving in Korea. In late fall of that year the Chinese entered the war on behalf of the North Koreans.
In the bitter cold Cpl. Mitchell Red Cloud was keeping watch. According to the Medal of Honor Citation presented to his mother and younger brother... “from his position on the point of a ridge immediately in front of the company command post he was the first to detect the approach of the Chinese Communist forces and give the alarm as the enemy charged from a brush-covered area less than 100 feet from him. Springing up, he delivered devastating pointblank automatic rifle fire into the advancing enemy. His accurate and intense fire checked this assault and gained time for the company to consolidate its defense. With utter fearlessness he maintained his firing position until severely wounded by enemy fire. Refusing assistance he pulled himself to his feet and, wrapping his arm around a tree, continued his deadly fire again, until he was fatally wounded. This heroic act stopped the enemy from overrunning his company's position and gained time for reorganization and evacuation of the wounded. Cpl. Red Cloud's dauntless courage and gallant self-sacrifice reflects the highest credit upon himself and upholds the esteemed traditions of the U.S. Army.”
This Friday, November 5th, marks the sixtieth anniversary of Mitchell Red Cloud’s death. It is fitting and honorable that we mark this anniversary with the formation of a new Detachment of the Marine Corp League which will strengthen the bond of those who served by gathering and telling their stories.
Stories help us to remember the gallantry of all the heroes; those whose photos line the walls of the Andrew Blackhawk American Legion Post 129; those who took the Marine Corp League oath to form the new Detachment and that of Mitchell Red Cloud.
Thank you to all the brave warriors who have served and are now serving for the courage that gives us the blessings of freedom.