Local marine veterans who also part of a motorcycle-rising group celebrated the U.S. Marine Corps’ 240th birthday on Sunday afternoon with cake and contributions to benefit fellow veterans, servicemen and their families at Christmas.
The Marine Corps League Detachment 74 and its motorcycle group, Detachment 74 Riders, or “Devil Dogs,” gathered with friends and family at the American Legion Post 1255 in Belleville. They stood at attention as a recording of the national anthem was played and the official decree from the Second Continental Congress that officially established the Corps, was read.
Then, it was time for cake. The white sheet cake was cut with a marine sword and in the marine tradition, the first piece was given to the oldest marine in attendance, 84-year-old veteran Claude Cable of Fairview Heights, who in turn gave the next piece to the youngest, 24-year-old veteran Alex Frazar, of Wood River.
The ceremony was accompanied by a Toys For Tots toy drive, a raffle collecting money for veterans and servicemen in need and a meat shoot.
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Veteran and Devil Dog George “Gunner” Gocheff said the group hopes to raise enough money to purchase supplies and other necessities for veterans for the holidays. He said that last Christmas, the Devil Dogs raised enough money to purchase a treadmill and donated it to the VA medical center at Jefferson Barracks. The group has also contributed to the Joseph Center in East St. Louis, which is a home for veterans who have medical problems or in some cases are homeless.
“We’re hoping to generate sufficient funds for the Devil Dogs to assist veterans in our area,” Gocheff said. “We have been strong supporters.”
Gocheff, who was was a corporal in the Corps and stationed in Okinawa for a time during his five-year service between 1956 and 1960, said the Devil Dogs wanted to celebrate the Marine Corps’ birthday by lending a helping hand.
“We do not give cash to anybody, we purchase what they need because a lot of times we get a pretty good deal from the base exchange at Scott (Air Force Base) and those type of things,” he said. “So we try to get as much bang for the buck as we can.”