I have had the good fortune to be a part of this detachment since its inception. It began with an idea by Jim Yakubsin in 1997. We were assisted by two Department of Florida officers at the time: Northwest District Vice Commandant Preston Freburger and Department of Florida Judge Advocate Joe Tisone. We were grateful for their guidance and assistance.
Jim Yakubsin became the recruiter. We had Marines who were law enforcment and reservists. They had friends. We had our meetings at the VFW and Marines from there also had friends. I think we needed 20 to get a charter but we had a few more than that.
In February 1998, at the National Mid-Winter Conference, the charter was issued for Gator Detachment 990. We held a meeting in March at the Fraternal Order of Police building where Department of Florida Commandant Ralph Fredette presented us with our charter. We had a cookout, took pictures and ate some cake.
One old Marine in a motorized scooter was approached during recruiting and was asked if he wanted to join. He said no, that they tried to get a unit here back in the 50's and it didn't last. He told us, "You won't make it five years." That made our resolve even stronger. And here we are 25 years later, still going strong.
We have come a long way. I would like to think we have had a positive impact on the life of each of our members and those people in the community we have assisted. I have met so many fine Marines, veterans and supporters who are great to be around. My life is better for having met them and getting to know them. Those we meet share their stories with us and allow us to talk to someone who shares that bond that we all have, regardless of our age or color or religion. We are all brothers and sisters. Indeed, we are all Marine family.
Our members have stepped up over the years to help lead other veteran organizations, county committees and VA Hospital positions. After the creation of Gator Detachment 990, there came Tri-County Detachment 1018 in Chiefland and the Suwannee Valley Detachment in Lake City (now the SgtMaj Thomas H. Griggs, Jr. Detachment 1086.)
It was out of this group that the Milton Lewis Young Marines was founded. Members of the the Gator Detachment also helped stand up the Military Support Group of Alachua County. Later, our Marines were key in forming the Vietnam Veterans of America Post 182 in Alachua. Most recently, our members have formed a foundation providing assistance to veterans in the VA Hospital and other places in Alachua County.
We are making a difference. To our members and friends, thank you for helping us to help our community. We look forward to the next 25 years.