CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The trio of U.S. Marines brought down the flag and took care to fold it, despite the crowd that had converged on the embassy.
There had been a brief discussion at the flagpole, where they were surrounded by 1,000 or more Cubans. Do we have time to properly fold the flag? one Marine asked. Hell yes!
Nearby, the Atlantic Ocean battered the seawall that buttressed Havana’s coastal highway, the Malecon — the northern boundary of the U.S. Embassy in Cuba. The Marines — specially trained Marine Embassy Guards — turned their backs to the sea and marched the American flag across the patio toward the embassy’s front entrance. They wore white caps and gloves, khaki shirts with matching ties, white belts, blue trousers and black shoes, spit-shined. They each carried a .38-caliber pistol.
As they ascended a short flight of steps leading to the entrance, a Cuban blocked Cpl. Larry Morris’ path.
“I had to get him out of my way,” Morris said, sitting in his Huntington kitchen last month — 54 years after he lowered the flag when the embassy closed in January 1961, after the United States severed diplomatic ties with Cuba.
“So I just give him the shoulder block,” Morris said, his words booming as if spoken through a bullhorn, from a throat filled with wet gravel. “I must’ve hit him pretty good,” he said, with a brief look of concern.
As he told the story, he cocked his right arm 90 degrees at the elbow and thrust it upward to demonstrate the move. His bicep — that of an athlete much younger than 75 — bulged beneath tan, sun-weathered skin.
“We brought the flag in and marched it down the hallway, into the Marine office,” Morris continued. “I said, ‘I gotta go out there and check that guy — I know I cracked him pretty damn good.’ ”
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The last time Larry Morris was in Cuba, he was destroying classified material and evacuating the U.S. Embassy. He was scheduled to fly to Havana early this morning to take part in a special ceremony, where the American flag will be hoisted atop the embassy flagpole for the first time since Morris helped take it down on Jan. 4, 1961…