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98-Year-Old Veteran Bill Darling Finally Receives His Dress Blues

Joe LoParo, a U.S. Marine veteran who chairs the Memorial Day Ceremony at the Alameda Veterans Memorial Park, offered some background about Bill Darling, the 98-year-old Marine veteran and two-time World War II Purple Heart Recipient who was awarded a set of Marine Dress Blues at the 4th of July Parade awards on Thursday, July 20.

Alameda Post - a group of 6 marines in uniform stand with Joe LoParo and Bill Darling as Bill holds his new Dress Blues in his lap and smiles
Marines of Company A, 4th Force Reconnaissance Company of Alameda and Joe LoParo present Bill Darling with his Dress Blues. Photo Maurice Ramirez.

At the Memorial Day Ceremony last year, LoParo, who usually awards Certificates of Appreciation and Letters of Community Support to each Marine participant for entry into their Service Record Book (SRB), decided to ask Darling to present those awards.

“I thought, what an opportunity for them to receive their awards from a decorated World War ll Marine,” LoParo recalled. “And he felt honored to be included. As you can imagine, at 98 he doesn’t have many opportunities to mix with the Marines he loves.”

After awarding the certificates to those Marines, the organizers sat down for lunch with Darling, who shared stories and answered questions about his service with the Marines. When World War ll broke out in Europe, Darling was headed for high school. He attended a local military academy and upon graduating he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. He was immediately sent overseas, assigned to 3rd Battalion 1st Marine Division, and trained for the amphibious assault on Peleliu Island. That battle had been predicted to last four days, but it lasted more than two months. It was the most bitter battle of the Pacific for the Marines—some 40% were either injured or killed.

Alameda Post - at an outdoor pavilion, Bill Darling approaches the front with the assistance of a wheelchair
Joe LoParo helps Bill Darling to the podium where Darling expected to be recognized as the oldest participant in the July 4th Parade. Notice the Marines lined up in the back waiting to honor him. Photo Maurice Ramirez.

Darling was wounded and evacuated from the Island. Upon recovery, he said, he returned to his unit as they were training and preparing for the attack on the Island of Okinawa. During that two-month battle, he was again wounded and evacuated.

When asked, “What made you choose the Marine Corps?” Darling told his lunch companions it was mostly the dress blue uniform—but he also noted that he never actually received one. He had gone directly from boot camp to war, and besides, in those days Marines typically received those Dress Blues only when they were assigned as presidential guards, embassy guards, or assignments like that, he said.

Alameda Post - Bill Darling smiles broadly while being presented with Dress Blues by a younger Marine
Bill Darling’s excitement and joy is plainly visible as he accepts his Dress Blues. Photo Maurice Ramirez.

Several weeks after that lunch conversation, Marines of Company A, 4th Force Reconnaissance Company of Alameda, contacted LoParo. “They wanted to purchase and present Bill a set of Dress Blues,” LoParo said. “They would need sizes and a copy of his DD214 (discharge paper) to find out what medals they needed to procure for outfitting of the uniform.” LoParo reached out to Darling’s daughter, who also lives in Alameda, and she helped them get everything they needed to present the Dress Blues to her father.

On Thursday, July 20, Bill Darling finally was awarded the United States Marine Corps Dress Blue Uniform he never received while on active duty. Before the ceremony, LoParo said, “This will be a great day for all, as we witness this 98-year-old World War ll veteran honored by these younger Marines.” The award was presented by the Marines of Alameda, Company A, 4th Recon Battalion, 4th Marine Division.

Alameda Post - Bill Darling talks with the younger Marines
Bill Darling speaks with fellow Marines after the ceremony. Photo Adam Gillitt.

Darling had attended the 4th of July Parade awards at Jean Sweeney Open Space Park thinking he was there to be honored as the oldest participant in this year’s parade. To his great surprise, once he was called up by the Mayor to be honored, LoParo and the Marines in attendance assembled and presented him with those Dress Blues he never had. His friends and family and everyone in attendance cheered as he was honored.

When the Post spoke with Darling after the ceremony, he could not stop smiling. “It’s the thrill of a lifetime,” he said. “When I graduated boot camp for the Marine Corps, they weren’t issuing Blues except to seagoing Marines because of the war. I never could afford to buy a set. This is just wonderful!”

Congratulations to a true Alameda hero for getting the recognition he deserves! We honor Bill Darling and thank him for his service.

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