The Keystone Marines 2001 Picnic by Pete Bennett
Although the weather didn't look too favorable on Saturday June 2nd the forecasted steady showers held off and the 12th Annual Keystone Marines Picnic was underway at 10:00 a.m. once again held at the "Tom Mix Birthplace Park, Mix Run, near Driftwood in mountainous Cameron County, PA. I had attended the picnic last in 1997 and being a former Marine, enjoyed it so much, enjoyed it so much that I wrote a feature story about it that was published in the Highland Gazette, the magazine I was writing for back then. I had many favorable comments on the article and decided I would write another. I will have to update you in this article about the Keystone Marines as you just may not have read the former story. I apologize for any duplication from the1997 story.
The Keystone Marines are not an officially organized group such as the Marine Corps League, but just a group of former Marines who get together annually to discuss old times and enjoy each others company, picnic style. They do have a president and hold the picnic the first Saturday after Memorial Day in case you would like attend next year. By the way, not all present were Marines. There were Army and Navy friends and people from all branches are truly welcome the only thing being necessary is that there be a desire for the comradery and the friendly discussion of stories of past military exploits. Believe me friends these men in attendance are the unrewarded heroes of our country. As a peacetime Marine, I stand in reverent awe of all that they do and say! Especially this year with the attendance of a living Congressional Metal of Honor recipient.
The afternoon program began with President Joe Miller of Oswego, PA presented the Color Guard which was in attendance from the Bucktail Chapter # 856 of the Marine Corps League out of Renovo, PA and led by Don Walker. Their unit really looked sharp as they presented the colors and we were all standing at attention! President Miller continued by introducing the dignitaries present. Vice President Jerome Auman of Kersey, PA attended with his lovely wife Jean. Mr. Auman read the roll call of the deceased for the past year, which was two. Each time a name was called a bell was rung and a "not in attendance" was the reply to indicate that another Marine had passed on to his greater reward. The deceased were Vernon Whitman and Richard J. Boylan.
Jerome spoke on a very patriotic theme and read several poems relating to the issues of patriotism. One of these I wish to repeat here for you readers, entitled "A Veteran died today":
He's getting old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast. He sat around the Legion telling stories of his past. Of a war he had fought in, and deeds that he had done. In his exploits with his buddies, they were heroes, everyone. And though sometimes to his neighbors, his tales became a joke, all his buddies listened, for they knew what it was whereof he spoke. But you'll hear his tales no longer, for ol' Joe has passed away, and the world's a little poorer, for a Veteran died today.....No, he won't be mourned by many, just his children and his wife. For he lived an ordinary, very simple sort of life. He always had a job and raised a family, quietly going on his way. And the world won't note his passing, 'tho a Veteran died today. When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state, while thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great. Papers tell their life stories, from the time that they were young, but the passing of a Veteran goes unnoticed and unsung. Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land, some jerk who breaks his promises and cons his fellow man? Or is it the ordinary fellow who in times of war and strife, goes off to serve his country and offers up his life? The politician's stipend and the style in which he lives, are sometime disproportionate to the service that he gives. While the ordinary Veteran who offers up his all, is paid off with a medal and sometimes a pension small. It's so easy to forget them, for it was so long ago that our Bob's and Jim's and Johnny's went to battle, but we know. It was not the politicians and their compromise and ploys, who won for us our freedom, that our country now enjoys. Should you find yourself in danger with your enemies at hand, would you really want some cop-out, with his wavering stand? Or would you want a Veteran who has sworn to defend his home, his kin and Country, and would fight until the end? He was just a common Veteran and his ranks are growing thin, but his presence should remind us, we may need his likes again. For when countries are in conflict, and we find the Military's part is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start. If we can do him honor while he's here to hear the praise, then at least let's give him homage at the ending of his days. Perhaps, just a simple headline in the paper that might say...OUR COUNTRY IS IN MOURNING, FOR A VETERAN DIED TODAY! ...Author Unknown.
Next to speak was Curt Pfaff, director of the Eldred W.W.II Museum located in Eldred, PA. He invited all to the dedication ceremonies of their new addition at the museum, the "Mitchell Paige Hall", which was to be held the following day Sunday June 3rd. He also mentioned the museum hours are 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. on Tues. Thru. & Sat. and it is located at 201 Main Street.
Curt had the honor to introduce our honored guest for which the hall was named, Col. Mitchell Paige, a Pennsylvanian from Charleroi, who as a young Marine Platoon Sergeant in W.W.II was awarded Our Nations highest Award, the Congressional Metal of Honor, for his heroism while serving in the Solomon Islands. The Colonel's citation which I looked up on the internet reads:
PAIGE, MITCHELL-Rank and organization: Platoon Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps. Place and date: Solomon Islands, 26 October 1942. Entered service at: Pennsylvania. Born: 31 August 1918, Charleroi, Pa. Citation: For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action above and beyond the call of duty while serving with a company of marines in combat against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands on 26 October 1942. When the enemy broke through the line directly in front of his position, P/Sgt. Paige, commanding a machinegun section with fearless determination, continued to direct the fire of his gunners until all his men were either killed or wounded. Alone, against the deadly hail of Japanese shells, he fought with his gun and when it was destroyed, took over another, moving from gun to gun, never ceasing his withering fire against the advancing hordes until reinforcements finally arrived. Then, forming a new line, he dauntlessly and aggressively led a bayonet charge, driving the enemy back and preventing a breakthrough in our lines. His great personal valor and unyielding devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service-Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States. He is one of only 150 living Medal of Honor recipients.
Colonel Paige who now resides in La Quinta, California has had health problems recently was accompanied by his lovely wife Marilyn and several members of his wartime outfit who were all Purple Heart recipients. They were Richard Stansberry of Arizona, Buddy Hinson of Mississippi and James McNabb of Massachusetts. Col. Paige said they were the three of the best machine gunners in the world. Col. Paige was also a Purple Heart recipient. What an honorable assemblage of heroes right here in central Pennsylvania.
Col. Paige was honored again recently by Hasbro Toy Company which has created a G.I. Joe "Classics Collections" action figure in the likeness of him which includes in the package a biographical sketch of his heroic deeds during World War II.
Also honored this year was former PFC Frank Pinciotti who's outfit B Battery of the 11th Gun Battalion of the 5th Marine Amphibious Corps (also Auman's outfit) just happened to be at the invasion of the Philippines and just prior to General MacArthur's very publicized fulfillment of his promise of, "I will return," Frank made a large sign and hung it on one of the "Long Tom" guns located on the very beach where the general was to wade ashore. The sign read, "By the grace of God and a few Marines, MacArthur returned to the Philippines". Well the story continued, the general saw the sign and suggested that the Marine responsible for its creation be disciplined. No one would reveal the artist and only in the last few years, was it revealed that it was Frank who perpetrated this mischievous act. He was presented with a k-bar knife inscribed with the date 19 October 1944. The saying, "By the Grace of God and a few Marines, Macarthur returned to the Philippines" is becoming quite popular with local Marines and Auman has designed and had minted medallions with the inscription on them. I happen to be in possession of one such coin! Thanks Jerome! Frank who was a Pennsylvania Marine too was from Philadelphia and now lives in Tampa, FL where he enjoys wood carving. Another member of the same unit also was present, his name, Gerald Meyer of Wooster, OH.
Also introduced was Tim & Ruth Roudebush who are supporters of the Elder Museum and its new addition, Mitchell Paige Hall.
All in all, the day was short, the food was wonderful and the weather held, all of this to make the 12th annual Keystone Marines Picnic a total success. Some other local Marines who I met or recognized at the picnic and should mention are: Former president George Lyle of Falls Creek, Ron Guilyard and Don McKinney of St. Marys, my old buddy Rudy Gornati and Mark Singer of Kersey, Dale Van Sickle of Renovo, Rod Kennison of Emporium and Navy friend Jim Smith and wife Laura from Sterling Run.
Much thanks goes to Ray Flaugh the owner/operator of the Tom Mix Birthplace Park, for providing the hospitality which makes everyone feel at home. Ray was instrumental in helping form the Keystone Marines back twelve years ago. He also runs a nice Park and wishes to invite everyone to come and visit it.
The Museum there at the Park includes over 2000 items of memorabilia from the Tom Mix movie era. Each year they hold a "Tom Mix Round-Up" which includes activities such as shootouts, hangings, western dress-up contests, shotgun weddings, country music and a visit from the national Tom Mix look-alike. This year they have scheduled many such activities and the Round-Up which is always held on the third weekend in July, will be held on July 20, 21 & 22nd this year. Why not plan on attending. The Park is located 5 miles south of Driftwood, PA off state route 555. Just follow the signs to see this little piece of Cameron County history!
Till next time, Attention, Semper Fi, Gung Ho, etc.......... Fall Out!
Somehow I feel obligated after telling you all this serious stuff to leave you with a joke I just heard so, here it is:
A lady surprised a burglar in her kitchen. He was all loaded down with the things he was going to steal. She had no weapon and was all alone. The only thing that she could think to do was quote scripture. So, she holds up a hand and says, "ACTS 2:38!"
The burglar quakes in fear and then freezes to the point that she is able to get to the phone and call 911 for the cops. When the cops arrive, the burglar is still frozen in place. They are very much surprised that a woman alone with no weapon could do this. One of them asked the lady, "How did you do this?" The woman replied, "I quoted scripture."
The cop turned the burglar, "What was it about the scripture that had such an effect on you?" The burglar replied, "Scripture! What scripture? I thought she said she had an ax and two 38's.Groan Groan! Bye!
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