WASHINGTON - Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7th) has secured passage of legislation in the U.S. House that would designate the U.S. Post Office in Raritan, New Jersey, as the "Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone Post Office."
In a speech before colleagues in the House of Representatives Thursday, Lance recounted the many honors Basilone earned in service to the country and asked the House to support his measure so as to inspire future service in Basilone’s tradition.
Basilone, who grew up in Raritan, is a local hero and admired by his fellow Marines nationwide. He has been honored on the local and national level with bridges, roadways and US Naval vessels that carry his name.
“Gunnery Sergeant Basilone is an exemplar of brave service in our Armed Forces and a member of the greatest generation whose collective bravery and selflessness won World War II and liberated millions from oppression,” Lance told his colleagues on the House Floor. “In Congress, there are many actions we take to honor and remember those who serve our Nation. These commendations matter. Younger generations ask whose name is inscribed in monuments, at flag posts or on federal properties. And in retelling these stories we inspire young Americans to appreciate the generations that came before in public service. And Gunnery Sergeant Basilone indeed has a tremendous story.”
Lance then recounted details from Basilone’s life. Lance told the story of Basilone’s decision first to enlist in the Army and later his enlistment in the Marine Corps. Lance recited the details of Operation Watchtower, where Basilone and his fellow Marines sought to regain territory in Guadalcanal in the Pacific Theater. And Lance recounted the specific citations that earned Basilone the Medal of Honor.
Said Lance, “In a moment of selfless service to his fellow Marines, Gunnery Sergeant Basilone endured brutal enemy fire during the assault to assist nearby machine gunners in trouble. Seeing the immediate danger, Gunnery Sergeant Basilone killed eight encroaching Japanese soldiers and quickly provided aid and equipment to the pinned Marines. He saved many lives that day and in later testimony his fellow Marines credited Gunnery Sergeant Basilone’s gallantry and heroic conduct for saving their lives – actions that would earn him the Medal of Honor in recognition of his actions at Guadalcanal.”
Lance also spoke of the tour of duty where Basilone lost his life and posthumously earned the Navy Cross. “Gunnery Sergeant Basilone and his men stormed the shores of Iwo Jima with the first wave of Marines on February 19, 1945. The Japanese returned heavy fire. Gunnery Sergeant Basilone ran toward one of the blockhouses- the source of Japanese fire- and quickly destroyed it with grenades and demolitions. After this, he scrambled to rescue an American tank that was trapped in a minefield. But in a moment that will forever live on in our hearts, Gunnery Sergeant Basilone and a handful of his fellow Marines were then hit by heavy mortar fire. He died alongside the brave men who stepped forward to serve this country and the men who he wanted to return to battle to protect and defend.”
Basilone was the only Marine of World War II to receive both the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross.
Joining Lance for the debate on the bill was Kim Van Note, Basilone’s niece and a leader in the Basilone Foundation. Van Note said, “I would like to thank everyone who was involved in the process of renaming the Raritan Post Office after my uncle, Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone. The renaming of this Post Office will stand as a testament, and as a monument to the ultimate sacrifice my uncle and so many other American soldiers have made. I am grateful that so many were involved, especially Congressman Lance, with honoring and recognizing the service of my uncle to his country, it is my hope that others will look upon the newly renamed Raritan Post Office and be inspired to serve their country as loyally and faithfully as my uncle, Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone.”
The measure now heads to the U.S. Senate.