On this Memorial Day, #HipNJ shines a spotlight on the Sgt John Basilone Foundation. The foundation was started by Sgt Basilone’s family to preserve his memory and help support those who have sacrificed for us by improving quality and access to PTSD care.
Sgt Basilone grew up in Raritan Town (now Borough of Raritan) where he attended St. Bernard Parochial School. After completing middle school at the age of 15, he dropped out prior to attending high school. Basilone worked as a golf caddy for the local country club before joining the military in 1934.
After receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service in World War II, Sgt Basilone was sent on a war bond tour by the Marine Corps, and then sent to headquarters and given a desk job. After the war bond tour, Sgt Basilone requested a return to operating forces so he could fight in the war but was denied the first time. The second request, to train Marines at Camp Pendleton, California, was approved. There he met his wife, Sgt Lena Riggi of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve.
His next request was to return to the Pacific Theatre, which was approved and he was assigned to Charlie Company, First Battalion, 27th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division during the invasion of Iwo Jima, where he was killed in action. Sergeant Basilone was the only enlisted Marine to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor, Navy Cross and Purple Heart in World War II.
Sgt Basilone’s heroics have inspired Hollywood. The film First to Fight features Chad Everett as “Shanghai Jack” Connell, a character based on “Manila John” Basilone. Further, the 10-part HBO miniseries The Pacific is based on the intertwined stories of Basilone and two other Marines (Robert “Lucky” Leckie and Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge). Actor and Clifton native Jon Seda starred as Sgt Basilone.
The latest take on Sgt Basilone’s life will be the forthcoming Legacy of a Hero, a documentary produced by Sgt Basilone’s niece and president of the foundation, Diane Hawkins. You can learn more and donate to the production here.
In his memory, his family works hard to support those who suffer from PTSD due to their military service by raising awareness and funding to support proper treatment programs. In doing so, they are furthing Sergeant John Basilone’s legacy of helping others. They have been active for 10 years and are proud to carry out their mission of helping “John’s Boys”.
For more information, please visit SGTJohnBasilone.com.