Jacksonville Marines birthday ball: Remembering Bob Mette


In November, Lance Corporal Jacob M. Bell and Corporal Gabriel Gonzalez were presented with the Robert A. Mette Memorial Award and Mette Memorial Scholarship, respectively. Each year, locals remember Robert Allen “Bob” Mette with the two honors at the annual Marine Corps Birthday Ball.

Bob Mette stands out in the minds of his high school classmates because of his involvement in the community and his school, but also because he was the first member of the 1956 Landon High School graduating class to die. Mette received his Landon diploma on June 8, 1956, in Jacksonville and died just 65 days later on August 12, 1956 at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Camp Lejeune, N.C.

The Western Union Telegram began, “I regret to inform you that your son Pvt Robert Allen Mette USMCR is critically ill at this hospital due to Acute Meningitis.” Mette’s father was enjoying a quiet Sunday morning at home with his two younger sons when the message was delivered. Mr. Mette immediately drove to Mayfair Baptist Church to pick up his wife, Cora. They packed quickly, and the Mette family headed to Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, NC, to be with their oldest son. Their trip was in vain – Bob Mette died that afternoon before his family arrived.

The news of Mette's death shocked and saddened his high school classmates and the community. Mette was a high-profile high school athlete, active in his church, and little league baseball coach and an active participant at Landon.

On Dec. 22, 1955, Mette had joined the 2nd Amphibian Tractor Co., U.S. Marine Corps based in Jacksonville. One of Mette's obligations as a U.S. Marine Corps Reservist was to attend two weeks of active duty training each summer. The designated training base for 1956 was Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C. After a day of liberty during the following August, Mette became ill and disoriented and was admitted at the U.S. Naval Hospital. Mette died that afternoon of acute spinal meningitis.

After Mette's death, John Lanahan, then the commanding officer of his Marine Unit, established the Robert A. Mette award in memorial of his outstanding leadership, dedication and involvement with the unit and his community. The first award was given in 1956 to a young man from Jacksonville Beach.

Additionally, since 1999, the $1,000 Mette Family Scholarship has been presented annually by Richard Mette on behalf of the Mette family. It recognizes one Marine for academic achievement. Bob's only surviving brother Richard is fully involved in his brother's memory. He donated the Robert A. Mette Memorial Plaque for many years, and in 1999 he established the $1,000 Mette Family Scholarship to compliment the Robert A. Mette Memorial Plaque. These two awards are presented annually to two Marines in the Jacksonville-based 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion, 4th Marine Division.

“I am most proud and honored each year, on behalf of my brother and my family, to hand out the Robert A. Mette Memorial Award and Scholarship,” Mette said. “These two winners should take price in personifying the strong leadership traits the Marines so greatly cherish. The professional excellence and service to the Marine Corps is in keeping with the spirit of this award of the past number of years.”