Washington Legionnaires help honor 100-year-old Marine
(Photo provided)

Washington Legionnaires help honor 100-year-old Marine

With his father, a World War II U.S. Marine Corps veteran, turning 100 in late February, Jim Thompson wanted to have some active-duty Marines show up for the party. When he ran into some initial snags, the younger Thompson turned to social media to get some assistance.

It worked, thanks in part to a Department of Washington Legionnaire who was notified of the situation and responded immediately. The result was on Feb. 24 at the Rockwood South Hill retirement campus in Spokane, both active-duty and Marine Corps veterans were in attendance to honor Donn Thompson. The veteran also received almost 200 birthday cards from across the country, had a proclamation read in his honor and witnessed a mini-parade complete with a World War II jeep and American Legion Riders in sub-freezing temperatures.

“The response was incredible, and it was just so heart-warming for my dad,” Jim Thompson said. “My dad’s like a lot of World War II guys: ‘It’s not about me. It’s about the guys who never made it back. I’m no hero.’

“But I told him, ‘Dad, you’re 100. You’re a hero. This is about you. But it’s also about the guys who never made it back.’”

Jim said the initial effort of trying to get active-duty Marines to attend his dad’s birthday “was mildly frustrating. But sometimes out of bad things great things happen. It just exploded and went viral. People stepped up.”

Jim tweeted out his frustration and requested some help from anyone available to do so. The Marine Corps Reserve official Twitter account then responded, urging Jim to reach out to local reserve units in Spokane,

Someone else responding to Jim’s tweet tagged The American Legion’s national account, which in turn reached out to active Washington-based Twitter user Rafael Munoz-Cintron, a member of American Legion Post 161 in Redmond and the 2023 American Legion National Legislative Council Member of the Year.

Munoz-Cintron first reached out to Jim to let him know he was going to try to help out, and then placed a call into U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, the Ranking Member of the U.S. Armed Services Committee, who reached out to two of his colleague in the House of Representatives. That effort, Munoz-Cintron said “helped move things along. That helped us cut some red tape.”

Munoz-Cintron also reached out to Eva Clark, the commander of American Legion Post 9 in Spokane, to see if the post could also offer some assistance. “They decided to go all hands on deck,” Munoz-Cintron said. “(Post 9) basically served as a coordinating entity. They basically decided to have the Marine Corps League take the lead, and the members of the Marine Corps League are all members of the post. And they coordinated with all of the other veterans organizations in the area and coordinated the parade. So the Legion wasn’t the front force of this effort, but we were the driving force behind it. All of the persons who participated were Legion members.”

“When (Munoz-Cintron) reached out and said, ‘Hey, what can we do, and let’s get this done and let’s make it happen?’ it was heart-warming,” Jim said. “But in retrospect it was kind of expected. Guys who serve in the military have a bond and are always brothers. (The Legion was) like, ‘I’m not going to leave this buddy behind.’ And it happened. It was fantastic.”

Watching his father being honored “was a moment I will never forget for the rest of my life,” Jim said. “I tried to hold back my eyes getting wet, but I couldn’t.”

Munoz-Cintron said helping honor Donn is one of the reasons why The American Legion exists. “It’s in our Preamble: our devotion to mutual helpfulness,” he said. “This was a brother and a hero – a World War II hero. He deserved to be honored this way.”