1/27/2014 -- SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Fifty Marines and sailors with 1st Marine Logistics Group along with service members from 3rd Marine Air Wing, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, gathered somberly at PETCO Park stadium in San Diego, Calif., Jan. 18, to commemorate the life of a baseball hall of famer and Marine veteran, Lt. Col. Jerry Coleman.
The Marines, clad in their dress blue uniforms, presented military honors to the Marine Corps aviator, who served during World War II and the Korean War. The public memorial service included an F/A-18E flyover from the 3rd MAW, a 21-gun salute performed by Marines with MCAS-M, taps played by a lone bugler from MCRD San Diego and guest speakers, which included Lt. Gen. John A. Toolan, the commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force.
“It’s heart wrenching when the 21-gun salute goes off,” said Cpl. Brittany N. Fancher, wireman, Communications Company, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st MLG. “You know that he deserves those respects, and I’m proud that his family can see that. I’m just honored to be here to give Jerry Coleman and his family the respect they earned and deserve.”
Jerry Coleman, who passed away Jan. 5, began his baseball career as a second baseman for the New York Yankees. “The Colonel,” as he is often called, is the only Major League Baseball player to have seen combat in two wars, where he earned numerous medals and honors, including two Distinguished Flying Crosses. After returning to the Yankees, he became the lead sports broadcaster with the San Diego Padres, a position he held until the end of his race, at the age of 89.
“He went into the Marine Corps and served until he became a [Lieutenant Colonel] and then went straight to baseball,” said Fancher, 25, a native of Ackerman, Miss. “He not only influenced our Marines, he influenced civilians [and showed] that there is life after the Marine Corps and what [Marines are capable of doing].”
Broadcasting across the airways into the private homes, backyards and cars of Americans for more than 40 years, Coleman’s voice became an iconic and intimate piece to baseball and an inspiration to many. It was humbling for many of the service members to give a fellow Marine and role model military honors at the stadium.
“Today, I volunteered to be a part of the memorial service because [Jerry Coleman] is a hero in my eyes,” said Pfc. Doyle McClendon, administrative specialist, Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st MLG. “I’m very excited and honored to be here. I’ve always been a fan of baseball and consider Jerry Coleman a role model. I would love to live up to [the standards] he set,” added the 19-year-old native of Jacksonville, Fl.
After the last note of taps echoed across the mournful silence of the stadium, the Marines ended their salute and marched out of the stadium. The Major League Baseball player, Marine combat veteran, pilot, broadcaster, team manager and hero was given the honors he rightfully earned.