The 8th & I Reunion Association

An organization of Marines
who served at
Marine Barracks
8th & I Streets, S.E.,
Washington D.C.

David Melchior's memories of 8th and I:


1-20-12 ... I remember Joe Westner's (fellow 2nd Platoon member in the 58-60 timeframe) posting about seeing a spinning rifle rising and falling outside the second deck (our squadbay over the messhall) window soon after we arrived from ITR. It belonged to our Platoon Sergeant SGT Ben Juneau (1954-58) who did the rifle inspection. He taught us the drill and we used Springfields. I felt very fortunate to garner a spot on the platoon drill team. SGT Juneau was in a word, terrific - and like many of us, a full tour 8th & I Marine.

Any of us from that time can recall that we weren't perfect. We also did not have a schedule like the drill team of today. Maybe the 1st Plt performed every day when they went to Edinburgh in '58 but those types of assignments were few and far between. I went to MCRD San Diego last year and saw the drill, along with a D&B that was hardly recognizable compared to the one we were stationed with. Today's version is more of a band and in different red uniforms. In our day it was a D&B only - in dress blues. The Marines of today perform in front of vast audiences almost daily it would seem, and I agree with anyone of authority who orders that there will be no miscues. It's not mainly in front of the CO on the Barracks parade deck anymore, or at 'Iwo' in front of a couple of dozen people.

I wondered about the cadence and the straight up and down rifles, and etc. but also witnessed an execution that was pretty much flawless. I think that is the aim and I don't blame them. Ben Juneau said in an email that we were better. I know he was but am not so sure about myself or many others. And our four platoon's varied drills may have been sexier, or whatever, but we played to small crowds and not as often, and not as flawlessly. Yes, we had a twelve man and did an eight man so we could fit on the stage for a National Press Club dinner uptown.

I know one thing, we could sure out spitshine these boots of today. Patent leathers and chrome bayonets my youknowwhat! Does anyone remember when we got permission to have our bayonets blued at the Armory? Now that was a nice change from dying bayonets black and spitshining them.. But the big thing I am glad for these guys today is that they can use leather gloves rather than us soaking our cotton gloves in the head in hopes they would still be wet for a grip by the time we got the Forward March!

Oh for those days standing on the footlockers and slipping into our starched white trousers; standing on the buses so we wouldn't get a wrinkle; cussing when we had to march through grass cuz our shine would get violated; turning while at ease to cast a shadow on our toes and bitching when the word was pad-pads rather than cleats. Never mind the salty gourds and too short trousers and black/not brown shoes. And the glorious MATS arrivals in the summers.

What I feel I should add though is that day at MCRDSD when the DT, D&B, and Color Guard were there performing, there were many Marine war veterans there, with more than a couple of MOHs in the audience, and they were proud to see their kids out there representing them and making them proud. Me too.

And then there was our first Commandant's inspection when the night before two of our short timer squad leaders went out drinking after all was complete and it was decided we had to sleep on the deck so as not to disturb our junk on the bunk setups and all. 2nd squad leader came in and painted his dress shoes silver and 1st squad leader was so wasted the next morning that he passed out at formation and Henderson had to assume the role of squad leader. Unnecessary aside but does anyone remember?


10-18-12 ... To further elaborate on all this (Ceremonial Guard Company / Guard Company issue), I knew a couple of these guys well (1960, 8th & I Volleyball Champions, ). Joe Schoen and I were good pals. He was from Silver Spring and was a helluva an athlete (baseball, football, basketball, boxing). We played basketball around Washington together and used to put in piss calls and run the Gun Factory streets early a.m.s.

Wendell Smith was also a whale of a roundball player, and we played together often. He was from Philadelphia and grew up playing with Wilt and Guy Rodgers and other NBA luminaries. He also got called out in a round of 'dozens' when a southerner or two got personal about family and he gave it back. Fists flew and Smitty fighting back bloodied a nose. There was almost an incident. I remember Ronnie Withers (also black), formerly 1st Plt but now at H&S up at the Barracks threatened to come down if needed. Then Frank Riley, former Auburn footballer who could do anything athletically and nobody to mess with (now running the slopchute), said that he would intercede if that happened. It blew over but I cannot remember just how.

Lt Wills was a 150 lb Navy Academy footballer and a big proponent of athletics for Marines. Schoen told me that one time at Camp David, Mr Wills was lecturing the platoon about the value of athletics and how his troops should use their liberty time to better their skills. When he finished, SGT Gary Bennet, Plt Guide and Korean vet wanted the floor. He went into a soliloquy about his idea of liberty (he had a red Caddy convertible). Sir, when liberty call goes, I get in my car and have a bottle of whiskey with me. I have the top down and go downtown and see if I can scout up some girls (he used the "P" word). Now that's my idea of liberty. This is pretty much the way Schoen related it to me.

Next time you talk to Joe Larkin (8th & I, Ceremonial Guard Company, 1955-1959), he has much the same to say about Bennett. My favorite about SGT Bennet, though (now that I am fully off the subject) was when we were firing the range at Quantico and Bennett had the company formation on the street outside the barracks. We were at rest and smoking and jabbering when an officer, it may have been 1LT Wills, was at a distance and walking toward Bennett, hollering 'Hey Bennett!' Bennett did not flinch. The LT hollered 'Hey Bennett' again. Not a movement. We were like, whoa, this could be heavy. When the LT hollered the third time, Bennett turned his head sideways and stated, 'Name's not Bennett, name's SGT Bennett. Got a title.' Of course we had straight faces, but it was like, All Right!

Hey John (John Reim, Ceremonial Guard Company, 1958-1961), as I wrote this I thought I would share it with you. Although we didn't really know each other, I imagine you knew these Marines also. SGT Bennet was one Marine who always stood out in my mind, right from the first day on post in 2nd Plt in the squadbay above the main barracks Mess Hall when he was Reveille NCO and came in screaming. For a second I thought I might be back at P.I. And I remember him leading PT early AMs in the parking lot outside the Mess Hall (before the move to Building 58 at the Naval Gun Factory).

Thanks for 'listening.' This is the way I remember it.
Semper Fi,
David Melchior, 8th & I, Ceremonial Guard Company, 2nd Platoon/Drill Team and Body Bearers Section, 1958-1960, San Diego, CA

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