MIFFLINTOWN - Most people enjoy celebrating the day they joined this world, and members of the Marine Corps are no different.
The Juniata Area Detachment No. 687 of the Marine Corps League met Saturday night to celebrate the corps' 237th birthday.
Guest speaker Victor "Vic" Troutman, of Granville, shared his recollections of how he celebrated each of the corps' birthdays when he was an active member.
Sentinel photo by BECKY LOCK
From left, Marines Lewis Stouch, Charles Daughenbaugh, Curtis Kauffman, Bruce Neilsen and Donald Gussler perform a ritual slicing of the Marine Corps birthday cake Saturday at the Marine Corps Ball in Mifflintown.
Troutman was born in 1931 in Lewistown. He attended the local high school, but dropped out and enlisted in the Marine Corps in December 1950.
"Being an Marine was something I wanted to do ever since I was a kid," he said. "I don't know why. I just liked the Marines and what they stood for."
He especially was eager to see active duty and was somewhat disappointed to see World War II end before he had a chance to join the war effort. "But when I saw what had happened in the South Pacific," Troutman said he was relieved.
Like other new Marines, Troutman said he recalled thinking, " 'What did I do,' that first night at Parris Island?" He spent nine weeks in basic training there.
"As it progressed, and at the end when they gave you your Marine Corps emblem and called you a Marine for the first time, it was quite an honor," Troutman said.
In 22 years, he said, he saw duty in 21 foreign countries.
His service overseas started in Korea, where he manned a 31-pound machine gun. He served with the 1st Marine Regiment from 1951 to 1952.
During his tour, he took a bullet to his left leg. The "through-and-through" wound resulted in Troutman spending three weeks on a hospital ship and earned him his first of three Purple Heart medals.
Troutman also was awarded a number of other unit service medals and awards.
About 10 years later, after graduating from the Army Special Forces school at Fort Bragg, Calif. - a Green Beret training school - Troutman served in the jungles of Thailand.
"I was one of the first Marines in Thailand," he said.
His missions there still are classified and have not been made public.
Of all the posts he has seen, "Quantico, Va., was my favorite base," Troutman said.
"I was a young Marine then, on my second 'hitch,' my second tour," he said. "There were a lot of legends there and they always impressed me. They stayed with me all my life."
Troutman once met Lt. Gen. Lewis Burwell "Chesty" Puller, one of the most decorated Marines.
"He was making an informal inspection and he asked me, 'How fast can you field-strip that weapon blindfolded?' I said, '30 seconds, sir.' "
Puller put him to the test, but Troutman ended up a few seconds longer than his claim.
"He told me, 'where you're going, you'll get a helluva lot better.' And, he was right. I did," Troutman said.
Also while at Quantico, he had "the honor of driving President Eisenhower around base in a Jeep" when he came to visit.
Troutman also did two tours of duty in Vietnam, from 1962 to 1968. He again was wounded twice and received two Purple Hearts.
When he was on his second hitch with the Corps in 1955, Troutman married his wife, JoAnn, whom he had known since she was about 14 years old. The couple had two children.
The kids were in their teens when Troutman was on the rotation for another tour overseas, but JoAnn asked him to reconsider and join her in raising their son and daughter.
He retired from the Marine Corps in March 1972, with the title of gunnery sergeant, and became an owner/operator in the trucking business in Arizona. The Troutmans stayed in Tucson for 25 years, traveled around the country in an RV, then settled in Granville in 2003.
One of his grandsons, Ryan Troutman, is a sergeant in the Army, currently serving in Afghanistan and his granddaughter's husband is a sergeant in the Marines.
"Marines today are very qualified and very capable," Troutman said. "These men and women who are in the service are some of the best military this country has ever had. We need the military we have today. We need 'em strong.
"Those young men (and women) that are in harm's way - pray for them," he said.