Pfc. Charles "Chuck" Meacham, 83, saw a lot of action in World War II.
Serving in 1942 as a U.S. Marine Raider, a member of a Marine Corps commando unit, Meacham fought for two years on Bougainville, Emirau, Guam and Okinawa.
"Other Marine groups reference us as the
first special-ops team," he said.
The Raiders are distinct for many reasons, but two tactics they first used were war dogs and Navajo Indian code talkers.
"To my knowledge, no unit protected by war dogs was ever ambushed or infiltrated," he said. "The code was never broken either. They were sworn to secrecy until a few years ago."
Meacham’s passion for his battalion still shines brightly. He has three ongoing projects to memorialize the Marine Raiders.
_ Purchasing memorial bricks for surviving members and the 889 Raiders killed in action.
_ Building a bronze memorial statue at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va.
_ Continuing a scholarship fund for needy native children in the Solomon Islands.
Two sets of bricks have been made for survivors and killed-in-action Marine Raiders. Survivor’s bricks are engraved and painted in white whereas KIA bricks are in black. The 889 killed were ages 17-22.
"There’s nobody alive to really remember their legacy. They were never given an opportunity to start a family," Meacham said.
All bricks will be placed in front of Raider Hall in Quantico, Va., and eventually dedicated by the current acting captain of the base.
"It’s the only building to be named after a unit in the Marine Corps," Meacham said.
Brick sponsorships for fallen soldiers cost $100.
While serving overseas, the Marine Raiders cycled through 8,000 soldiers in a two-year span because of deaths and many wounded, Meacham said.
Meacham and others are working for a memorial bronze statue in front of Raider Hall as well.
It will feature a Marine Raider, centered, holding a Browning automatic rifle, a Navajo code-talker on one side of him and a dog handler on the other.
"It shows some of the most important parts of the Marine Raiders," he said.
While serving in the Solomon Islands, Marine Raiders discovered a native chief, Jacob Vouza, who had been tortured. He escaped and began helping local American troops
"He helped us as ‘packers’ by sneaking past enemies and packing food, supplies and ammo for soldiers who couldn’t get by," Meacham said. "The enemy couldn’t tell what they were doing."
Because of Vouza’s dedication, about 50 years ago the Association of Marine Raiders sent $2,500 to a local Catholic church in his honor to help local children. The tradition has continued to this day.
So far, Meacham has raised $3,500 for the scholarships. A donation of $350 a year helps a child attend school for one year. Meacham said he knows two sisters whose father was a Raider, so they pool money each year to help one child.
The Marine Raiders had four battalions – Edson, Carlson, Roosevelt and Liversedge in which Meacham was a member.
The foundation hopes to help add to the Solomon Island school and name each new building after one of the four battalions.
Meacham co-founded the nonprofit group U.S. Marine Raider Foundation to help these fundraisers continue.
He sometimes is aggressive about raising funds.
"I apologize for being pushy. I don’t have a lot of time left," Meacham said, smiling.
In recent years, he has come across Raiders’ relatives who have donated sums when they could.
"No matter how small or big, it adds up and keeps the memory alive," Meacham said.
Meacham was president of the foundation before stepping down due to recent health concerns.
Charles Meacham Jr., his son, is the current president.
The elder Meacham lives in Sequim with his wife, June. They have two sons, three grandsons, one granddaughter and three great-grandsons.
For more on Meacham, search the
Sequim Gazette’s Web site under "Marine Raider" for a published article on Nov. 12, 2008.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.