Korean War veterans gather to salute fallen commander one last time 
By Lance Cpl. Benjamin Harris, Headquarters Marine Corps 


January 21, 2010
ARLINGTON, Va. — It's been almost 55 years since the Marines of Company D, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, left the Korean peninsula after cold days and long nights of combat. In the years since, those same Marines have gotten together, holding reunions off and on.

Meeting this time for a more solemn occasion, three Marines of “Dog Company” came together at Arlington National Cemetery Jan. 15 to pay their final respects to their company commander, retired Col. Alvin Mackin. Mackin passed away Sept. 24, a week after his 88th birthday.

The Cleveland native enlisted in the Marine Corps Dec. 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. After completing boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., Mackin was selected for an officer program.

In World War II, he served as a navigator in a B-25 Mitchell, and later served as an infantry officer in the Korean War as well as a regimental commander during the Vietnam War, before retiring in 1972. His awards included the Silver Star and the Bronze Star with a combat distinguishing device for valor.

His service in Korea, which has been claimed as the “Forgotten War,” was what the Marines in attendance remembered of him. “He was a breath of fresh air,” said Fred Frankville, a former corporal who served under Mackin. “That's what he was.”

Mackin made sure the first day he came to Dog Company that he shook the hand of every Marine under his command, said Frankville. In a time where Marines didn't know many people outside of their fire teams, this made a big impression. Frankville was so impressed that he had no issue later serving as Mackin's driver, something he said he was honored to do.

This level of contact continued long after Mackin moved on from the Marine Corps. In 1980, he got in touch with some of the Marines he served with in Korea, suggesting that they meet up at a veteran reunion the following year. Nine Marines from Dog Company attended the meeting, and a tradition was started. Mackin became one of the founding members of the Dog Seven Association, an organization dedicated to finding the rest of the Marines who served in the unit.

This was the same leadership the Marines remembered him for in Korea. Mackin had a habit of personally going out and checking the route of a patrol before sending his Marines, said Charles Curley, who served as a sergeant with Mackin. “Some people are leaders but don't know how to lead,” said Curley “He knew how to lead.” Mackin cared for everyone in the unit. As Gonzalo Garza, a former platoon sergeant under Mackin explained, “We did more for him because of his leadership.”

Jacqueline Mackin-Hartman, the oldest daughter of Mackin, said she was amazed at the pride the Marines had in serving with her father. It is a feeling that she shares. “My pride in my father continues to grow as the realization of his impact on others was so strong,” said Mackin-Hartman. “Like them, my father lived his life like a Marine, and now I am beginning to better understand what that means.”

Mackin led the way once more, as the three Marines and the families in attendance followed the procession to the grave site. After the ceremony, the Marines paused, savoring their last reunion with Col. Al Mackin, who lays forever interned at Arlington National Cemetery, and in their memories.

-Lance Cpl. Benjamin Harris, Headquarters Marine Corps
Courtesy of the United States Marine Corps

 

Colonel Alvin Mackin, U.S.M.C.

 

January 15, 2010: Col. Andrew Smith (left), the commanding officer of Marine Barracks Washington, leads a procession of Marines during a full-honors funeral for retired Col. Alvin Mackin at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Jan. 15, 2010. Mackin served in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, and was awarded the Silver Star and the Bronze Star medal with Combat V for valorous acts during combat.

 

January 15, 2010: Soldiers of the Caisson Platoon with the Old Guard guide the coffin bearing the remains of retired Col. Alvin Mackin at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Jan. 15, 2010. Mackin was remembered during this full-honors funeral by some of the Marines he served with in the Korean War in Company D, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.

 

January 15, 2010: Friends and family of retired Col. Alvin Mackin walk behind the caisson bearing his remains during a full-honors funeral at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Jan. 15, 2010. Three Marines that served with Mackin in the Korean War attended the funeral to pay respects and to pass on his story.

 

January 15, 2010: 2nd Lt. Eric Gumz (left) iving Colonel Alvin Mackin a final Salute while Jacqueline Mackin-Hartman (center), the daughter of retired Col. Alvin Mackin, and her husband, Robert Hartman, watch as Marines place Mackin's remains in the funeral caisson at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Jan. 15, 2010. Mackin-Hartman said she was proud to see the impact her father had on the Marines who came to pay their final respects to him.

 

January 15, 2010: Marine Corps Body Bearers from Marine Barracks Washington prepare to fold the American flag during the funeral for retired Col. Alvin Mackin at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Jan. 15, 2010. Mackin was remembered during this full-honors funeral by some of the Marines he served with in the Korean War in Company D, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.

 

January 15, 2010: Col. Carlyle Shelton, serving as the representative of the office of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, presents a folded American flag to Jacqueline Mackin-Hartman, the daughter of retired Col. Alvin Mackin, at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Jan. 15, 2010. Mackin served in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, and was awarded of the Silver Star and the Bronze Star medals with Combat V for valorous acts in combat.

 

January 15, 2010: Gunnery Sgt. William Dixon, the funeral director at Marine Barracks, Washington, gives his condolences to Jacqueline Mackin-Hartman, the daughter of Col. Alvin Mackin, at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Jan. 15, 2010. Mackin-Hartman said she was proud to see the impact her father had on the Marines who came to pay their final respects to him.

All photos and text courtesy of the
United States Marine Corps

 

MaritimeQuest received the following message Jan. 28, 2010

My name is 2nd Lt. Gumz and I am good friends with Fred Frankville, I have been keeping up on your postings online at MaritimeQuest and you have really done a great job. I met Col. Mackin once as a young boy when I was visiting Fred, my grandparents used to be his next door neighbor and I would spend a month or so by them during summer vacation from school. I am now a 2nd Lt. in the Marine Corps, at the time I had no idea that this would be my future, it's too bad because I could think of about a million questions I would have liked to ask Col. Mackin. I was too young to understand the kind of man he really was.

It is safe to say that I never really knew him, however until recently talking with Fred and the other veterans as well as his family, I can honestly say I know who Col. Mackin is. He is certainly a hero of the highest caliber, who deserves every bit of credit for the things he has done in his lifetime. Most Americans won't accomplish 1% of the things he has done. For Marines such as myself, his service leaves some big shoes to fill, and he has set the example through his leadership of his subordinates. The bar has been set pretty high by Col. Mackin, but the good thing is that it serves as a standard for us to live up to.

Sincerely,
2nd Lt. Eric J. Gumz

 

Read more about Col. Mackin and "Dog 7" in the USS DeWert FFG-45 Related Articles section.


Page published Jan. 21, 2010