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Friday, June 4, 2010

The Evening Parade

Washington Post
June 3, 2010
Pg. DZ19

Oldest Post Fulfills Marine's Last Wish

No Evening Parade but gift of pageantry

By Timothy Wilson

Julian Galindo wanted one last memorable moment with his wife, but he had grown so weak from a debilitating brain disease that even holding a telephone for a few minutes made him tremble uncontrollably.

Galindo, 51, a former Marine warrant officer, found it difficult to eat or bathe without his wife's help. Even getting out of bed some days seemed to be a painful chore.

So traveling about 1,200 miles from Nebraska to the District to visit the Marine Corps' oldest active post seemed just the place to allow them to experience their last ooh-rah.

Last month, the Dream Foundation, a wish-granting organization for adults battling life-threatening illnesses, made it possible for Galindo and his wife, Vicky, to attend the Evening Parade. The free ceremonial event is Friday evenings at Marine Barracks Washington, also known as "8th & I," in Southeast.

But the Galindos were not able to experience the pageantry of the parade. The performance they attended was canceled because of a severe thunderstorm. Officials said that lightning posed a danger to the Marines and audience members, who sit on aluminum bleachers. "It was a little disappointing, but I was still in awe of being at 8th and I," Galindo said.

Although the parade was called off, the Galindos were invited to stay afterward and sat in the library of Center House. From time to time, Julian Galindo would be approached by a Marine with whom he would share the purpose of his visit.

He told them he suffered from progressive supranuclear palsy, a degenerative brain disease that affects nerve cells that control balance, mobility, vision, speech and swallowing. His doctors had given him a limited prognosis for survival. They were stunned when he revealed that his last wish was to visit 8th & I.

Capt. Michael Deal, commander of the marching company scheduled to perform, wondered whether anything could be done to salvage Galindo's trip. An opportunity occurred when the storm stopped. "Let's see if we can pull off the Silent Drill Platoon," Deal said.

Sensing the significance of the occasion, Col. Andrew H. Smith, commanding officer at the barracks, granted Deal's request for the 24-person platoon to perform.

Galindo and his wife were escorted from Center House to an area on the grounds where the commandant of the Marine Corps sits.

The performance featured the Marines in a series of calculated drill movements while handling their rifles with precision. The routine ended with an unusual rifle inspection sequence, complete with elaborate rifle spins and tosses.

"For them to come back and give up their time, that was something that touched my heart," said Galindo, who shook each platoon member's hand after the performance. "I can never say how grateful I was for that."

Vicky Galindo, 46, said she saw something that she hadn't seen from her husband in almost 20 years, since a training accident exposed him to a live nerve agent that they think caused his illness.

"It gave him some peace," she said. "It's like the Marine Corps wrapped their arms around him again. I don't think I've seen him that happy in a long time."

The parade, which can draw hundreds of spectators, features music and precise marching from the U.S. Marine Band, Drum and Bugle Corps, Color Guard, Silent Drill Platoon and Ceremonial Marchers on the grounds of the barracks. The event has been held Friday evenings from April to November for more than 50 years.

"This is the home of the corps," said Capt. Lisa Lawrence, a barracks spokesman. "To see the impact we have on people who come here, it's unreal."

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