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Honoring Mama Lou: A Marine Corps Tradition of Honor and Respect

In a tribute to an extraordinary Marine Corps veteran, the Wine Country Marines, in collaboration with the 23rd Marine Regiment, orchestrated a heartfelt visit to honor Mama Lou on her 99th birthday. Corporal Lou Ruth Keller, or simply Mama Lou as she is more affectionally known, epitomizes courage and dedication, having enlisted in the Marine Corps during World War II to honor her father's legacy. Notably, she was the first woman from Gilroy, CA, to join the Marine Corps, blazing a trail for future generations.

Representatives of the Marine Corps including Major Shannon Potts, Gunnery Sergeant Kristina Perieff, and Sgt Brian Benitez from the 23rd Marine Regiment and the Wine Country Marines embarked on a shared mission to mark this significant milestone in Mama Lou's life.

Leading the effort was James Brown, Chairman of the Board for the Wine Country Marines, ensuring that Mama Lou's birthday would be remembered as a cherished memory for years to come.

The highlight of the visit was when Major Shannon Potts presented Mama Lou with an American flag, accompanied by a certificate signed by Colonel Robert Barnhart, the Commanding Officer of the 23rd Marine Regiment, and SgtMaj Roberto Alviso, the Regiment's Command Sergeant Major. This gesture not only symbolized the Marine Corps community's profound appreciation for tradition and lineage but also encapsulated Mama Lou's enduring contributions to the Corps' legacy. Just as in the revered Corps' birthday ball traditions, where the cake-cutting ceremony begins with the oldest Marine being honored with a slice of cake first before passing it to the youngest, this moment was steeped in the rich heritage of Marine Corps camaraderie and respect.

In addition to the heartfelt tributes, Mama Lou was honored with a floral card and a birthday cake, thoughtfully provided by the Wine Country Marines and presented by Major Potts. The symbolic cutting of the cake, performed with a Mameluke Sword, was a poignant reminder of Mama Lou's enduring connection to Marine Corps traditions. This meaningful gesture not only celebrated her birthday but also served as a solemn reaffirmation of her status as a Marine, honoring her legacy and unwavering commitment to the Corps.

(Major Shannon Potts assists Mama Lou with birthday cake)

The presence of representatives from the Women Marines Association added another layer of significance to the occasion. Mama Lou was presented with their challenge coin, underscoring her pioneering role in breaking barriers for female Marines and leaving an indelible mark on future generations.

The genesis of this heartwarming event stemmed from a call from Mama Lou's family to Captain Shae Crombie, the Executive Officer for Recruiting Station San Francisco, who then connected them with the Wine Country Marines, subsequently garnering support from the 23rd Marine Regiment.

Amidst heartfelt conversations and expressions of gratitude, Mama Lou shared her renewed motivation and determination to reach the remarkable milestone of turning 100. Her unwavering spirit and resilience served as a beacon of inspiration, reaffirming the importance of honoring those who paved the path before us.

(Marines from 23rd Marine Regiment hug Mama Lou)

Mama Lou's family also shared details about her late husband, a WWII Army veteran who participated in the Normandy landing. Among seven friends who served together, only two returned home, underscoring the sacrifices made by Mama Lou's generation.

Before this visit, the Wine Country Marines initiated Operation Mama Lou, a heartfelt call to action to the community to send birthday cards to Mama Lou for her 99th birthday, being spent in hospice. The response was overwhelming, as well-wishers from across the country expressed their love and support. Mama Lou and her family were deeply touched as they carefully read through each heartfelt message, proudly displaying the substantial box of cards received thus far from around the nation.

As Mama Lou bids adieu to her 99th year, her spirit remains undiminished, buoyed by the steadfast support of the Marine Corps community and the enduring love of all those whose lives she has touched.

The legacy of Mama Lou, a true trailblazer and a symbol of courage and dedication, will continue to resonate for generations to come.

For further details about Operation Mama Lou and where to send cards with your own heartfelt messages , please visit [here]

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