Parris Island mascot Lance Cpl. Legend, reporting for duty.
By Barry Kaufman
Following a ferocious assault by invading Marines, retreating German soldiers reportedly branded their attackers “Teufel Hunden,” roughly translated as “Devil Dogs,” due to their overwhelming tenacity in battle.
It was a name earned through blood and relentless courage and granted through the terror of their enemies. As you can imagine, it stuck.
Just four years later, an English Bulldog by the name of Jiggs was enlisted to the Corps, where the young private rose to the rank of Sgt. Major within two short years. Sergeant Major Jiggs served as the public face of the Corps, appearing in the film “Tell it to the Marines,” with Lon Chaney, and serving as spokesman for the Marines. When he died in 1927, he was buried with full military honors at a service attended by Marine guards and scores of mourners.
Even the Marine Corps motto, Semper Fidelis, means “Always Faithful.” If there was any animal that could adopt the same, it would be the dog.
In that spirit of canine brotherhood, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, just north of us, has long held the tradition of maintaining an official Depot mascot. The current sitting mascot is a young English Bulldog by the name of Lance Cpl. Legend (who will have just turned 1 as Monthly goes to press). Legend is relatively new to the job, but he comes with an impressive pedigree: His grandfather was University of Georgia mascot Uga V.
And while he may not have to undergo the rigorous physical conditioning and training of his human counterparts, don’t think it’s a dog’s life for this young Marine. Among Legend’s many duties aboard the Depot are serving as the public face of recruit training and greeting civilians and family members during graduation ceremonies and family days.
“He’s very outgoing,” said Legend’s handler, 22-year-old Lance Cpl. Alex Stamateris. “He loves families, he loves kids; he couldn’t be any happier (than on family day).”
True to his MOS (Military Occupational Specialty, or “job” in civilian-ese), Legend can generally be found posing for photos and extending a paw of greeting to visitors in and around the Peatross Parade Deck on family day. For many of the civilians in attendence, visiting from all over to see their loved ones graduate recruit training, Legend is their introduction to the Marine Corps.
“It’s a great way to get out and interact with everyone,” Stamateris added. “When I first talked about joining the Marines, my dad had this idea that Marines are rough and mean. This is a great way to show families that there’s a time and place for that, but I want to be approachable.”
Stamateris hails from New Jersey and works as a clerk in the law center aboard Parris Island. In order to be given the job as handler for the Depot’s mascot, she underwent a rigorous review by her superiors, based on her knowledge of canine upkeep, personality and her leadership abilities.
The result is a Marine who works diligently alongside her charge, guiding him through his training (both recruit and basic obedience), giving him a daily bath (“He has a lot of wrinkles”) and keeping him occupied (according to Stamateris, Legend loves tennis balls and destroying anything with a squeaker).
And Legend is apparently impressing his superiors. At just under a year, he’s shooting up the ranks.
“Legend just picked up Lance, so it has been interesting,” said Stamateris, when asked how Legend handles his junior Marines. “He’s been trying to bark orders, but it’s a little hard to take orders from a dog.”
And with that, Legend lets out a slight chuff, proving that he’s more dog than devil. At least to anything that doesn’t have a squeaker.
Editor Barry Kaufman worked alongside Legend’s predecessor, Sgt. Archibald Hummer, for three years as editor of The Boot newspaper aboard Parris Island.