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Faces and Places: Marine House: A home for brotherhood

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By Robert Villanueva

It is fitting the Marine House in Elizabethtown is also a private residence.

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Hosting meetings of Marine Corps League, Perry Braden Detachment No. 402 every second Saturday of the month, the place — located at 4090 Bardstown Road — is like a home where family members reunite.

“It’s like a brother and a sister,” Floyd Burkhammer said, referring to the relationships he has with other members.

Burkhammer, of Louisville, served in the Marines 1969-71 and has been part of MCL, Perry Braden Detachment No. 402 for about three months.

The Perry Braden Detachment is the oldest MCL detachment in Kentucky. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the detachment, which was established in 1977.

Among other things, the MCL, which is the only federally-chartered U.S. Marine Corps-related veteran’s organization in the country, seeks to preserve and promote interests of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Detachment Commandant Tommie Thomason is the son of the late William “Bill” Thomason. William, along with the late John Shea Zryd, chartered the detachment.

Back then the Marine House was operated out of the elder Thomason’s basement in Helmwood Heights subdivision. It was relocated in 1988-89, the younger Thomason said.

“We had kind of outgrown it,” Thomason said, noting he also had an uncle who was a Marine.

The Perry Braden Detachment consists of 24 members from as far away as Texas and Vermont. The meeting portion of the house contains long tables with chairs, memorabilia, medals, photos and a bar area, among other things.

Detachment members don’t just meet as part of an organization though. They all expressed strong bonds that transcend the common experiences they have.

Jack Pike, sergeant-at-arms/web sergeant, served 10 years in the Marines and 27 years in the Army.

“I’m still very loyal to the Marine Corps,” Pike said. “It’s just the brotherhood thing.”

In fact, Marines hold to the tenet formalized by the Commandant of the Marine Corps last year which states there is “no such thing as a former Marine.”

“Once a Marine, Always a Marine,” a quote on the front of the detachment’s brochure states.

Steve Mattingly, adjutant/paymaster, said the common boot camp experience, same locations of service and mutual respect are all part of what create the brotherhood. All Marines are included in that tightly connected group.

“You are one color: green,” the Irvington resident said.

The brotherhood of Marines is so close-knit, in fact, that upon discovering another Marine anywhere they often greet each other with “Semper fi” and engage in conversation, Pike said.

“The other services think we’re arrogant because we are,” Pike said. “We’re proud.”

The Marine House also is an opportunity to be able to talk with others about things it’s sometimes hard to discuss with anyone else, he said. That does not preclude the group from doing charitable work, though.

Like other MCL detachments, Perry Braden Detachment has a scholarships program and provides support for Toys for Tots, a Marine Corps Reserves initiative.

“We continue to do what we’re trained to do: help people,” Thomason said.

Socializing at the Marine House that results from being part of the detachment is just an extension of the bond between Marines, Pike said.

“Even if we didn’t have Marine Corps League, we’d still be tight,” he said.

Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743 or rvillanueva@thenewsenterprise.com.