Kept Neat, Clean
To Honor Hero,
Sgt. Elbert L. Kinser
BY KEN LITTLE
Traffic flew by Saturday across the Sgt. Elbert L. Kinser Memorial Bridge on the Erwin Highway.
Few, if any, drivers likely took notice of the small group of men trimming shrubs, mowing grass and cutting down tree limbs at one end of the bridge.
But members of the Sgt. Elbert Kinser Detachment of the Marine Corps League were on a mission, cleaning up the area around the stone monument built to honor the Greene County native.
The Marine veterans shared stories of their service days as they worked in the morning sun, gently ribbing each other about past experiences.
"Don't mind us. We are just having fun," said Douglas Essinger, detachment commandant.
The cleanup project also has a serious side.
The vets make sure the grounds surrounding the monument near the Nolichucky River are kept ship-shape as a way of honoring the memory of Kinser, a Marine who was killed in action on Okinawa on May 4, 1945, and was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
"It's one of the things we do. It's part of our respect and our heritage," said Essinger, a Vietnam veteran.
"We look after our own," Essinger added. "Nobody else is going to do it."
Joining Essinger were fellow vets Ed Pryor, Mac McNulty and Bob Colyer. They were assisted by Bruce Chandler and Colyer's son Bobby.
"It's our responsibility (that) when someone comes to look at it, it doesn't look like trash," said McNulty, a veteran of two tours in Iraq who is senior vice commander of the detachment.
ACTIONS OF A HERO
Kinser died after throwing himself on a Japanese hand grenade, "absorbing the full charge of the shattering explosion in his own body and thereby protecting his men from serious injury and possible death," according to his Medal of Honor citation.
All the Marine veterans would like the public, especially young people, to know more about heroes like Kinser.
"I'm amazed so many people have no clue this is here," McNulty said of the monument.
AN ACTIVE GROUP
The Marine Corps League detachment is also active in other programs benefiting the community, including scholarships coordinated through local ROTC programs, and assisting with the annual "Wreaths Across America" program each December at the Andrew Johnson National Cemetery.
The Marine Corps League sponsors the Marine Corps Open golf tournament at Nolichucky View Golf Club, its primary fundraising event. This year's tournament is on Aug. 3.
The local Marine Corps League detachment has been recognized for its community involvement by the state Marine Corps League organization.
Compared with detachments in more populous areas, "We get a lot done," McNulty said.
The local Marine Corps League detachment has 26 members, at least 14 of them active, Essinger said.
The detachment meets monthly and participates in other activities like Saturday's cleanup of the monument grounds and Kinser Memorial Park, also named in honor of Elbert Kinser.
The fellowship aspect of the group is important for Marine veterans, Essinger said.
"It's cathartic. It's a good chance for former Marines to get together and have a good time and do things for the community," he said.