Sgt. Angel Mendez / Marine Corps League Det. 246 History
About Angel Mendez
Angel Mendez (August 8, 1946 – March 16, 1967) was a United States Marine who was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross. In 1967, during the Vietnam War, Mendez saved the life of his platoon commander, Lieutenant Ronald D. Castille, who in the future became the Chief Justice of Pennsylvania. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer has recommended that Mendez' award be upgraded to Medal of Honor, the United States highest military decoration.
Angel Mendez' parents — Antonio Méndez Pomales, a native of Fajardo and Martina Rivera García from Naguabo — moved from Puerto Rico to New York City seeking a better life. His father owned and attended a grocery store in the South Bronx while his mother cared for their eight children at home. When Mendez' mother became ill and the family's economic situation worsened, his father could not raise him and his siblings, therefore 2 were sent to foster homes and 6 were placed in the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin, an orphanage on Mount Loretto, Staten Island. There he received his primary and secondary education. Mendez was a member of the cadet corps along with his brothers and many of the "Mount" kids. At a young age, he became fascinated with military life and with his friends would often imagine that he was on a "patrol" while camping at Stokes State Forest and Worthington State Forest.
In 1964, he volunteered to join the Marine Corps right after graduating from high school. Mendez received his basic training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. After he graduated from his recruit training, he was sent to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina to attend the School of Infantry. Mendez was assigned to Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
Upon his deployment to South Vietnam, Mendez was assigned to Company F, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division.
Operation Desoto, was initiated on 27 January 1967 in the Đức Phổ District of Quảng Ngãi Province. The 2nd Battalion 7th Marines was part of the Special Landing Force (SLF) and took part in operations throughout the Marines Corps area of responsibility and saw extensive action throughout the 4-month-long operation. The 7th Marines, with elements of the 5th Marine Regiment, bore the brunt of most of the patrolling and contact with the enemy, whose presence continued in Chu Lai.
On March 16, 1967, Mendez was conducting a Search and destroy mission with his company when they came under attack from a Viet Cong battalion. Half of his platoon was pinned down in a rice paddy under enemy fire, and Mendez volunteered to lead a squad to assist the pinned-down Marines in returning to friendly lines with their two dead and two seriously wounded men. Mendez exposed himself while returning fire with his M79 grenade launcher on the enemy. His Platoon Commander, Lieutenant Ronald D. Castille was seriously wounded and he fell, unable to move. Using his own body, Mendez shielded Lt. Castille as he applied a dressing to the wound, he then picked up the Lieutenant and started to carry him to friendly lines, which were more than seventy-five meters away. Mendez was hit in the shoulder and two of his comrades rushed to help him with their commander, Mendez however refused to let go of his platoon commander and chose to act as rear man. Mendez continued to shield his lieutenant with his own body until he was mortally wounded. Mendez was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross and promoted to sergeant.
About Detachment 246, formerly Staten Island #1
In August of 1946, at the home of John T. O'Brien at 171 Fremont Avenue, Grant City, Staten Island, three Marines met to discuss the possible formation of a Marine Corps League Detachment. Besides John O'Brien, there were Charles Warner and Ken Strong. All three had served in World War II
Thereafter, a few informal gatherings were held at the same locals to which a few more Staten Island Marines were invited. There seemed to be enough interest to warrant going ahead and a request for information was sent to the Marine Corps League Headquarters, then in Albany, New York.
A few meetings were held in Semler's Park Hotel. The Detachment was soon issued a charter on October 8, 1946, as the Staten Island Detachment 246, which was signed by twelve members.
Although in existence for only a few months, the organization decided on holding a military ball on November 19, 1946 at the Boulevard Hotel located at Hyland Boulevard and Midland Avenue.
A more central meeting place was desired and so the Detachment soon moved to the Democratic Club in Stapleton. At this time, the unit fielded its first color guard for the Memorial Day Parade down Victory Boulevard in 1947. It has attended every such parade since that time.
After one Memorial Day Parade, the commanding officer of the local Naval Militia invited the organization to hold their meetings at their headquarters in Tompkinsville. The Detachment then met there until 1949 when it took over its present site from the Army and Navy Union and renting from the City.
Mostly, through the efforts of the late Arthur Foley, the Detachment purchased the property from the City in 1964, with the mortgage being paid off in 1978. Many members donated $100 each, while one Marine, John Fanning gave $1,000
The years 1965 to 1969 saw 29 Island Marines lost in Viet Nam, although the war was much longer.
In 1965 Bobby Thompson was the leader in a drive to erect a fitting memorial to our dead in the club rooms. Another appropriate memorial was that to Father Capodanno, lost in Viet Nam. Gino Terranova was the spirit behind this imposing monument at Fort Wadsworth in 1977. Bob Thompson was the one who also had Sea Side Boulevard renamed to Father Capodanno Boulevard. Abe Beam was the mayor a that time.
Thereafter, the Detachment slowly increased its membership, surpassing 200 in 1991, which also marked its forty-fifth anniversary. At such time, 85 Island Marines had lost their lives in the service of their country, while fifty Detachment members had passed on.
In 1991, the Detachment supported our forces in Desert Storm and assisted with the formation of the Family Support Group. The same year saw great improvements to the physical facilities under the leadership of Pat Gambardella.
In 2001 we saw our Country attacked and part of the attack was in our great city. Our Detachment members helped in the clean up and family support of the many casualties from this horrific attack. The Detachment members attended numerous memorial ceremonies and still do today. There is now a monument erected on our parade grounds for all United States Marines who served our great country. Gino Terranova once again was the spirit behind this life size marine monument along with the late Harold Lane.
The Detachment looks back on over a half century of service to community, country and Corps, as it looks confidently to the future.