Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Arizona XVI

Just up the hill from Clifton, where the Mares Bluff memorial is, lies the Morenci High school. You may recall from an earlier post, here, that the first dog-tags at Mares Bluff belonged to the Morenci 9.

I had read, over the years, about a group of high school students who joined the Marine Corp together, but I never really thought that I would get to their town, their school, their memorial.

Morenci lies nearly 200 miles east of Tucson, practically in New Mexico, and I feared it was just too far to make the trip and put it off on other occasions. This trip, however, provided a day with nothing else on my schedule so I jumped at the chance. The drive revealed to me that Arizona has a diverse and beautiful landscape that I never anticipated. I saw snow capped mountains, fertile crop filled valleys and some of the most striking rock formations I have ever encountered.

I arrived at the school and checked in with them, I met the Principal and Vice Principal who showed me the permanent indoor display to the Morenci 9 and the memorial out side the building. the indoor memorial which greets students every morning contains drawings of the men done be students at the school, a folded flag and an open copy of their story as told by Time magazine.

Interestingly, they also pointed off in the near distance to the copper mines with their hundreds and hundreds of trucks and continuous work. It is the second largest copper mine in the world and the largest in the U.S.

 Eight  friends went down to the Marine recruiter and signed up, and one returned from college to join them, they all ended up in 'Nam and six came home in caskets. Morenci, in the 2010 census, had fewer that 1500 citizens. Some poking around in Census files showed that in 1960 the population was 2431 and the 1970 records are incomplete, but it is still obvious that Morenci is a small town and to lose 6 young Marines places it, if not at the top, near the top for losses per population.

You can see here on the memorial that nine names with indicators for the lost.

Joe Sorrelman, the only remaining of the nine, says that they were all classmates, but not really all friends. Several were White a couple Latino and Sorrelman a Navajo and the mining town, at the time, was somewhat segregated, but their experience seemed to erase those barriers.

There are books and YouTube posts about the Morenci Marines, or the Morenci 9, if you are interested in learning more about this remarkable story.

Next time, on the26th, we will head back to California, so meet me there at 9:00am.

To see additional memorials from Arizona, or any other state, click the state name on the left side of this page.

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