RESERVE, La. -- A grin crept across Tommy Moreau’s face when he saw a handful of Marines standing outside the door of his room at the Southeast Louisiana War Veterans’ Home. “What’s all this? Who are all these people in my room?” said Moreau, a Korean War veteran and wheelchair-bound Baton Rouge native, in a faint, wavering voice. As the rest of the 21-strong group of Marines and sailors from Marine Forces Reserve slowly filed out of his room into that hall, he began to laugh. “Just how many of y’all are in that room?” said Moreau. The group congregated around Moreau in the hallway as he told them his life story – from being raised by his single father to how he chose to enlist in the Marine Corps at 17 instead of running off with a recently divorced housewife. But most notably, he talked about his relationship with Brig. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller.
“He loved me to death,” said Moreau. “He loved me like a son. He got me out of a lot of trouble.” Puller visited when Moreau was sent to a military prison to serve a six-month sentence after taking unauthorized leave for 43 days. According to Moreau, Puller asked him and others in the prison if they would rather stay locked up in prison or be released to fight for America in the Korean War. Moreau agreed to fight and eventually left the Marine Corps as a sergeant. Moreau is just one of the many veterans living at the home. Beverly Boyd, the protocol officer for Marine Forces Reserve, first met Moreau and other veterans at a local supermarket in 2011. She saw Moreau wearing a Marine Corps veteran’s hat and greeted him and the group with “Semper Fidelis.” Another veteran in the group that day replied that he didn’t want to hear “Semper Fidelis” for he felt the Marine Corps had forgotten them. Boyd, at the time a master sergeant, said she wanted to prove him wrong, so she went to her superiors with an idea to gather volunteers to visit the veterans’ home. The plan was approved, and more than 40 uniformed personnel made that first trip. “All of the veterans housed at the Southeast Louisiana War Veterans’ Home have defended their country in one or more military conflicts,” said Boyd. “They have dedicated their lives in support of our great nation, and the sad part is, most have been forgotten by family members and their military.” Boyd said that she plans to make the trips an annual event, with the next one slated for Nov. 8 in honor of the Marine Corps birthday.
“By volunteering a small portion of your day to offer a hand shake, a thank you for your service, to listen or just to say, ‘We have not forgotten your sacrifice,’ brings a smile and sometimes a tear,” said Boyd.
Lance Cpl. Lance A. Decker, an administrative specialist at Headquarters Bn., Marine Forces Reserve, said he thinks it is important for Marines to take advantage of volunteer opportunities. “I think that volunteering is extremely important because we, as Marines, we need to uphold a higher standard,” Decker said. “If the community doesn’t see that, how are they going to know we hold that standard? People need to see that more. Community service is a huge thing.” The visit gave Moreau the opportunity to tell the visiting Marines and sailors how he truly felt about the Marine Corps. “Y’all are a part of the best outfit in the world,” he said. “The Marine Corps is the best outfit in the world. They’ll never leave you.”