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Marines deactivate decorated 'Walking Dead' unit

Decades before the TV show, a Marine Corps battalion decorated for extensive combat in World War II and Vietnam earned the nickname the "Walking Dead."

Now the 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, which also saw action in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been deactivated during a ceremony Friday at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The step comes as top U.S. military and political leaders are moving to trim the size of America's military after more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Marine Corps historians say the battalion appears to have gotten the nickname because of its high rate of casualties in the Vietnam War. But the unit also has a reputation for heroism that included Medal of Honor recipients at Guam and Iwo Jima during World War II and two in Vietnam.

Formed during World War I, the battalion was deactivated in 1994 and reactivated in 2007. Its insignia depicts a cloaked grim reaper carrying a scythe.

Retired Marine Col. Wesley Fox, who received the Medal of Honor while leading a company within the battalion in Vietnam, said he wasn't happy about the deactivations. "Not a better battalion in the world. I don't know why they're the ones who keep getting put on the bench," Fox said.

The deactivation comes as the Pentagon plans to reduce the size of the Marine Corps by several thousand to 182,000 by 2016. The Corps' wartime peak in recent years was more than 200,000.

More than 300 battalion members who have been reassigned to other units participated in Friday's ceremony.

The "Walking Dead" nickname and battalion history are celebrated on several websites run by veterans and a Facebook page that has more than 1,700 members.

The Walking Dead TV series, about survivors of a zombie apocalypse, began airing in 2010.

Marines deactivate decorated 'Walking Dead' unit 08/29/14 [Last modified: Friday, August 29, 2014 8:45pm]
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