By Sgt. Justin M. Boling, Defense Media Activity
Never leave a Marine behind. A mantra shared between the brothers and sisters in arms of the Corps.
TRIANGLE, Virginia -- One civilian earned the title by retrieving Marines,who were thought to be lost forever.
Mark Noah, the executive director of History Flight, received the title of Honorary Marine during a ceremony held at the National Marine Corps Museum, at Triangle, Virginia, July 24.
"It is an awesome honor that I except very humbly,” Noah said. “I am just a guy following in the foot steps of these incredible characters.”
Awarding the title of Honorary Marine began in 1992 to recognize individuals, living or deceased, in the civilian community, who have made a contribution the United States Marine Corps.
A few of the 93 recipients of the title include: Joe Rosenthal, Felix de Weldon, U.S. Senators Max Cleland and Daniel Inoye, Jim Nabors, Chuck Norris, Gary Sinise and Bugs Bunny.
"If there is anybody deserving of this title it is Mr. Mark Noah,” said Major Gen. James Lukeman, the commanding general of Training and Education Command and who presented the honor on behalf of the commandant of the Marine Corps.
Noah, a commercial airline pilot, started his Florida-based, non-profit, non-governmental organization, to keep the history of flight alive.
"We started about 13 years ago to preserve American aviation history,” Noah said. “In subsequent years, we were invited to instruct as aircraft history experts for missing persons recovery operations.
That changed our focus from strictly historic preservation to recovering the people who made the history possible.”
Using radar, cadaver dogs and cross referencing old military maps with high resolution aerial maps of the island today, Noah’s organization finds heroes who were thought to be lost forever.
"He is so damn smart and determined,” said Retired Col. Michael Brown, who has worked with Noah for nearly 7 years. “ He doesn’t want accolades.
"He just looks at it as mission accomplishment, and there is nothing more Marine than that.”
History flight has recovered the remains of several hundred Marines and sailors deemed unrecoverable at the conclusion of Battle of Tarwa. The 76-hour conflict cost America the lives of 1,600 Marines and sailors.
The U.S. Army retuned to Tarawa after the conclusion of World War II to find the graves of hundreds of fallen Marines and sailors. They were only capable of recovering approximately half of the American service members.
“He has a desire to make a difference,” Brown said. “He has a shack for an office on Tarawa and he has returned personally more than 30 times and raised a lot of money for this cause.”
When Noah met Gen. Joseph Dunford, Jr., the 36th commandant of the Marine Corps, and Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the chief of Naval Operations, before the evening parade held at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., his organization was loading the remains of 35 Marines to be brought home from Tarawa.
“We do this work for the souls of the missing and the families they left behind,” Noah said. “We are able to travel back in time and connect families with their missing loved ones and restore the dignity of the individual person,who died in the line of duty for this country.”