Friday, March 23, 2012

He Earned It

A few years ago, I had the honor of meeting Gerald F. Sherlock, United States Marine Corps, a WWII veteran of Saipan, Tinian, and 36 days on Iwo Jima. I was a Marine reservist from 1980 to 1984, and I've always been, and will always continue to be proud of the title, United States Marine. Never, however, have I been so proud to be a Marine as I was after having met Jerry. Meeting a man who fought in some of the most momentous battles in our history was like a young baseball fan meeting Ted Williams, or a young music fan meeting Elvis. All that aside, his best quality was his humility and sense of humor. Jerry was just a regular guy.

Shortly after meeting Jerry, I saw a contest, announced in small print, in the Sgt. Grit newsletter. It was a Marine Corps trivia contest, and the first 10 people that answered the questions correctly won a small bit of sand that had been taken home from Iwo. When mine came in the mail, it was like someone handed me the Holy Grail. I made up a small triangular box, painted red, with the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor symbol on the front, to hold my prize. I cherished it.

Once I got to know Jerry Sherlock, I felt it was only right to give the sand to him, from one Marine to another. He earned it. It was his. On the night of the last episode of The Pacific on HBO, a bunch of Marines got together with Jerry and his son, and watched The Pacific in reverent silence. After dabbing some moist eyes, I gave the box with the sand to Jerry. He was so appreciative, for once he was without words.

The next year, 2010, those same Marines and I took over as the committee for our local Rhode Island Marine Corps dinner. It is an honor to have over 175 Marines from all over Rhode Island break bread with us as we celebrate the birthday of the Marine Corps.

This past November, on the day before the dinner, Jerry was diagnosed with cancer. He came to the dinner as he always has, in good spirits, despite the bad news. We were once again honored to have Jerry in our midst; but we were also graced by the presence of Pat Femino, another Iwo veteran from Rhode Island. What we found amazing was that Jerry and Pat had never met! They became fast friends. Jerry's son in law Frank often took them out to lunch and made sure they stayed in touch.

In the last few months, he fought valiantly, as he had done for our country and for the honor of our beloved Marine Corps. PFC Gerald Sherlock stormed the beaches of Iwo Jima with the 4th Marine Division on February 19th, 1945. He left this Earth on February 19th, 2012 at the age of 86, 67 years to the day from when landed on Iwo Jima. Rest in peace my friend. Semper Fi.

Carl Weston

Originally posted to the Sgt Grit Newsletter

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