2020 Recipient:

patrick murray

the "deacon" award

ross gray image.jpg

The Deacon Award is a 1st Battalion, 25th Marines Association honor given in memory of Sgt. Ross F. Gray.

Sergeant Gray was awarded the highest award that any service member can receive: the Medal of Honor.

Born in Marvel Valley, Alabama, August 1, 1920 Ross F Gray was your average kid in everyday Alabama at that time. Growing up in the face of WW2, Ross enlisted into our beloved Marine Corps Reserve on July 22, 1942. After completing Recruit Training at Parris Island, he was stationed briefly with the 23rd Marines, 4th Marine Division and upon promotion to Private First Class, he was transferred to Co. A 1st BN 25th MAR, 4th MARDIV.

As a Protestant and the desire to one day become a reverend in the church, Gray was nicknamed the Deacon by his fellow Marines.

Leaving for overseas duty in January 1944, he landed first at Kwajalien in the Marshall Islands where he took part in the Roi-Namur Campaign. Promoted to Corporal as an engineer, he made another landing, this time on Saipan following with a landing on Tinian Island both in the Marianas.

After promotion to Sgt, he received additional training on mine fields and booby traps where he passed qualifications to train additional Marines in these skills. His efforts to continue to improve himself did not go unnoticed yet, they did go unrewarded. Sgt. Gray assumed the billet position as Platoon Sergeant, a Staff Sergeant’s position but never received the promotion.

On Feb 21, 1945, two days after the landing on Iwo Jima, Sgt. Gray’s platoon came under a barrage of Japanese hand grenades northeast of Airfield #1. Quickly withdrawing his platoon, Sgt. Gray moved forward to assess the situation where he identified several enemy emplacements fronted by a large minefield.

While under heavy small arms fire, Sgt Gray cleared a path to the minefield and then returned to his own lines. Along with 3 other volunteers, Sgt Gray returned to the minefield where over the course of twelve trips he hand-delivered 24 pound satchel charges while under substantial machine gun fire and hand grenade barrages. Mind you, Sgt Gray did this unarmed so he could carry more explosives.

At the end of his one-man hail-storm of satchel charges, Sgt Gray destroyed 6 enemy positions and cleared and disarmed an entire mine field, unharmed. Unfortunately, Sgt. Gray was killed by enemy artillery fire two days later. Originally buried in the 4th Marines Cemetery on Iwo Jima, and now laid to rest in Woodstock, Alabama. Sgt Gray was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on Iwo Jima.