On February 22, 2014, my mom passed away after a long battle with breast cancer. I wrote this poem shortly after.
I wake up in the morning
ready to start the day
Then I remember
The tears silently flow
I dry my eyes, put on a smile and head to work
I turn on my radio
Singing out loud
I hear our song
The tears silently flow
I dry my eyes, put on a smile, and sing once more
I go to the store
buying something for dinner
walk by the floral department
There you are!
My smile silently grows
Sometimes it takes me all day to realize you never left me.
I love you forever, Mom
Last January, a friend posted a picture on her Facebook timeline. It was of someone’s yard, with coffee creamer bottles and tv dinner trays placed all around.
At first glance, it looked like the yard of a tweaker, someone who uses methamphetamines, therefore does really strange things that seem to make sense to only them.
Then another story came about. This was the yard of an ex-cook in the military and the tv dinner trays represented someone he knew who died in the line of duty. It was said that the man stood outside and saluted the trays.
Intrigued, I went to the man’s house one day and found out something much different. Something even more amazing.
Standing out on the lawn was an elderly black man. He was saluting and waving to cars driving by. I asked him if I could ask him a few questions about his yard.
The man took me to the side of his house where he had a makeshift museum of his impressive 31-year career in the United States Marine Corps. Retired Master Gunnery Sergeant M.C. Long was born April 21, 1928 in Bessemer, Alabama. He enlisted in the Marine Corps as a 16-year-old in 1944, two years after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt established a directive to allow African-Americans to enlist in the military.
“I received basic training at Montford Point Camp at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina. It was where they sent the Negroes during the years of segregation.” said Long.
Montford Point Camp was, indeed, a facility at Camp LeJeune where, according to the Montford Point Marine Association’s website, approximately 20,000 recruits received basic training during World War II, from 1942 until 1949, when President Harry S. Truman ordered the desegregation of the Armed Forces. According to the same website, in July 1949, there were 1,525(1.6 percent of the corps) enlisted African-American men in the Marine Corps. Long was among these men.
Long’s Military Occupational Specialty was as a fighter pilot. He fought in three wars: World War II, Korean and Vietnam. In 1944, he fought in the month-long battle to liberate Guam from Japanese forces.
“We were taught to kill or be killed for the safety of the country,” said Long. “I was fortunate to have never been wounded.”
Perris Island, Bakersfield, Okinawa, San Diego and Korea are among places Long was stationed.
Long retired from the Marine Corps in 1975 as a Master Gunnery Sergeant, which is the highest enlisted rank available to Marines. Master Gunnery Sergeants serve as technical experts in their Military Occupational Specialty, and offer leadership in their field to other Marines.
Long’s son was also a Marine while his grandson was in the Army.
Long was married once in 1948 and was married to his second wife, Charlotte from 1958 until her death in 1995. They have four daughters who live in Northern California and his son from his first marriage lives in North Carolina.
Living in Bakersfield since before his retirement in 1975, Long was instrumental in the implementation of several programs for youth, including the Marine’s Toys for Tots, The Young Marines and the physical education programs at several area high schools.
Long receives hot lunches from Kern County Aging and Adult Services’ Senior Nutrition Program. He sets the trays outside in his yard to show his appreciation for the meals. Sometimes they give him rides to the doctor, since he can no longer drive.
Anyone driving down Belle Terrace in Bakersfield can catch Long standing in his yard saluting cars as they drive by. If you stop and ask, he will also take you on a tour of his makeshift museum. Long exemplifies the motto of the United States Marine Corps, “Semper Fidelis” a Latin phrase adopted by the Marine Corps in 1883 and meaning “always faithful.”
Thank you so much for your continued service Master Sergeant Long.