I wasn’t sure what to expect when we entered the Ohio Veteran’s Home to present the award. When I stepped in front of him his eyes immediately lit up in recognition. Winfield still knew one of his own when he saw him. At the ripe old age of 87, the old leatherneck was still in there.
After officially honoring him with his well deserved medal, we got down to business asking about some of his experiences as a Marine.
|Me, Mr. Finch, my boss, and Mr. Finch’s son Winfield Jr.|
As WWII raged, Winfield Finch found himself standing in a line to enlist. He noticed there was no line in front of the Marine recruiter. Standing around not being in his nature, he walked over and immediately signed up with the World’s Finest. Though President Roosevelt signed an executive order allowing African Americans to serve in the armed forces, the military was still segregated. Between the years of 1942 to 1949 roughly 20,000 African American warriors attended boot camp at Montford Point. Mr. Finch served throughout the Pacific campaign in Tinian, Saipan, and Guam. He can still remember watching the planes take off to bomb Japan.
If the Marine Corps does something right it’s being cognizant of its own history. Every Marine who goes through boot camp learns about the legacy they have inherited. I made sure to let Mr. Finch know we had never forgotten about him. He said it felt good to be appreciated. The Eagle, Globe, and Anchor leaves its mark on everyone who’s ever borne it. Though he was discharged in 1946, Winfield Finch is as much a Marine today as he ever was.
|Smokin’ and jokin’. Swapping stories with the Old Breed. I told him he should demand double rations that day.|
As we prepared to leave, you could see the memories rushing back to him again. Cpl Finch’s eyes welled up and he reached out to shake our hands. “Semper Fi,” he said with gusto. “Semper Fi!”
Well said brother.