MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Marines, sailors, family and friends joined together in making the family readiness officer for Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Master Gunnery Sgt. Marcia McLaurin’s last day in the Marine Corps a memorable one during her retirement ceremony at Liversedge Field, March 8.
“First and foremost I thank my lord and savior for all he has done for me,” said McLaurin. “I am truly blessed. I served 32 years in the United States Marine Corps. Not too many people get this opportunity and I am eternally grateful.”
She was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, West Indies and immigrated to the United States August of 1971. McLaurin enlisted in 1978, and graduated from Woman Recruit Training Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C.
Serving in more than 10 billets throughout different commands, she has remained motivated and dedicated to any position she was put it.
McLaurin deployed in support of operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and 2005.
After her second deployment, she was then transferred to Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, where she served as the base magistrate until 2008.
McLaurin had the chance to retire two years earlier, but was asked if she would stay a while longer to be the family readiness officer until 2010.
“What a dream job… to take care of families,” she said. “Who would pass up this opportunity? Not I. I jumped at the chance. I think it was my calling. I’ve been assisting Marines and their families throughout my career but this was to be my main focus. I loved it, boy did I ever. After working for all these wonderful Marines and different folks who love the lord, my stay in the Marine Corps was easy. Thank God for my health and all the wonderful people that played a part in my life.”
One of these people is Estella Joseph, McLaurin’s mother. However, she was a little skeptical about letting her daughter join the Marine Corps at first, but as time went on, she began to realize that she was in the right place.
“I tried to discourage her from going (to boot camp),” said Joseph, McLaurin’s proud mother. “She went in June of 1978 and I’ve shed many tears. But everybody I’ve met along the way has had only good things to say.”
McLaurin took time out to thank all her family members, friends and all the Marines and sailors she has encountered throughout her career. She jokingly added that she now has more time to spend with her husband and that they would use the time to go job hunting.
She also took time to reflect on when women in the Corps were only taught to be ladies.
“We wore gloves, we went to mandatory tea parties, we didn’t shoot any weapons and we didn’t wear slacks: all uniforms were skirts,” McLaurin said. “We also had to carry a pocket book with us. ‘Don’t dare leave home without it.’ Our physical training uniform was a Navy blue skort: shorts with the skirt overlay over it.”
She added that when she joined, female Marines weren’t trained as the males and should know the following: napkin placements on the table and lap and how to hold a teacup, pinky out.
“We were ladies, remember?” she added. “All the ladies only had to run a mile and half for a physical fitness test. The mile and half mark is when you began to sweat. You know me, as much as I love physical training I never do a mile and a half. I’m just warming up. I used to bring in the stragglers…that’s the male Marines, by the way.”
At the conclusion of McLaurin’s heartfelt speech, the teary-eyed Marine she showed her appreciation for the hard work and time the Marines put in to set up her regal ceremony.
“Marines, I thank you very, very much from the bottom of my heart,” she said. “You have made this a wonderful occasion for me and my family. I want you all to take advantage of every opportunity that you get.”
After the ceremony, people were invited to McLaurin’s reception at the base stables. There she was presented with more love, presents and praise from her fellow Marines, family and friends.
Several of the Marines in attendance had experienced McLaurin’s motherly love firsthand. One of them, Lance Cpl. Katherine Berry, administrative clerk with the Command Inspector General’s office, came to Camp Lejeune as a junior Marine and was grateful to be taken under McLaurin’s wing.
“Ever since I came here, Master Gunnery Sgt. McLaurin has played a major, major role in my life,” said Berry. “She helped me become who I am today. She encouraged me to go to school, she helped me physically train more and lose 30 pounds. I used to run with her every single morning and she would just keep pushing me and pushing me and pushing me… ‘Come on Berry!’ That went on for months. She just taught me to be the best that I can be. I’m going to miss her a lot.”
As more and more Marines, family and friends spoke on McLaurin’s behalf, it became apparent that she will be missed.
“I had a really good experience working with her,” said Sharon Walker, McLaurin’s former family readiness assistant with Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. “She’s very dedicated and selfless and basically will give you the shirt off her own back. We don’t have complaints (about her) at all. She’s great, she really is. That’s why we’re thinking, ‘who in the world is going to fill her shoes?’ They are definitely some shoes to fill.”