‘It’s the Marines, not the ocean’

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Variety News Staff

HAGÅTÑA — Marine Sgt. John Gerber yesterday walked the whole stretch of Marine Drive from one end to the other end of the island, clad in a Marine shirt and camouflage pants, pulling a cart that carried a signboard that read “Marine Corps Drive.”

“This is a day of protest,” said Gerber, who was escorted by police cars and his fellow Marines.

Gerber was protesting the Legislature’s failure to include in its legislative agenda Sen. Bob Klitzkie’s controversial bill that proposes to rename Guam’s main road to Marine Corps Drive in honor of the Marines who fought for Guam’s liberation.

Bill 214 was supposed to be among the highlights of the 60th anniversary celebration of Guam’s liberation in July.

“The Marine Drive was originally dedicated to the Marines but over the years it has become associated with the ocean.” Gerber said. “In 20 days during the liberation, we lost 1,548 Marines. Freedom is not free.”

Gerber began his one-man walkathon at 6 a.m., from the frontgate of Andersen Base in Yigo and was to stop at Naval Station on the other end of the island. Before noon, he was met by Gov. Felix P. Camacho at the monument in front of the Chamorro Village in Hagåtña.

“I came here in support of Mr. Gerber’s campaign,” Camacho told reporters. “You can see the passion of this man who represents the other Marines,” Camacho added as he urged the Legislature to pass Bill 214.

Sen. Lou Leon Guerrero, D-Tamuning and chairwoman of the Legislative Committee on Rules, said the bill is not included in the agenda for tomorrow’s session because Sen. Toni Sanford’s Committee on Public Highways has not reported it out.

“I’m not holding it back. There’s a lot debate on this bill and we’re all trying to come up with alternatives to be able to meet the concerns of everybody,” Leon Guerrero told Variety.

Sanford, D-Agana Heights, said her committee has been trying to reach a compromise on the bill.

Some senators want to keep Marine Drive as is, while others have proposed another name for the highway.

One proposal, she said, is to rename the road “Chalan Y Marines” to give it a Chamorro “touch.”

She explained that members of other branches of the military oppose the renaming of Marine Drive saying it tends to ignore their own contributions during the war.

“I want to come up with something amicable, something that everyone will agree on,” Sanford said.

The bill was unanimously endorsed during a public hearing in February, and Klitzkie, R-Yigo, said he doesn’t understand why opposition to his proposal suddenly came up.

“People could have sent written testimonies 10 days after the public hearing, and 10 days have past. All of a sudden they’re scratching their heads like they are unaware of this proposal to rededicate the road,” he said.

Gerber opposes the new proposal to rename the highway “Chalan Y Marines.”

“That’s a disgrace; a dishonor for the Marine Corps. It sounds like a bunch of drunk Marines of the main road,” he said.

Sen. Jesse Lujan, R-Tamuning, proposed that the issue be put to a vote simultaneously with the November elections for members of the Legislature.

But Klitzkie said that waiting until election period would defeat the purpose of his bill, which was to time it with celebration of Guam liberation this July.




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