AL ASAD, Iraq -- From navigating the jungles of Vietnam to surviving the deserts of Iraq, one warrior has been a part of almost every major campaign that the Marine Corps has had in the past four decades.
Marines with Task Force Military Police, 1st Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, honored Chief Warrant Officer 4 Wayne H. Silva for his 40th anniversary in the Marine Corps while in Al Asad July 8.
"June 28, 1966, was the day that I stepped onto the yellow footprints," stated Silva, Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear defense officer, Task Force Military Police. "I've been serving for 30 years, but I really had a 10 year break in July of '69 thru July of '79."
During the past month, Silva's fellow Marines had secretly been planning the ceremony under his nose. From getting the Wings of Freedom Dining Facility to bake an enormous cake, to reserving a room for a few hours at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation building, they managed to set up the entire ceremony without letting him discover their plans, which was fairly easy to do given that Silva worked night shifts.
"When I stepped in that door, it was a total surprise," said Silva, a 57-year-old native of Martinez, Calif. "I was being very serious about this, as I thought I was about to get yelled at. I really did think someone was getting ready to chew my butt. Why else would they get you up in the middle of your sleeping hours?"
However, the actual person to originally begin setting up the ceremony was more than 7,000 miles away, according to Master Sgt. Brian J. Kemp, battalion operations chief, 1st Bn., 14th Marines.
"His wife was talking to my wife and brought it up to the (executive officer) and the sergeant major," said Kemp, a 40-year-old Glen Ellen, Calif., native. "They then brought it up with the MWR, who were all over it. I would say that within a day everyone was involved, and it blew up to what it is now."
The ceremony, being somewhat informal, began when the chief warrant officer stepped into the room to hear a loud, "Semper Fi!" screamed by the group of Marines waiting in surprise.
After walking around the room and shaking everyone's hands, Silva began the cake cutting portion of the ceremony.
"It really did bring back memories," said Silva, a graduate of Saint Mary's College. "Cake cutting is the importance of an event in our history. This cake, in particular, had a large eagle, globe and anchor on it, which gave it some real importance."
Once everyone had had their fair share of cake, several Marines stopped to talk to the old-time war veteran.
"I actually expected him to be retired by now, as he was in Vietnam," said Kemp, a Sonoma High School graduate. "When I first met him in 1984 as a (private first class), he was already a newly commissioned warrant officer. He was one of the first Marines outside of boot camp that I met. I'm now at 22 years in the Corps, and it's great to finish it off with him. We've kept bumping into each other over the years.
"Even though I was born in 1966, I don't feel so old as long as he is around," Kemp added. "He's definitely one of the most unique Marines I've known. He's dedicated to the Marines, and he has a passion for the Corps."
He is far and beyond one of the best Marines the battalion has, according to Cpl. Taletha L. Evans, CBRN noncommissioned officer-in-charge, Task Force Military Police.
"He is one of the best Marine officers I've ever worked for," said Evans, a 21-year-old native of Mountain Grove, Mo. "He has more knowledge than anyone here. He knows how to get things done, and he's very diplomatic in the way he does things. He's a great role model, as I can only hope that one day I have that much knowledge and rapport."
When asked about his service to the Marine Corps, Silva only had a few words to describe it.
"It has been a long ride," Silva concluded. "It has been fraught with difficulties. However, it's a ride that I'd do again. As you know the Marine Corps is different, and it is very demanding. That's why we wear the eagle, globe and anchor. That's why we chose this path."