3 Camp Pendleton Marines and the mother of another Marine honor the fallen
The Fourth of July weekend is beginning across America. In rural Minnesota, the festivities began with three Marines from Camp Pendleton and the mother of another Marine completing a 12-mile relay swim across the chilly, choppy waters of Gull Lake.
Beyond the joy of braving the chilly, choppy waters, Thursday's relay was meant to honor those who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq and to raise funds for the Marine Semper Fi Fund for the wounded and their families.
The Marines -- Lt. Col. Bill McCollough, Maj. Matt Danner and Capt. Travis Onischuk -- were part of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment that returned in December after deployment to southern Afghanistan's Helmand province.
McCollough was the battalion commander, Danner was a company commander, and Onischuk was a platoon commander.
The relay's fourth member, Deb Roberts, is a local long-distance swimmer and the mother of a Marine who will soon join the same regiment.
A cheering crowd met the swimmers when they reached shore after five hours. Among the crowd was retired Army Gen. John W. Vessey Jr., former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The 5th Marine Regiment, he noted, fought with the Army's 1st Division in World War I.
"The 5th Marines have good Army roots," Vessey told the Brainerd (Minn.) Dispatch.
-- Tony Perry in San Diego
Photo: Deb Roberts, Maj. Matt Danner, Lt. Col. Bill McCollough and Capt. Travis Onischuk emerge from Gull Lake. Credit: Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd (Minn.) Dispatch