Gunny’s Retirement Ceremony

It was a big day. The culmination of a twenty-year career in the Marine Corps. There once was a nineteen year old kid who took a vow to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic and obey the orders of the President of the United States. Two decades and two Presidents later that young man has a few more miles on him, but he never faltered in that promise. Yesterday, we celebrated his retirement with a small ceremony at the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum, located just outside the gates of Naval Air Station Patuxent River. Guests came from as far away as California to support Dana. His best Marine friends (Dustin and Shari Conrad, married Gunnery Sergeants) drove up from New River, NC with their five kids. Ponder that for a second. Marines are freakin badass.

Meanwhile, as the guests gathered, Allison had a chance to explore the museum exhibits, including this training cockpit. (Pax River is where the Naval Test Pilot School is located). As you can see, she’s a natural cocky pilot–even wearing a fairy dress.


Allison “Maverick” Charter


Andrew McCorison a friend of Dana’s emceed the ceremony, and introduced the retiring official, Major Conrad Alston who also promoted Dana from SSgt to GySgt back in 2009 when Allison was just four weeks old. They said nice things about Dana. Described his positive attitude, his sense of fun, and his “old-school” work ethic. Mr. McCorison read letters of congratulation and gratitude from President Obama, Governor Inslee of Washington, the Commandant and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, and Congresswoman Suzan DelBene whose gracious letter mentioned Dana’s tireless work with the annual Toys for Tots campaign.

GySgt Charter Retired

Major Alston and Gunnery Sergeant Charter (Ret)

Then there was a crazy surprise. Dana’s mom Doris, Allison and I all got flowers (from Kenny’s Flowers) and then I got a certificate of appreciation from the Marine Corps and a handshake from Major Alston–all official! I snickered a little at “unselfish.”

MC certificate



Then Gunny Nick Brown presented Dana with a shadow box. It’s really amazing!


photo (1)

Then it was time for Dana’s speech. He was concerned that he would completely break down, but he held it together–he was emotional, certainly, but in control. It was a wonderful speech. He thanked Marines he’d worked with and he thanked his mom and step-dad for “Making me do what I didn’t want to do. For teaching me that when you screw up you man up and take your lumps.”

Gunny speech

He fought back tears as he told Allison that he knew he’d missed so much in the last five years, but “Daddy’s coming home.” I think everybody’s eyes leaked a tiny bit right there. Except for Allison, who was sitting sideways in her seat, showing MeMaw her underwear. Kids.

Finally Dana thanked me and called me his “42,” and concluded with “I’m never going to give you up. I’m never going to let you down.” I threw back my head and laughed. Yes, he Rick Rolled us all at his retirement ceremony.

After it was over there was a small reception on base catered by Bear Creek Barbecue–brisket and pulled pork…mmmm. Allison hit it off with the Conrad’s #4, six-year-old Ryan, and we’re convinced there’s a wedding in the future. I can’t imagine how badass a child with three Marine grandparents would be. Badass, or completely psycho–one of those.

Allison with her future husband and sister-in-law.

Allison with her future husband and sister-in-law. Photo by GySgt Shari Conrad.

Anyway, he’s retired! Technically on terminal leave until May 31, and technically transferred to the Fleet Marine Corps Reserves, and of course “Once a Marine, always a Marine,” BUT when the Corps says “jump” he no longer has to ask “how high?”

I’ll close out this post with what I think is one of the most moving traditions. It was read at the end of the ceremony by Gunny Nick Brown. It’s called “The Watch.”

For twenty years
This Marine has stood the watch

While some of us lay about our bunks at night
This Marine stood the watch

While others of us were attending schools
This Marine stood the watch

And, yes, even before many of us were born,
This Marine stood the watch

As our families watched the storm clouds of war brewing on the horizons of history
He stood the watch

This Marine looked ashore and saw his family often needing guidance
but he knew that he must stay because he had the watch.

For twenty years he stood the watch so that 
Our fellow countrymen could sleep soundly, in safety, 
Knowing that this Marine would stand the watch

Today we are here to say
The watch stands relieved
Relieved by those you have led, guided, and trained.

Gunnery Sergeant Charter, you stand relieved.
We have the watch.






About trixie360

The not-so secret identity of author Christa Charter.

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