GREAT LAKES, Ill. – On March 28, 1986, a Kemmerer, Wyoming, native enlisted in the military and on July 8, 1986, he shipped to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in California to earn the title of United States Marine. It’s now 30 years later and Sgt. Maj. John S. Hawes, the 9th Marine Corps District sergeant major, prepares to retire from the Marine Corps, but not before giving a few words of wisdom.
1. Ears, open. Eyeballs, click.
“The secret is just to dig in, fight and don’t give up,” advised Hawes, a prior drill instructor, to individuals preparing to ship to boot camp. “It’s easy to quit, but earning that title of United States Marine far outweighs the easy.”
2. “I love you…”
“To the families, wives, husbands, children, significant others, we appreciate the support and the ‘I love you’ when we’re out there executing orders,” said Hawes. “You take care of the home front when we’re gone and we don’t take you for granted.”
3. To the recruiters: Have fun, Marines
“Recruiters need to enjoy the one or two days they get off, have some fun and unwind,” said Hawes. “They put in countless hours and sacrifice a lot, but they’re out there finding the next generation of elite warriors.”
4. Spit shine boots
“Take pride in the uniform you wear,” Hawes advises Marines. “I used to have to spit shine boots, which we don’t do anymore, but I’ve always had pressed uniforms and looked sharp. Take pride in the uniform you worked hard to earn.”
5. Inspection ready
“As a young Marine, I always found the countless inspections useless like, ‘Why do I need to keep cleaning my weapon time after time?’” said Hawes. “You soon realize that there’s a purpose for everything Marines do… we inspect to make sure we’re ready when the nation is least ready.”
As Hawes gets ready to hang up his uniform, he says the thing he’s going to miss the most is the comradery with his fellow Marines.
“The brotherhood Marines have is like none other,” Hawes said as he reflects on his career. “Knowing that I can rely on the person to the left and to the right of me. I’ve seen Marines facing overwhelming odds, but they fight anyway, for our fellow Marines, our Corps and our country. We’ll keep fighting until there’s no fight left in us and I’m really going to miss being surrounded by people with that kind of mindset.”
His personal awards include the Meritorious Service Medal with gold star in lieu of third award, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with gold star in lieu of second award, and the Combat Action Ribbon.
Hawes served his nation for 30 years with honorable and faithful service, and as he retires the motto remains true, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.”