Whether you earned the coveted “Eagle, Globe and Anchor,” at Parris Island, South Carolina or are one of the “Hollywood Marines,” that underwent Marine Corps Recruit Training in San Diego, the J.C. Paul Detachment of the Marine Corps League is looking for you.
The chapter, currently based at the Elks Lodge in Corbin, is open to all Marines, whether the Marine is on active duty, in the reserves or has been honorably discharged.
Greg Sims, Commandant of the detachment, said it is named in honor of the Whitley County native who was killed in the line of duty while serving with the Marines in Vietnam and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
According to the citation, on Aug. 18, 1965, Lance Corporal Joe C. Paul’s platoon had sustained five casualties and was pinned down by weapons fire from the Viet Cong. The wounded were unable to move from their exposed positions forward of the platoon’s location and were exposed to enemy fire.
“Corporal Paul, fully aware that his tactics would almost certainly result in serious injury or death himself, chose to disregard his own safety and boldly dashed across the fire-swept rice paddies, placed himself between his wounded comrades and the enemy and delivered effective suppressive fire with his automatic weapon in order to divert the attack long enough for all the casualties to be evacuated. Although critically wounded during the course of the battle, he resolutely remained in his exposed position and continued to fire his rifle until he collapsed and was evacuated.”
Paul, who had enlisted in the Marines in 1963 at the age of 17, was 19 years old when he was killed.
Paul’s parents received the award on behalf of their son during a ceremony in the Office of Secretary of the Navy Paul H. Nitze on Feb. 7, 1967.
Sims said while there are several stretches of Ky. 92 West named in memory of Paul, one of the detachment’s missions is to have something in Williamsburg named in memory of one of its most deserving sons.
“There is nothing in town honoring J.C. Paul,” Sims said. “I have been talking to Mayor (Roddy) Harrison and he admitted that he had worked on it several years ago but has since dropped the ball. I told him, ‘I am handing the ball back to you and I refuse to let you drop it.’”
Sims said the reason for the group is that while there are multiple organizations for military veterans in the area including the VFW, American Legion and AMVETS, individuals who have or are serving in the Marines have a bond all their own.
“There is an extra camaraderie that the other services don’t have,” Sims said explaining that Marines view the history of the Corps from the founding at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia on Nov. 10, 1775, to the battles of Belleau Wood in World War I and Guadalcanal in World War II, to Iraq and Afghanistan, with a special sense of pride.
“That hangs on you,” Sims said of the history. “The other services have the history, but it is not instilled in you the way the history of the Marine Corps is instilled in the Marines.”
The detachment honored eight Marines who served in Vietnam between May 1959 and June 1975 for their service, presenting each with a commemorative lapel pin and copy of the presidential proclamation honoring the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.
“We also go visit Marine vets at the hospital and in the nursing homes,” Sims said of the League. “We aid the families of deployed Marines and survivors of Marines killed in the line of duty.”
One other mission the J.C. Paul Detachment is undertaking is coordinating the Local Toys for Tots Program.
The program is typically administered by the local Marine Corps Reserve unit. However, Sims said the closest reserve unit is based in Richmond.
Sims said the League will be working with area schools and organizations to find deserving children.
Sims said the League would also be working to be visible and active in the community.
“We want to go out and take part in community events such as Nibroc, Old Fashion Trading Days and the Sally Gap Bluegrass Festival,” Sims said.
Sims said the League has recently secured the necessary flags and service rifles to form a color guard and will be presenting the colors at the opening ceremonies of the Whitley County Spokespeople Bicycle Club’s event on July 4 at Kentucky Splash.
We will be marching in different parades around the area as well,” Sims said.
“We want to be involved in the community and working with charitable groups,” Sims added. “There are tons of things we can do.”
Sims said the League currently has 26 members.
In addition to Marines, the League is open to associate members, who have not served in the Marines. Associate members must be at least 18 years old.
Sims said the only limitations on associate members is that they may not hold elected League office, vote on elected League offices or vote on anything that has to do with the national organization.
Annual membership dues are $35. The League is meeting at 7 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month at the Elks Lodge at 207 North Main Street in Corbin.