MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Salt and peppered hair and a lifetime of priceless experience is given to those who’ve served 30 years of duty in the Marines, but for those few of the few and proud who excelled beyond the rest are awarded for their effort. Retired Master Gunnery Sgt. Jack Pursel, previously the II Marine Expeditionary Force maintenance chief, stood proud as Lt. Gen. Keith J. Stalder, commanding general of II MEF, awarded him the Legion of Merit Medal to culminate 30 years of outstanding service.
“This man has been a great leader and I am proud to have served with him,” Stalder said while addressing Pursel’s family and fellow Marines.
Pursel started as an infantry assaultman, later cross-training into the maintenance field. He soon married, but instead of allowing his personal life to weaken his work ethic, he embodied the Marine Corps into every facet of his life.
“My husband believes in the Corps and the founding principles of the Corps,” Pursel’s wife said
“I recall when we were first married he told me ‘I love you but you need to understand the Marine Corps comes first!’” Pursel’s wife said, “I didn’t understand that at the time, but I came to learn that he had such a sincere dedication to the Corps.”
Pursel was the Combat Service Support Battalion maintenance chief at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was appointed the billet of the CSSB sergeant major and attached to Task Force Tarawa in March 2003. Pursel stood up to the request and became the CSSB Sergeant Major successfully earning a Bronze Star Medal.
Living up to the task of a sergeant major was not an easy one. Pursel became the representative of his enlisted Marines and their actions reflected directly upon him.
“You hope that you’re a great enough leader to bring out the best in them and hopefully I did that,” the local Jacksonville, N.C. native said.
Pursel led by example as a Marine and this did not go unseen by his family and especially his son who plans on attending Officer Candidate School this summer.
“Jack is a leader and a man of his word,” Pursel’s wife said. “He’s hardworking, consistent, honest, disciplined, practical, logical, and thorough in everything he does,” she said. “Our son has had these qualities instilled in him from birth as daily ‘active living’ examples.”
According to the Legion of Merit qualifications, Pursel earned the award for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service because of his excellent leadership during his Marine Corps career. He doesn’t believe the award was given solely because of his own actions, but because of his Marines’ performance.
“You don’t do it on your own,” Pursel said. “Either your Marines make you look good or they don’t.”
Pursel credited his Marine Corps success to those he led from stateside to combat. He felt that if he taught his Marines how to do things the right way, they would get the job done. His method of leadership has followed him throughout his career and it didn’t go unnoticed.
“He dared to do things differently,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Robert Boyd, the II MEF communications chief and long-time friend of Pursel.
The maintenance field was where he met and befriended Boyd.
“Maintenance chiefs usually stay in their field, but he’s done quite a bit out of his Military Occupation Specialty,” Boyd said.
Pursel protected the American embassy in Moscow while on Marine Security Guard detail in his younger years. Afterward, he went to the Electronic Maintenance Company in Okinawa, Japan, balancing between civilian contractors and the Marine Corps’ needs. MSG duty and working with government contracts maintaining military electronic systems made Pursel an excellent candidate for future success in his career.
“He was a self-driven, determined Marine even as a staff sergeant,” Boyd said.
Pursel’s determination to be an excellent leader sent him to II MEF as the maintenance chief.
“He was my right hand man,” Boyd said.
Pursel didn’t give up his drive for success while working as the maintenance chief for II MEF. He made sure he was directly involved in every maintenance issue for his Marine Expeditionary Force.
“If there was anything dealing with radio, cryptological or electronic maintenance, Pursel had something to do with it,” Boyd said.
Pursel left the Corps as an excellent Marine earning the Legion of Merit Medal and also blazed a trail for other Marines in his field to earn the same success with his leadership traits.
“He’s done 30 years,” Boyd said. “You can’t ask anymore than that. We appreciate his service to his country and we will miss him.”