The Young Marines organization was founded in 1958 in Waterbury, Connecticut. In 1965, the Young Marines became nationally chartered. In 1993, the Young Marines became the focal point of the U.S. Marine Corps' Drug Demand Reduction Program. Nationally, there are over 300 units serving over 13,000 Young Marines.
The Marines that started that first unit in Connecticut were from the Marine Corps League. The League has, through the years, been instrumental in supporting the Young Marines. Our local Marine Corps League unit, the Gator Detachment 990, sponsors the Milton Lewis unit.
Who is Milton Lewis?
The namesake of our unit is Corporal Milton A. Lewis, USMC. He was a Gainesville resident who attended Gainesville High School. He was very athletic, leading his teams in both swimming and football. In 1938, Milton Lewis cut his schooling short to join the Marines and serve his country. When America was pulled into World War II, the first American offensive in the Pacific was on the islands of Guadalcanal and Tulagi. On August 7th, 1942, the Marines landing on Tulagi, including Corporal Lewis, faced fierce resistance from the enemy. When Marines were pinned down by an enemy machine gun, Milton Lewis and his squad rushed the emplacement. He was fatally wounded, but continued to assault and rally his men as they silenced the machine guns. The Marine Corps would go on to secure that island, the first step toward victory in the Pacific. Corporal Lewis was the first Alachua County resident to die in combat in World War II. For his valor on the battlefield, he was awarded the Navy Cross.
We honor Corporal Lewis because he embodied the American spirit. He was a young man who learned the virtues of Honor, Courage and Commitment. And now, so many years later, he is still honored and remembered. His name is on the stadium at Citizens' Field and on the shirtsleeves of today's Young Marines. It is our duty as Marines to live up to the legacy of Milton Lewis and to share those same virtues with the Young Marines in our charge.