Glenview Marines revisit site of 1991 volcanic eruption in the Philippines

Marines once based in Glenview returned to the Philippines to commemorate a life-saving mission.

When Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991, the Marines were stationed nearby.

"They're like my sons, you know. I never had a son, and...They were like my kids," said Sergeant Major Ted Szewczyk.

Szewczyk was leading Marines in the Philippines at the time of the eruption.

His helicopter squadron, HML 776, once based in Glenview, dug out and started making rescue flights.

"They were saving lives, and that's what it really comes down to," said HML 776 Executive Officer Harold G. Walker. "They saved people every day, day and night, people that would have been dead."

27 years later, the Marines returned to Mount Pinatubo, the Marine base where they were stationed, the hut were Szewczyk worked and the barracks where they lived.

"Going back to the barracks, just walking around - it was silence, it was sad. It was really sad," said HML 776 Crew Chief, Sergeant Sean McDonald.

On the trip, they also revisited World War II history, deadly conflicts involving Americans. They also met everyday people and dignitaries, who thanked them.

"They treated us like rock stars," Szewczyk said.

"The mayor, the senator, all the officials welcomed us with open arms," McDonald said.

Most of all, time and yet another experience together has sealed their brotherhood.

"I don't care how old they get to be or I get to be, they're still the same. My guys," Szewczyk said.

"Most importantly, being able to spend time with my brothers. Whether we were super close before, or super close now," McDonald said. "That time is time you'll never get back."
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