Quantico, Va. —
Trust within a unit is the most important value in the military, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here last night.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford spoke at an event marking the 100th anniversary of 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
The chairman also presented a posthumous Silver Star Medal to the family of Marine Corps Cpl. Albert Gettings -- a member of the battalion -- who was killed in Iraq in 2005.
When it's not deployed, the unit is based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Then-Lt. Col. Dunford commanded the unit from 1996 to 1998. More than 500 members of the battalion attended the event.
The Marine Corps formed the unit in July 1917 shortly before it shipped out to France. They served with the Marine brigade that was part of the U.S. Army's 2nd Infantry Division. The 2/6 saved Paris at the Battle of Belleau Wood, stopping the German offensive aimed at ending the war before American might could make itself felt. Unit Marines still wear the French forragere on their shoulders, marking the courage and sacrifices of those World War I Marines.
The unit is known as the Spartans and the commander is Spartan 6. Dunford took over the call sign from another Corps legend, Gen. John Allen, who also was present at the event.
Having the event in the museum drove home another point: the unit's Marines of today, with their high-and-tight haircuts, could have switched places in the photos of Marines from Belleau Wood or World War II's Tarawa or Vietnam's Hue City. Dunford spoke of the unit's history, but more about the Marines who fought with the unit.
He spoke of a 2/6 Marine in World War I who gave a wounded comrade his gas mask and then rescued others -- knowing fully well that inhaling the gas would kill him. He also spoke of 2/6 Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Carden, who was killed at Fire Base Bell in Iraq last year. Carden was ensuring all his men were taken care of and under cover when Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorists launched Katyusha rockets on the base.
And he spoke of Gettings, who was killed in Fallujah, Iraq, on Jan. 5, 2006. Initially, the Gettings family received the Bronze Star with a V for valor device for his actions. But a review indicated the award should be upgraded.
"His actions clearly merited the Silver Star," Dunford said, and his parents -- Dave and Juliet -- along with his sister, Cori, were presented the award by Dunford and 2/6 commander Lt. Col. Marcus Mainz.
Second Battle of Fallujah
"Corporal Gettings and his squad were assigned as Fox Company's quick-reaction force in the second battle of Fallujah," Dunford said. "During the fight, one of company's platoons needed help and called for the QRF, and Corporal Gettings brought his team up."
The corporal was hit by a sniper, as was another Marine who tried to reach him. "Still, Corporal Gettings stayed with his Marines, exposed to enemy fire, leading from the front and calling in support," Dunford said.
When enemy fighters tried to flank his position, Gettings led the defense that broke their assault. "Not until the Marines were moving again did Corporal Gettings lead his QRF to a courtyard, where he received medical attention," the general said.
His wound was severe, and he had to be evacuated from the battlefield. "As Corporal Gettings was evacuated, he was carried past the position where his Marines were," the chairman said. "He stuck his tongue out at them, cracked a smile and gave a thumbs-up."
But his wound was too severe, and Gettings died on the operating table. He was 27 years old.
The courage and sacrifices of these 2/6 Marines illustrate a larger point in the history of the unit, the Marine Corps and the U.S. military as a whole, Dunford said. "You know if you are a member of this unit that you can trust the Marines next to you to do what they need to do," said he added. "It's about love for your fellow Marines."
The unit's work continues. Some in the battalion couldn't make the dinner, as they were training for a deployment aboard the USS Iwo Jima as the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The rest of the battalion will join them today.