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Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

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Chapel rededicated to Marine who took enemy fire for Navy chaplain

By Sgt. Christopher Duncan | | June 23, 2014

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The Caruso Chapel was rededicated to Sgt. Matthew Caruso, at the School of Infantry-West, here, June 23.

The chapel was initially dedicated to Caruso in 1953 and he was awarded the Silver Star Medal in 1950 for shielding Connie Griffin, a chaplain then assigned to the 7th Marine Regiment (reinforced), from enemy fire with his body during an ambush in the Korean War, Dec. 6, 1950.

Caruso’s brother and the son, whom he never had the opportunity to meet, stood before a congregation of more than 100 Marines, sailors and civilian friends and family members to share fond memories and words of appreciation.

“My earliest childhood memory was that flag draped casket, and I remember my mother holding me and crying,” said Daniel Caruso, a retired Marine aviator, while holding up his father’s Silver Star Medal which was pinned on Daniel during a ceremony when he was 4 months old. “I don’t remember a thing before that, and if he were here today I would tell my father that ‘I wish I could have had you in mine and mom’s [lives], but you found a higher calling and I’m proud of you.’”

Caruso’s brother John wept while recalling the loss he and his family felt when hearing the news of Matthew’s passing.

“I remember receiving the telegram and watching my father turn pale as he read it,” said Matthew as his eyes welled with tears. “I was on the burial detail, escorting him home, and a woman who was on the train stopped and said to me, ‘Did you know the Marine that was killed?’. I said, ‘Yes, ma’am. He was my brother.’”

Caruso is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Smith, who shared her gratefulness to the Navy and Marine Corps for the great appreciation they have shown for the sacrifice he husband made in service to the country.

“It’s terrific to be here this time since I missed the first one,” said Smith. Smith was unable to travel due to pregnancy during the chapel’s initial dedication. “The ceremony was stirring and it’s such an honor to be here. My husband made a tremendous sacrifice.”


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