Robert Barrow and two of his sisters, Cathleen P. Harmon and Barbara B. Kanegaye, stood solemnly with several dozen friends and family in the Grace Episcopal Church cemetery, watching Lt. Gen. Rex McMillian place a wreath at the grave of their father, Gen. Robert H. Barrow.
A Marine Corps color guard stood at attention as a seven-man gun battery fired a three-volley salute, interrupting the stillness Tuesday morning. A five-piece Marine Corps band played taps, and a handful of veterans saluted.
After the brief ceremony was over, Harmon asked McMillian if the band would play one more song, her father’s favorite: the “Marines’ Hymn.” The band obliged.
The day was meant to honor one of their own on the Marine Corps’ 240th birthday and to celebrate with a traditional cake. Three of the Barrow children — Robert, Cathleen and Barbara — came from out of state. Charles Barrow and Mary Hannigan were unable to attend the ceremony.
“It was a special moment for our father,” said Robert Barrow, who also served for 22 years in the Marine Corps. “It demonstrated the respect and love the Marine Corps has for one of their own. It’s more about the Marines than any individual, but it shows respect for every commandant in the Marine Corps.”
Each Nov. 10, the Marine Corps celebrates its birthday by remembering those who served as its commandants. Of the 37 men who have served in that post, 28 are deceased. Two are buried outside of national cemeteries: Gen. Carl Mundy Jr., in North Carolina, and Barrow.
Barrow served from July 1, 1979, through June 30, 1983, as commandant, the highest rank in the Corps. After retiring, he settled in West Feliciana Parish, where he was born, and he and his wife, Patricia, lived until their deaths in 2008 and 2006, respectively. They are buried side-by-side in the Grace cemetery.
In Jackson Hall, Sgt. Maj. Anthony Spardro, who, like McMillian, is stationed at the Marine Forces Reserve base in New Orleans, cut a cake and explained the value of traditions to the Marines.
“We hallow our traditions,” said Spardro. “It is who we are as Marines.”
As part of the cake cutting tradition, the oldest Marine present, retired Sgt. Morris Bennett, of St. Francisville, who served in the Korean War, shared a piece of cake with the youngest Marine present, Lance Cpl. Nathan Collins, of Spring, Texas, who was a member of the band.
“No other service adheres to their traditions like this,” said Barrow. “The Marine Corps does not forget. It carries from one generation to the next. They always remember, and I’m proud to see this carried out for my father.”