Marine Corps retirees in the east remember Gen. Al Gray after the 29th Commandant’s passing

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) -Several retired United States Marine Corps Veterans in the east are reflecting on their memories with a former Marine Corps Commandant, who passed away.

It was a somber day for USMC retirees Joe Houle and John Kopka Wednesday as they mourned the passing of retired Marine Corps General Al Gray.

“It’s a loss to all service members and veterans,” said Colonel John Kopka, USMC retiree. “Most importantly, it’s a loss to this country.”

Gray died Wednesday morning at the age of 95, according to the Marine Corps.

Gray was a Commanding General at the 2nd Marine Division and II Marine Expedition Force, both headquarted at Camp Lejeune. After that, Gray was the 29th Commandant from 1987 to 1991.

Kopka served as Gray’s special assistant for two years while he was in that role. He says being a Marine was everything to the retired general.

“His mother would call us one of Al’s boys,” Kopka said. “You’ve got to understand that the one thing he loved was the Marine Corps.”

Sergeant Major Houle echoed the same sentiment as he was Gray’s senior enlisted Marine.

“My first impressions of Gen. Gray even way back then, was that he was a Marine’s Marine,” Houle said. “He loved being a Sergeant of Marines.”

The love Gen. Gray had for Marines was second to none, which is why he joined the executive committee for the Carolina Museum of the Marine that will break ground this May, at Lejeune Memorial Gardens.

USMC retiree Kevin Stewart, who’s the CEO of the museum, believes if it wasn’t for Gray the groundbreaking wouldn’t be possible.

“His personal commitment to this project was the difference maker to get the level of support and approval that we need,” Stewart said.

The Museum of the Marine will hold its groundbreaking ceremony May 17th, but many say the day of celebration will be sad without Gray.