Marine veteran celebrates annual reunion at home

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By Charles D. Hatfield, Jr. / The Ellis County Press

LANCASTER – Romus Valton (R.V.) Burgin, a retired U.S. Marine and author, hasn’t missed a 1st Marine Division reunion since 1980.

Unfortunately, R.V.’s health prohibited him from attending this year’s event.

Romus Valton (R.V.) Burgin, a retired U.S. Marine and author, celebrated the 1st Marine Division reunion this past week among friends, family and former Marines at his Lancaster, Texas home. He is the oldest member of Texas Civil Defense, a preparedness group based in Red Oak.

So Marines and their wives from across the United States did the next best thing – they traveled to Lancaster, Texas and had their own reunion.

R.V. is the oldest member of Texas Civil Defense, a preparedness group based in Red Oak.

He was born on Aug. 13, 1922 to Joseph Harmon Burgin and Beulah May (née Perry) Burgin in Jewett, Texas.

During World War II he joined the United States Marine Corps on Nov. 13, 1942 and was assigned to the 9th Replacement Battalion.

R.V. soon became a mortarman in K-Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division (K-3-5), and fought in the Pacific War at Cape Gloucester, then alongside his friend, Eugene Sledge, on Peleliu and Okinawa.

Sledge went on to write “With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa,” which was used as source material for the HBO miniseries “The Pacific.”

Burgin was promoted to the rank of sergeant upon reaching Okinawa.

He was awarded a Bronze Star for his actions in the Battle of Okinawa on May 2, 1945, when he destroyed a Japanese machine gun emplacement that had his company pinned down.

He also was going to be awarded a Silver Star by Captain Haldane for taking out a pillbox on Peleliu, but Haldane was killed by sniper fire before he could submit it.

R.V. was wounded on May 20 and received a Purple Heart. He returned to his company after spending 20 days in a field hospital and remained with them for the duration of the battle.

While in Melbourne, he met and then later married an Australian girl named Florence Risely in Dallas on Jan. 29, 1947. R.V. and Florence had four daughters.

After the war he went to work for the United States Post Office.

Burgin is the author of the memoir “Islands of the Damned” (with William Marvel). He is portrayed in “The Pacific” by Martin McCann. R.V. himself appears in documentary footage during the miniseries.

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