The Semper Fi #1 Memorial Honor Detail is made up of volunteers of all ages who served in the Marines and now help provide military funeral services for veterans who are interred at Riverside National Cemetery.
The detail was founded in 1997 by retired Master Sgt. Wesley Morrett after he attended a funeral for a retired Marine who did not receive military honors.
Morrett decided that rather than complain, he would form his own burial team. He started recruiting members by putting ads in local newspapers and television. At the first meeting, 14 Marines showed up. Only seven returned to the second meeting and they became the original detail.
“We have grown over the years and now have three teams and nearly 100 Marines and sailors,” Enoch “Mac” McClain, president of the detail since 2003, wrote in an email.
Dick Gannon, of Cherry Valley, joined the group in 2006 and is secretary on its board of directors. He serves on two of three details that rotate to provide services during the week from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Gannon became an enlisted U.S. Marine at 21 and spent about three years in the military, including a 13-month tour in Vietnam. When his younger brother was killed in a car accident, he became the sole son in his family.
“My parents were concerned so I came home,” he said.
His civilian work as a surveyor started with an apprenticeship program that eventually opened many doors for him. He worked as a journeyman, was appointed union representative and then administrator. He was one of seven members of the Worker’s Compensation Commission in California for several years.
The detail has a number of Korean War veterans, a larger number who served during the Vietnam War era and several from more current conflicts, he said.
“We have one person still on our active roster that served in World War II,” Gannon said.
Teams — Blue, Gold and Scarlet — have about 15 members. Each detail consists of a color guard, rifle detail, bagpiper, bugler and flag folders. A fourth detail is a special events team that participates in parades and other events.
Gannon’s desire to join the group came after attending a Memorial Day ceremony at Riverside National Cemetery in 2005 that included members of the organization.
“After they explained what they did, I signed up and started training,” said Gannon, 69. “It has been awhile since most of us were in boot camp during active duty so we continue to practice and perform with one training day a month.”
He said members are cross-trained so they can fill in any role needed during a service.
“I primarily work in the shelter but I’ve been on rifle detail before,” said Gannon.
The shelters are where the family members sit during the ceremony. The casket, draped with an American flag, is led to the shelter and placed on a stand. After a short presentation, the bugler plays taps, followed by a three-volley rifle salute. Then the flag is removed from the casket, folded and presented to the next of kin.
“I do this because of the satisfaction I get from doing a professional service for a family,” he said. “That’s why I like being in the shelter. You can see the reaction and how much appreciation family members have.”
Gannon also is an active member of the American Legion in Banning and the VFW in Beaumont.
McClain, who joined the memorial honor detail unit in 1997, is captain of the honor detail and works primarily with the Gold Team.
“Dick Gannon is an outstanding Marine and when we had an opening for a team leader and a board member, Dick was one of the first Marines I approached,” McClain wrote. “He has good leadership skills and is an asset to our organization.”
McClain was in the Marines for six years and did a 13-month tour of Vietnam, working as a military tactics instructor.
“I stay involved with the group because I truly believe that every veteran deserves a proper military burial,” McClain said. “I spend a portion of every day either helping people who have questions about the process of getting a military burial, passing updated information to our members and setting up the agendas for our meetings and training.”
Visit the organization’s website, www.AgainTheyServe.org, for more information about the detail.
RESIDENCE: Cherry Valley, since 1974 and Banning for 20 years before that.
NOTABLE: As an active member of the memorial honor detail that assists with military funeral services at Riverside National Cemetery, the former Marine continues to serve his comrades.
Sgt. Richard "Dick" Gannon
MCRD Parris Island S.C. Plt. 1002
MCB Camp Lejuene N.C.
1st/10 Viet Nam
When Dick turned 21, He had two years in Junior College and had no idea what he would do with his life. So, he joined the Marines.His related civilian occupation was a Surveyor. He went through the Surveyors Apprenticeship program, worked as a journeyman, was appointed as a Union Business Representative and had
the opportunity to meet a lot of influential people who helped him in the various careers that he has had. He credits the discipline that he learned in the Marines with the success he has had at each step in his life.