U.S. Marine highly offended by "Chalan I Marines" as proposed name for Marine Drive

by Marissa Eusebio, KUAM News
Monday, April 12, 2004

As a retired United States Marine from the 3rd Marine Division Association, Guam Chapter, 52-year-old John Gerber says he has one last fight left in him, and the energy he has to endure this battle he is pouring out into Marine Drive.

Starting Monday morning, Gerber embarked on a 27-mile walk from Andersen Air Force Base in Yigo to Naval Station in Santa Rita in an effort to make a statement to lawmakers regarding Bill 214, The Marine Corps Drive Rededication Act. Gerber recently found out the bill is still being discussed among senators in committee because there are some who feel that the road should be named "Chalan I Marines" instead of "Marine Corps Drive".

Gerber emphatically KUAM News, "We find out that Ben Pangelinan and Lou Leon Guerrero, the two most powerful senators in the Legislature, decide they want to change it to something else. Now they want to call it Chalan I Marines - what the hell is that? Sounds like a bunch of drunk Marines going down a road. That's no honor to my Marine Corps."

Gerber was accompanied by fellow retired Marines who supported him by driving behind in a motorcade, among them Ren San Nicolas, who served in the Marine Corps 20 years ago. San Nicolas agrees that residents should be educated as to how exactly Guam's Route 1 earned its current name, Marine Drive. "The purpose is to remind the present generation that Marine Drive is not to honor the ocean. It is dedicated to the Marines that fought in World War II, about 1,500 of them died," he clarified.

The sign being pulled by Gerber specifically draws remembrance to those for whom the road was named, reading: "This road was paved with the blood of the 1,548 U.S. Marines and reminds senators to give the Marines the honor they deserve."

Also showing support for the cause was Governor Felix Camacho, who caught up with Gerber where the memorial for the Marines who fought in WWII still stands in Guam's capitol village of Hagatna. "The bill had a public hearing," expressed Camacho, "those who supported it clearly came out and expressed support for it to be renamed as 'Marine Corps Drive' and it should be left as such. Any attempts to change it again, I think, defeats the spirit of what this is all about."

Further demonstrating his gratitude for what the Marines did for the island back on July 21, 1944 by liberating Guam from the Japanese, the Governor hung both the United States and Guam flags on the memorial.

In the meantime, Senator Lou Leon Guerrero confirmed that she is in support of renaming the road "Chalan I Marines", giving her explanation by saying, "I feel very strongly that Chalan I Marines would be very clear, because what does that say? It's literally 'The Road of the Marines'. That, for me, is something I would support because it's clear and it uses our language to identify a road. What could be more honorable and appropriate?"

Senator Leon Guerrero says that since senators are still debating the bill, it will not make it onto session agenda this Wednesday. Leon Guerrero further claims she is also representing the opinions of others who have expressed concerns about not wanting to rename the road to Marine Corps Drive.

But as senators continue to debate the issue, Gerber maintains that this won't be the last time motorists will see him making the walk from Yigo to Santa Rita. He says he'll do it as long as it takes for the Legislature to recognize the honor, courage and commitment of men and women from the past, the present and the future of the United States Marine Corps.

He said, passionately, "Short of setting myself on fire, what can I do? I can make this walk I still got one fight in me and I certainly won't drag these guys over the reef with me or take retired marines to fight a battle, they already fought their battle. This is something from the heart."

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