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Marines gather to honor their own

CAMP PENDLETON — In March 1982, 3rd Low Altitude Aerial Defense Battalion was established to provide close air defense for Marine Air Ground Task Force assets.
In its short history, 3rd LAAD Marines have distinguished themselves with valor in combat time and again.
On May 27, the unit gathered to celebrate the completion of their “Wall of Warriors” to honor 3rd LAAD Marines who have earned valor commendations in combat, as well as Purple Hearts.
Lt. Col. Aaron Weiss, the commanding officer of 3rd LAAD, first proposed the “Wall of Warriors” idea when he assumed command of the unit in 2010, said Maj. Tom Chhabra, the executive officer of 3rd LAAD.
“We wanted to dig into our history,” Chhabra said. “We wanted to find those Marines who’ve gone above and beyond, and recognize them.”
Marines compiling information for the wall faced a number of challenges in finding correct names and citations. 1st Lt. Matthew Sladek, the battalion special projects manager for 3rd LAAD, explained that there is no way to search for valor and Purple Heart awards by unit.
“I spent hours just checking names,” Sladek said. “I had to make sure it was the right person with the right unit.”
Sladek and Master Sgt. Anthony Gentile, the logistics chief of 3rd LAAD found many names and citations for recent 3rd LAAD Marines, but they are still struggling to fill in the gaps from the past 30 years.
They have invited anyone with information about distinguished 3rd LAAD Marines to contact the battalion adjutant at (760) 725-3821.
Another problem 3rd LAAD faced was finding the money to make the display cases.
“A lot of the funding came out of pocket,” Gentile said “It was worth it to give the Marines a good dedication.”
Chhabra described the wall as a living tribute to every 3rd LAAD Marine, because they are always ready to add a new name.