Marines honor one of their own
MARINE CORPS BIRTHDAY – Marine Sgt. Maurice Matthews, left, Sgt. Douglas Graves and Staff Sgt. Gilbert Ramone present retired Sgt. Henry Dixson and his wife, Carline, with a birthday cake on Friday in honor of the U.S. Marine Corps birthday on Sunday when it turns 227. The Marines, who will celebrate the birthday at the Marine Ball tonight, honored Dixson at Kings' Daughters and Sons Rest Home. PHOTO BY CARISA MCCAIN / THE MERIDIAN STAR
By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
Saturday, Nov. 9, 2002
While dining with his wife and daughter at Cracker Barrel, Gilbert Ramon met an old friend for the first time a fellow, avid Marine who served in World War II.
Ramon, himself a Marine Corps staff sergeant stationed at Naval Air Station Meridian, began talking with Henry and Carline Dixon. Henry, 80, is a resident of King's Daughters and Sons Rest Home.
Ramon invited the Dixons to the Marine Corps Birthday Ball tonight at Montana's Bar-B-Q and Seafood Restaurant. But when Carline said that wasn't possible, Ramon decided on a surprise.
Ramon and two other fellow Marines at NAS Meridian took Henry a birthday cake on Friday honoring the Marine Corps.
The Dixons married after World War II.
Henry taught social studies and history at Meridian High School, then served as director of guidance at Kate Griffin Junior High School and Carver Middle School before retiring in 1986.
The Dixons have two children and three grandchildren.
Carline, who lives by herself in Meridian, woke her husband Friday morning and told him they had to see someone in the lobby of the rest home. He wanted to know why. She pretended she didn't know.
Carline wheeled her husband to the lobby in his wheelchair to greet the Marines. His eyes lit up.
The cake, baked at NAS Meridian, was covered in thick, white icing and decorated with red-and-blue letters that read "Happy 227th Birthday, Marines." The motto "Semper Fi" was scrolled at the bottom.
The Marines served Henry a piece.
Ramon also gave Henry a Marine Corps cap that read "Once a Marine Always a Marine." The letters were embroidered over the Marine Corps mascot, a bulldog.
Carline said her husband has good days and bad days. His memory isn't what it used to be. But she said he will always be a Marine and her "Bulldog."
In 1999, Henry recorded some of his World War II memories on an audio tape Carline shared.
Henry always wanted to be a Marine. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he talked his mother into signing permission for him to serve because he was too young to volunteer on his own.
In June 1942, Henry tried to join the Marines. But when he learned he was 6 pounds underweight, he went home, gorged on bananas and then returned to the recruiting station.
Henry served in the Marine Corps 5th Amphibious Battalion, delivering troops, artillery and other equipment to the beaches they invaded. He saw his first action on Saipan in 1944.
Henry and other soldiers were sleeping in a fox hole about 20 feet away from an ammunition dump for artillery. Somehow, he said, the Japanese blew it up.
Henry recalled that the first casualty of his battalion was a man from Birmingham, Ala.
Iwo Jima is a tiny island in the Pacific that was strategically important for the United States. The island was the scene of one of the bloodiest campaigns of World War II.
After extensive bombing by U.S. planes from December 1944 to February 1945, the Marines invaded and took the island from the Japanese by mid-March.
Henry said he didn't remember much about Iwo Jima.
He does remember seeing the American flag raised on Iwo Jima.
On Friday, Henry enjoyed his cake and company. He told the young Marines to eat more cake. They shared it with other residents and staff at the rest home.
On his right hand, Henry's Marine Corps ring is still firmly in place on his ring finger, however, and his grip is strong.
On one side of the ring is a relief of Tun Tavern in Philadelphia where the first battalions of Marines were recruited on Nov. 10, 1775.
The other side of Dixon's ring depicts the famous scene of Marines raising the American flag on Iwo Jima the one they made such a big fuss about' where Dixon fought the Japanese in 1945.