August 24, 2019 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Kool-Aid Kid Promise made during an 8-day battle in Vietnam – “If any of us survive, we won’t let the others be forgotten.”
On August 24, 1969, eight Marines from Golf Company 2/7 prepared to retrieve the bodies of those killed in action the previous day. As they planned, squad leader Corporal DL Young took a packet of Kool-Aid from his helmet band, added it to purified water, and shared it with the squad. The Marines drank the Kool-Aid as if it were the best bourbon in the world and promised to share the names and stories of those killed in that late August battle.
Glenn Denton, who was a member of the group forever known as the Kool-Aid Kids, fulfilled that promise when he founded Camp Hamilton Veterans Memorial Park. Glenn planted trees on his private property near Bakersfield, California. With each tree, Glenn staked a nameplate of a Golf Company 2/7 Marine killed in action. He watered the trees with 5-gallon buckets of water transported from another location. Other veterans and active duty military joined him by planting trees for their fallen friends.
The promise made on August 24, 1969, is the reason Camp Hamilton Veterans Memorial Park exists today. Camp Hamilton is a 10-acre park with over 320 trees, each dedicated to a service member who was killed in action, died after a long life, or died by suicide. The camp honors service men and women from all branches – from the Merchant Marines (Pre-World War I) to modern-day Iraq and Afghanistan. As of Memorial Day 2019, Camp Hamilton Veterans Memorial Park has 320 trees – many full-grown, others saplings – that are maintained by a volunteer workforce.
On August 24, 2019, we will thank Glenn Denton for fulfilling his promise. Our goal is to share the stories of the first veterans honored at Camp Hamilton. By sharing their stories with our local community and, hopefully, the nation, we, too, will fulfill the Kool-Aid Kid promise.