Tradition, Now serving number 17, 18, 19

29 Jan 2003 |

In December 1947, a young man from Southern Wisconsin walked into his local Marine Corps recruiting office. Looking to escape the cold and snow of Wisconsin, the young man asked the recruiter, "Can you promise to send me someplace warm?"The recruiter promised him that, within a month, he could have him in Parris Island, S.C., attending recruit training. The young man agreed to the offer and the recruiter fulfilled his promise.Ironically, exactly one year later, the young man found himself training in Alaska for the duties he would perform in Korea at the Chosin Reservoir, Seoul and Inchon areas.Despite this cruel irony, the late Sgt. Theodore Tanner never held any animosity toward the Marine Corps. In fact, his love of the Marine Corps has transcended generations. This July the Tanners will send its nineteenth family member to recruit training.Shane Tanner and his twin cousins, Kyle and Tyler Wetter, all of Boscobel, Wis., are enlisted in the Delayed Entry Program and scheduled to ship to recruit training on the "Buddy Program" in July. They will make up the 17th, 18th, and 19th members of the Marine family tree. They also have a cousin in Arizona who will put the total at 20 when he enlists."He never pressured any of us to join the Marines," said Sgt. Timothy T. Tanner, a canvassing recruiter for RSS West Omaha, RS Des Moines. "He always wanted us to pursue our educations, but you couldn't mistake the pride beaming from his smile when you told him you were joining the Marines."Nestled in the shadows of a large hill on the outskirts of Boscobel, Wis., the Tanner homestead, a log cabin surrounded by fields of grazing horses with a winding dirt road leading up from the main street, is filled with generations of Marine Corps pictures, certificates, and mementos. One distinct decoration seen when first pulling up to the homestead is the hood of the family's old racing car, a modified 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, which has the names of all of the Tanner clan who had served in the Corps up to that point. Of the eleven listed in the family tree, not only the Tanner family is represented. Branches stem from Betty (Degenhardt) Tanner's side of the family, as well.Family matriarch, Betty, 68, is eager to share any and all stories, pictures, and mementos of the entire family's journey through the Marine Corps. She covers the dinning room table with discharge certificates, DD 214s, photos, medals, and anything else she can find. The first thing she reaches for is the stack of reunion books from Theodore's "Frozen Chosin" reunions as a part of "Easy 2/5" in Korea, which were sitting under one of Theodore's three purple heart cases."He didn't start going to the reunions until about 15 years ago," she said of her late husband. "He wouldn't talk about what happened (in Korea) because he said there were some things you don't burden your family with. It was good for him to share and empathize with his fellow Marines. Only 30 of the 260 Marines they were with made it out. So they are a very tight group.""One story he always loved to tell," she added, "was when they marched out of the reservoir, and they were beat down, slumped over, frostbitten, and hungry. One Marine had found a harmonica on a fallen Korean and he was playing the Marines Hymn as they were marching. In the distance they saw a group of U.S. Army soldiers. The group of Marines immediately popped to attention and marched straight and proud until they were out of sight. When you asked him how far past the soldiers did they get before they slumped back down, and he would tell you 'Far enough.'"One of the newest additions to the Marine family tradition, Shane, accompanied his grandfather to one of his reunions."I'll be honest," Shane said, who adopted his grandfather's red and yellow satin Marine Corps jacket after he passed away in November, "I'm not ready for college and the Marines will help me prepare for college both mentally and financially. So now I can please my grandfather in both ways; by being a Marine and continuing my education.""I could see the kind of man it turned my grandfather into," said Tyler, who enlisted to be a fire direction control specialist. "That's somebody I would like to be like later on in life. And if the Marines could do that for him, I want to be a part of that."Shane is planning to be a Marine Corps tank operator and Kyle will enter security forces. Kyle and Tyler are also the younger brothers of Sgt. Tanner.Sgt. Tanner, originally a remote sensor operator, explained his grandfather was a very humble person and didn't push the Marine Corps on anyone. But his infectious affection toward the Marine Corps obviously led others to follow in his footsteps. "My uncles all saw how it changed (him) and how proud he was and they wanted that in their lives. Just like I did. "I knew I wanted to be a Marine when I was eight years old," continued Sgt. Tanner. "He didn't say much when I told him I wanted to join the Marines, but you saw the pride in his tears when he saw me graduate boot camp in San Diego."While preparing to graduate high school and ship to recruit training, the newest generation of Tanner Marines are not concerned with current world events and situations."We've wanted to be Marines for as long as we can remember," said Tyler, "and we know what the Marines are all about and what we are becoming a part of. Marines do what Marines do, and we're ready to be a part of that.""It actually makes me more anxious to be a Marine," said Kyle.Despite the distinct family history of participation in every key Marine conflict since Korea, to include Vietnam and Desert Storm, no family member has ever been killed in action. Theodore, who died of stroke complications in November 2002, was wounded in action and Cpl. Tim Degenhardt drowned a month after returning stateside from Vietnam.And still they come.What started in the cold of North Korea has continued throughout the generations, and looks to continue for years to come, as the Theodore Tanner family tree turns the tradition-rich Marine Corps into a family tradition.
9th Marine Corps District