MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE -- The dirt roads and farm lands of Great Depression era Havre de Grace, Md., where retired Sgt. Maj. Marion P. Carcirieri grew up are a far cry from the bustling business of the Marine Mart aboard Camp Geiger where he is now manager.
Born Dec. 31, 1925, Carcirieri, or “Mister Cass” as his coworkers have come to call him, lived in arguably the hardest time in America’s history.
“I grew up on an old dirt farm. Poor people in them days during the Depression,” Carcirieri said sternly. “There was no radio, no lights, nothing, with just a little bit of food. You had to work for a living in those days, even as a boy. I plowed the fields on the farm while I followed the mule, planted tomatoes, picked corn and did pretty much anything to stay alive.”
“It was a hard life,” he added.
Throughout his adolescence, Carcirieri had a single burning desire: to become a United States Marine. When America entered World War II, he knew this was his chance to change from a poor farmer to a hard charging devil dog.
“I can’t even explain it, ever since I was born I wanted to be a Marine,” Carcirieri remembered. “I don’t know where that came from because we didn’t have electricity, radios or TV in those days ... ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a Marine.”
Carcirieri wasn’t of legal age to enlist, but it didn’t stop him from joining his brother and cousin who both signed up a few years before him.
“I didn’t exactly tell the truth about my age when I joined the Marine Corps,” Carcirieri chuckled. “I was a very young man at that time, and I wanted to join. I told my recruiter I was 17, but I really don’t remember how old I was when I joined. I can say I was younger than 17.”
The lines of his face, seemingly formed from the pages of history itself, shaped an arch as Carcirieri smiled while remembering his boot camp experience.
“I went to Parris Island and one of my cousins was a drill instructor down there at the time,” Carcirieri said. “I paid hell for that because my drill instructors found out who I was and that was bad. But, it was all fun, and I came out of it as a better person.”
After achieving his childhood dream, Carcirieri became an infantryman with 6th Marine Division during WWII.
“I was at the Battle of Okinawa, inthe Korean War and the Vietnam War,” Carcirieri relented. “I made it through all three of those wars and only got wounded once, so I guess the good Lord was looking out for me. In them days, it wasn’t any fun, but it was good to be with the boys I was with.”
Before the Battle of Okinawa, Carcirieri recalled the calm before landing at invasion beach.
“There wasn’t really any opposition until we landed. That’s when we had the big battle,” Carcirieri said. “It was some bad, bad stuff. Most of them guys I knew back in those days is either gone or I’ve lost track of them.”
The 87-year-old Carcirieri let out a sigh of relief as he recounted what happened when Japan finally surrendered.
“After the war, planes flew overhead announcing it had ended, and we were all firing off our weapons and hollering with excitement,” Carcirieri said. “I met up with my brother on Okinawa. He was on one end of the island and I was on the other. It was a really memorable experience for me. It was a great feeling we had both made it through there.”
In 1974, Carcirieri retired from the Marine Corps. Thirty one years of faithful service, surviving three wars, marrying his sweetheart, Joan, and having a son and daughter filled his life with boundless adventure. However, this was not the end of his story. For Caririeri, it was just the first few chapters.
Carcirieri started working for Marine Corps Community Services in 1976. He’s served under the MCCS banner for more than 37 years and enjoys every day he can show his support.
“I really appreciated being helpful and still being able to serve,” Carcirieri said. “Everyone I’ve worked with over the years has taught me something new every day since I started working at MCCS.”
His fellow MCCS colleagues look up to Carcirieri’s dedication.
“He’s been one of the best managers I’ve worked with and makes me want to be a great manager,” said Brenda Hill, Camp Geiger Marine Mart assistant manager. “His ‘go get ‘em’ attitude is a true inspiration.”
Carcirieri won Employee of the Month, Employee of the Year and Supervisor of the Year awards several times since he started working for MCCS.
Carcirieri said what gets him out of bed each morning is the chance to see the Marines and sailors who walk into his store.
“That’s what it’s all about for me,” Carcirieri said. “Seeing those young men and women continue the traditions and the legacy my friends and I carried for all those years truly makes me happy and push on like I always have.”
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