MARION HEIGHTS - Vietnam Veteran Marine Staff Sgt. Paul Choclis recently completed a road trip to Ennis, Mont., to attend a reunion of the Third Battalion, 26th regiment of the Marine Corps 5th Division.

The reunion was hosted by Lt. Col. Andy DeBona, former captain of Mike Co. 3/26 in 1966 and 1967 and the recipient of the Navy Cross for actions against a human wave attack of NVA soldiers near Con Tien, South Vietnam. Staff Sgt. Choclis served as DeBona's scout/forward observer for C Battery, 1st Batallion, 13th Marines for actions in and around the the combat base at Khesanh.

The entire town of Ennis welcomed some 200 Marines and families of 3/26 from June 11 to 14 where a brick memorial is located in the center of town. Also attending the reunion were surviving marines from Lima Company 3/26 and the battle at Camp Evans, Christmas 1966. They were William "Doc" Miller, from the coal region, Tom Willey, from Missouri, Tom Elliot, from California, Lt. Harry Dolan, from Alabama, second platoon officer; and Lt. Frank McCarthy, Third Platoon Officer. Both officers are now majors.

Staff Sgt. Choclis was Lima Company's original scout/observer and said Lima Company had outstanding officers such as Capt. Ralph Hines, who was killed in action, and Capt. Jaak Aulis, along with Marines who graduated from honor platoons and Parris Island and San Diego boot camps. For extraordinary actions against the enemy forces in the Republic of South Vietnam in the years 1966 to 1968, the 3rd Battalion, 26th Regiment, along with its main artillery support unit of C Battery, 1st Battalion, 13th Marines, received our nation's highest military unit award for combat valor, The Presidential Unit Citation.

Forty-eight years since this elite special landing force known as "The Professionals" mustered for staging at Camp Pendleton, Calif., leaving their homeland and answering our nation's call in the Vietnam War, and for courage, commitment and sacrifice to the United States, a permanent memorial was installed at the Marine Corps National Museum near Quantico, Va.

Choclis concluded this once in a lifetime 3/26 reunion in Big Sky Country with a trip through Yellowstone Park, which he said was an awesome spectacle of nature close up.

Proceeds and donations collected from this 3/26 Marine reunion will benefit the Wounded Warrior Projects and support our new generation of brave men and women defending our country.