Marine group named best in the state

Griswold Mountain Detachment volunteers 2,300 hoursMarines: local group honored

editor@sierrastar.comJuly 9, 2013 

Marine Corps Griswold Mountain Detachment 1121 members, from left, Karl Aube, Commandant Jim Winney and Gary Powell with "Detachment of the Year" certificate.

BRIAN WILKINSON/ SIERRA STAR — Brian Wilkinson/ Sierra Star

The Marine Corps League Department of California has named the Griswold Mountain Detachment 1121 the "Detachment of the Year" for fiscal year 2012-2013.

The announcement was made in June at the league's state convention in San Diego.

In a letter sent to the detachment, California Commandant Rob Jackson said the Griswold Detachment has deservedly been awarded the honor for its outstanding work in the community and for the Marine Corps League.

Jim Winney, Commandant of the Griswold Detachment, said detachment members are proud of the recognition.

"When I was notified of the honor, I sent out an email to the detachment membership thanking everyone for all their hard work this past year and how proud and privileged I felt to be a part of an organization of men and women that not only works hard, but have always banded together for the good of the detachment and the community," Winney said. "This is a great honor, recognizing everything our members have done this past year. I'm sure we will continue to do good for the community and the Marine Corps.

The detachment accumulated 2,300 hours of community service during the year. The most visible volunteer effort is during the annual Marine Corps Toys for Tots drive during November-December. This year, the effort accounted for more than 4,200 toys valued at $50,000 distributed to more than 1,400 deserving Mountain Area children.

The group is also active in area military stand-downs, Yosemite High School Community Awards (two $1,500 awards this year — more than $10,000 over the past five years), donates to YHS Sober Grad Night and YHS Cadet Corps, presents certificates at Eagle Scout Courts of Honor, mails care packages to active duty troops in war zones, provides American flags for Oak Hill Cemetery for Memorial Day and Veteran's Day ceremonies, and raise funds for the Semper Fi Fund and Wounded Warriors programs through the Flags and Roses program.

The detachment's Military Honors Unit provides full service military honors for veteran funerals including rifle salute, ceremonial flag folding, flag presentation and the playing of Taps.

The detachment raised $3,000 to add to the $16,000 raised by the Oakhurst Elks Lodge, to purchase and convert a car for Oakhurst Marine Torin "Chance" Gaal who lost both his legs in Afghanistan in June 2011 to an improvised explosive device. Members of the Griswold Detachment, Winney, Richard La Montagne, Jarrett Dean, and Greg Gedese visited Gaal to provide moral support when he was undergoing rehabilitation at the Veterans Hospital in Palo Alto.

Gedese, also a Yosemite High School graduate who went through boot camp with Gaal, was just one hill away from Gall when the incident occurred.

The detachment held its charter ceremony on Oct, 5, 2002, with 20 members. There are currently 47 members in the chapter, including 27 life members.

Marine veterans Angelo Pizelo and Gene Griswold were members of the Marine Corps League in Fresno and one day after the pair had attended the monthly meeting in Fresno, Pizelo challenged Griswold during a Sunday service at the Positive Living Center, to start a chapter in Oakhurst.

"Gene stood up during the service and stated he would not only take the challenge but break the record on getting a chapter started," Pizelo said. "Gene was a very competitive individual and, sure enough, our Mountain Area Marine Corps League was created in record time. In March 2008, after Gene died, we changed the name to the Griswold Chapter of the Marine Corps League."

The membership retention of the detachment is 96%.

General John A. Lejeune founded the Marine Corps League in 1923. The charter was granted by an act of Congress on Aug. 4, 1937, with the mission of: "Members of the Marine Corps League join together in camaraderie and fellowship for the purpose of preserving the traditions and promoting the interests of the United States Marine Corps and those who have been honorably discharged from that service; voluntarily aiding and rendering assistance to all Marines and former Marines and to their widows and orphans, and by perpetuating the history of the U.S. Marine Corps through fitting acts to observe the anniversaries of historical occasions of particular interest to Marines."

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