AUGUSTA — They wear the uniform proudly, these old Marines.

But they’d like others to wear it with them, even those who may have never worn a uniform before.

The Marine Corps League’s Kennebec Valley Detachment 599 is 65 members strong, part of a statewide organization of about 500, but it wants to get stronger so they can do more in the community and for their fellow Marines and their families.

The nonprofit fraternal group is made up mostly of retired Marines, but is also open to active duty Marines and even, through an associate membership program, to those who have never been a Marine or even served in the armed services.

The detachment is hosting a statewide meeting of the Marine Corps League on Sunday at the Augusta Elks Lodge at 397 Civic Center Drive. People interested in joining may come check it out to get a feel for the group, according to John E. Poulin, 65, of Augusta, commandant of the detachment. Poulin is a Vietnam veteran who served in the Marines from 1963 to 1967, and in the Army Reserves for 11 years, including time as a drill sergeant.

“We’d like to grow; we know there are a lot of Marines and (Navy) Corpsman in this area, but they don’t know we exist,” said Ralph F. Sargent, 77, of Augusta, junior vice commandant of the detachment. He served in the Marines from 1952 to 1976, including the siege of Khe Sanh, Vietnam, and retired as a sergeant major. “We’re not in parades. At our age, we’re not marchers anymore. We’re trying to build this unit up, and have larger participation, so we can do more for the community.”

Their community involvements are many, including fundraising and participation in Toys for Tots; the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care; Good Shepherd Food Bank; Young Marines; Wounded Warriors; a homeless veterans project; and a program donating free, hand-carved canes to veterans.

“We’re active; we’re not just sitting on our laurels,” said Donald T. Brawn, 82, of Augusta, senior vice commandant of the local detachment, an active Marine from 1950 to 1952, including service in the Korean War.

Sunday’s events begin at 10 a.m. with training to certify people to serve in honor guards, including the proper care and handling of the flag at funerals. The training will be followed by “pack growl,” of the Military Order of the Devil Dogs, which is closed to the public and which members declined to discuss. There will also be a lunch courtesy of the Elks, followed by their regular business meeting from 1 to 2 p.m.

The Marine Corps are the smallest of the armed services and its post-active duty organization tends to have a harder time attracting as many members as, say, the American Legion, said Bill Schutz, 70, of Windsor. Schutz is sergeant at arms for the detachment and a Navy Corpsman from 1960 to 1966 who served with the Marines for the last two years of his service.

What the group offers, in addition to the chance to help others through donations and other activities, is camaraderie, group members said.

“There’s that connection you share, because you had the same experience,” Poulin said. “Once a Marine, always a Marine. Not a day goes by I don’t think, ‘What are we doing for vets? Are we doing enough? And how can we raise more and do more?’ We need members, younger members. We want to grow and do more.”

Through their associate member program, they also welcome men and women who didn’t serve in the Marines, but who share their ideals. Associate members can’t hold elected office with the group and face some other limitations, but they may participate in many of the group’s activities.

“We welcome them,” Poulin said. “We’re not a paramilitary organization, though we do wear the uniform proudly.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

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