CAMP LEJEUNE — Thirty-four World War II veterans visited Camp Lejeune Marines Thursday.
They came from across the country to join service members from the 2nd Marine Division in their World War II Remembrance Day events. And 88-year-old World War II veteran Maj. Fred Ballek was hoping to find someone familiar while he was there.
“I was looking for somebody that I might have known back in the 40s. And with 35 or so World War II's, I don’t think I’ll find any of them,” said Ballek.
But instead of finding an old friend, Ballek made almost 100 more, in the form of active duty Marines waiting to meet him and the other veterans at Onslow Beach.
“This is a terrific opportunity for today’s Marine Corps to get together with Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen that served in World War II, our greatest generation. We don’t have as much time left with them anymore so we can each take every chance we get to share stories with them, to learn from them and just to enjoy each other’s time,” said Brigadier Gen. James Lukeman, Commanding General of the 2nd Marine Division.
The veterans got to see the Marine Corps’ latest weapons and hear how war fighting tactics have changed.
“It amazed me the kind of equipment and type of equipment that these kids have today,” said Charles Porter, a World War II veteran.
But the Marines and veterans agree that while the weaponry has changed over time, the spirit of being a Marine, has not.
“It’s surprising how little has changed in a lot of ways. And for Marines in combat and sailors in combat and soldiers and airmen in combat, that fight is pretty close. So I think as these veterans from World War II spend time and share stories with our Marines from today, they’ll realize that combat for the individual Marine or sailor hasn’t changed as much as you might think,” said Lukeman.
The 34 veterans who visited Camp Lejeune got a tour of the base and were treated to dinner at the Officer’s Club by the Second Marine Division.