HAVELOCK | If the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing is the heart of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, the people in the surrounding communities are its soul.

The words came from Col. Todd W. Ferry, commanding officer of the base, which celebrated its 75th anniversary along with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Thursday evening at Havelock.

“The heart of Cherry Point is the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, but the soul is the community that surrounds us and it is represented by so many people in this distinguished audience right now,” said Ferry. “We’re talking about the cities of Havelock. We’re talking about New Bern. We’re talking about Newport. We’re talking about Morehead City, Emerald Isle and Atlantic Beach and Pollocksville. As you expand out you’re looking at the counties of Craven, and Carteret, Jones and Pamlico and eastern North Carolina in general. That is the soul of this base.”

Ferry said he is one of 48 commanders of the base since it was established on August 18, 1941.

“To me, I represent the Marine Corps, but what you represent to us is 75 years of the soul of this base,” Ferry said. “Your fathers and your grandfathers plowed the fields here. You poured the concrete on these air fields. You engineered the facilities on a daily basis, 18,000 Marine and Sailors, Civilians and contractors work and live here every day. We thank you for that.”

Ferry, and Brig. Gen. Matthew G. Glavy, commanding general of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, joined with active duty Marines and retired Marines to place streamers on the colors for the base and the 2nd MAW from the numerous actions around the globe in which base personnel have participated.

“There are so many battles that made the Marine Corps what it is today,” said Glavy.

One of the streamers, the Navy Occupation Streamer with “Asia” was presented by retired Marine Al Francesconi, 99, of Havelock, who served for the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing in World War II.

Francesconi, a musician, put down his alto saxophone and picked up his rifle to fight in the Pacific.

“You meet the best people in the world. Very nice. Smart, and good fighters. When we went overseas I hadn’t seen my instrument for over a year. They gave me a weapon and I played with the weapon,” said Francesconi. “We were musicians but we were Marines first.”

“Many of the Marines that I was with were wounded, because, as I said, Marines first, but the worst thing about it was, after all the fighting and all that, they gave us instruments to play so the boys will be back to life again,” said Francesconi. “It was wonderful.”

Jim Casti, of Newport, a retired captain in the Marines, was invited to put the streamer for the Korean War on the colors during the ceremony.

“It’s a great honor to be selected,” said Casti, who was the maintenance officer of a squadron, an engineer on the C-130s. “I put 33 years and nine months in the Marine Corps, so I was here quite a bit.”

“The base’s future is good,” said Casti. “We left it in good hands and they improved it.”

Casti said he is impressed with the caliber of the Marines in service now.

“They got us beat, with all this computer stuff that they’ve got. They’re so far ahead of us,” said Casti. “Our computer was a little yellow pencil with an eraser on the back. That was delete.”

Tom Braaten, a retired Marine major general, said it was a 75 years for the base and for the wing.

“I think it is a great future as well,” said Braaten. “The F-35 appears to be performing well and we’re going to get it. FRC (Fleet Readiness Center East) is doing well and the Wing is knocking ‘em dead so we’re ready to go for 75 more.”

James Cunningham, the grant nephew of Alfred A. Cunningham, the Marine Corps’ first pilot, was on hand for the event. For a brief time in 1941, the base was named Cunningham Field.

Cunningham came to Cherry Point to present some items of memorabilia to the base including a portrait of his great uncle when he was inducted into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame and his medal for the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame. The items were given to the Cunningham Room at Marine Attack Squadron 231.