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Longtime Marine Corps League member and World War II veteran Robert Rakestraw speaks to members about the detachment’s history, even entertaining the audience with song and dance.

When Rome’s Marine Reserve unit closed down its Shorter Avenue armory in November of 2009, that didn’t mean the city’s rich connection to the Corps had come to an end.

Since June of 1999, the local chapter of the Jake Puryear Marine Corps League detachment has served area Marines, veterans and others associated with the Corps. Members gathered Saturday to mark the detachment’s 20th anniversary.

“We had some of the founding members who started the detachment there,” said current commandant Tom Beavers, who is in the middle of his second term.

Originally there weren’t enough members to originate a new MCL detachment, but an officer at the armory had a quick fix for that.

“The commanding officer of the USMC Reserve unit in Rome got his Marines to sign up so they could start the detachment,” said Beavers.

The four original organizers of Detachment 1020 were James Meeks, Brady Drummond, Marion Harrell and Johnny Davis. Beavers says the current roll of members is over 100.

These days Detachment 1020, as it’s known numerically, meets the second Saturday of each month at the Rome-Floyd County Library at 9 a.m.

It isn’t just about meeting and swapping stories, however. Members of 1020 not only try and preserve the area’s USMC connection, but also serve the community in many ways.

“We help support two Young Marine detachments, and a lot of other thing,” said Beavers. “The Etowah and Greater Rome YM’s are open to students ages 8 to 18. We’ve got a former member at West Point now.”

The detachment also has several scholarship programs, provides family members of local deceased Marines with fallen Marine certificates, and, of course, helps fill the Toys for Tots gap left by the departure of the reserve unit 10 years ago.

Rome’s Marine Corps League is named after a well-known recruiter for the area back in second world war.

“Jake Puryear was a big recruiter in World War II for the Marines here in this area,” said Beavers. “He recruited more Marines than anybody else in Georgia.”

Puryear, who once owned Puryear and Co. flower shop at 5 E. Fourth Ave., was one of the many subjects discussed at the recent 20th anniversary celebration.

Those in attendance also heard from speaker and longtime member Robert Rakestraw, a WWII Marine veteran who will turn 96 on Saturday.

Rakestraw told listeners that he can’t see or hear very well, but he can still sing and dance, before demonstrating both.

“He started singing ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame,’ and dancing for the audience,” said Beavers.

The Marine Corps League is the only Congressionally chartered U.S. Marine Corps-related veterans organization in the country, signed into existence by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937.

Anyone with an honorable discharge from the Marines with more than 90 days of service may join as a member, and anyone else with an association to the Marines is welcomed to join as an associate member.

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