The Birthday Surprise of a Century

February 16, 2021

Nearly 70 years after serving in World War II and the Korean War, retired Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Gordon “Gord” Englund was surprised with a birthday wish he didn’t even he realized he’d mentioned: his dress blue uniform.

“I’d mentioned it in passing and never thought this would happen,” Englund said. “I just can’t believe it.”

The Independence Fund, a national veteran service organization based in the Charlotte area, met Englund in September 2020, where Englund mentioned how nice the dress blue uniform looked and how he wished he had received one. Executive Vice President Sam Johnson couldn’t let a fellow Marine’s wish go ungranted, and he started making calls.

“As a Marine, the dress blue uniform is one of the most important things to us,” Johnson said. “It clicked in my mind shortly after the event that we had to get him a set of dress blues. I started making calls to local Marines to see if anyone else wanted to get behind this, and a week later we were able to purchase the uniform.”

Although The Independence Fund had the uniform only a week after meeting Englund, health circumstances kept the organization from being able to surprised Englund. In late January, Englund was scheduled to receive his dress blue uniform alongside over 40 Marines. However, Englund got the call saying he would be able to visit his wife in the nursing home for the first time in over a year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We really wanted to have a big surprise for him, but of course seeing his wife meant the world to him,” said Johnson. “We found out his birthday was in February, and we decided it had to be on his 97th birthday that he would receive his dress blues.”

Englund was honorably discharged from the United States Marine Corps over 70 years ago. During that era, Marines were not presented dress blue uniforms. Englund was grateful for the surprise but wanted to acknowledge the people who stayed home during the war and the sacrifices they made.

“I have no words for what I’ve been given today,” Englund said. “All I know is the people who stayed home during the wars - the wives, the children, the parents – they had to put up with so much and so much anxiety. They’re the ones who deserve the credit too.”



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