TRIANGLE, Va. — The National Museum of the Marine Corps welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. On this day, no one is more excited than Jack Elliott.
“It is wonderful. Coming back to the museum is what I’ve been looking forward to,” Elliott said. “I’ve been waiting for this day.”
This marks a sort of homecoming for the dedicated docent. A bad fall and blood infection in March kept Elliott away for five months.
He has been volunteering since the landmark in Prince William County opened in 2006.
“If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t have been here all of those years,” Elliott said.
Elliott knows every square inch of the museum. Walking through the galleries with him, listeners get a history lesson at every turn.
The professional historian even secured authentic tanks for the museum.
“People don’t realize how big some of the equipment was,” he said.
Elliott hasn’t memorized facts from reading about the Marine Corps.
The 99-year-old lived it.
As a U.S. Marine, the ordinance expert loaded bullets and bombs on SBD Dauntless dive-bombers across the Pacific during World War II.
“There are 50-caliber machine guns in the nose,” Elliott said. “We just hoped that if 24 planes went out that 24 planes would come back.”
His friend and fellow historian Annette Amerman called Elliott a walking encyclopedia.
“The museum is his heart and soul,” Amerman said. “Even when we were in the hospital, when he was in and out, even at the darkest days he wanted to get stronger so he could get back here."
The widower is a rare breed.
Elliott didn’t leave the Marines following WWII.
“I stayed in for Korea and I stayed in for Vietnam,” Elliott said about his 24-year military career. “I’m a three war vet.”
Elliott’s determination and experiences leave fellow volunteers like Carol Lassell awestruck.
“He is probably the heart and soul of what the Marines and museum stand for,” Lassell said. “Knowing that he is what he is and he’s been through what he’s been through they’ll never be a replacement for it.”
Marine veteran Gwen Adams said the intrepid volunteer is as important as any artifact in the collection.
“When Jack comes in it is like a celebrity is here,” Adams said. “We could not run the museum without them. And when you have someone like Jack Elliott he is like the icing on the cake.”
At the National Museum of the Marine Corps, Jack is back.
“Oh I love it here,” Jack Elliott said. “There is a lot to be told about the Marine Corps.”
Like a permanent exhibit, Elliott doesn’t plan on rotating out. After all, he is a U.S. Marine who lives by the motto Semper Fi. Always faithful.
“It’s wonderful. It’s wonderful,” Elliott said. “It’s what I’ve dreamed of for a long time.”
As he gains strength, Elliott will be returning to volunteer on a regular basis.
Patriotism runs deep in the Marine’s family. Jack’s two brothers flew on B-17’s during World War II.
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