MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
The word ‘dedication,’ as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, means self-sacrificing devotion. For some people who display a sense of dedication, that definition may not be enough to fully describe the true motivation behind the work they do.
One of those individuals is Richard M. Johnson, material handler supervisor at the Camp Lejeune Ammunition Supply Point and retired gunnery sergeant. With 20 years in the Marine Corps as well as 30 years of civilian service, his career totals 50 years of Department of Defense service. It is this achievement that earned him a certificate of commendation for his service in front of Building 1 aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune after morning colors, July 8.
“It feels like we have a genuine connection,” said Maj. Gen. Carl B. Jensen, commanding general of Marine Corps Installations East. “He joined (the Marine Corps) in 1953 when I was born, and he retired in 1975 when I joined.”
Johnson joined the Marine Corps Aug. 1, 1953, as a machine gunner with 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, for two years before moving into the ammunition field. For the next 18 years, his career would take him to such places as Beirut, Lebanon, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and twice to Vietnam, all during the respective wars or conflicts.
After retiring from the Marine Corps, Johnson stayed with the Marines in the civil service, working at the Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune for 13 years as a work leader in the medical warehouse. It wasn’t until 1993, 18 years after his retirement from the ammo field, when he rejoined his military occupational specialty as the general foreman at the ASP where he continues to work, known in the ammo community as the “Godfather of Ammo.”
“I’m receiving an award today, but every day I come to work is a reward,” said Johnson. “I’ve been here all this time because I love what I do. I need to feel like I’m accomplishing something when I go home at the end of the day.”
While Johnson is happy with the job he is doing, the road to where he is now has not been an easy one, either for him or his wife. Being an Army brat, Johnson knew the impact the military had on families, and was sure to leave the Corps after his first four years if she had not given him her full support.
“When he asked me to marry him, he asked if I wanted to marry a Marine, to which I said ‘I didn’t know any,’” said his wife. “He said he joined, so I went to the public library to look up what the Marines were. It had its ups and downs, but I was always behind him and told him to do what he felt comfortable doing. It’s been a great 53 and one-half years.”
It is not often when someone gives half a century to a cause, and such a show of true dedication should not go unnoticed. Johnson will continue to work at the ASP aboard base and shows no signs of slowing down.
“I can’t be a couch potato, I need to be doing something,” said Johnson. “I’ll still be working until I’m unable to walk, be it in another year or after my 60 years award.”