MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - -- In a wartime environment, every Marine knows how important sailors are to mission accomplishment. Whether you’re in need of a religious professional to ease your mind or a corpsman to heal your wounds, Marines can always count on their brothers and sisters in arms to get them back in the fight.
Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Mark R. Williamson, the command master chief of 2nd Marine Division, has been responsible for the lives and well-being of roughly 900 division sailors since May 2004. But after 22-plus years of serving his country, the watch stands relieved.
Williamson, a native of Utica, N.Y., retired from active duty during a ceremony, Nov. 20, at the Field Medical Service School aboard Camp Johnson, N.C.
“In our business, especially when going into a fight, there’s no one we’d rather see to our left or right than a corpsman,” said Brig. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus, the assistant 2nd Marine Division commander. “You will never understand how much you truly mean to us guys that wear the eagle, globe and anchor; and you wear it with us.”
During the ceremony, Gurganus presented Williamson with the Legion of Merit on behalf of Lt. Gen. Robert R. Blackman Jr., the commander of Marine Corps Forces Command.
According to the award citation, Williamson’s innovation and endless commitment to the combat readiness and warfighting spirit of 2nd Marine Division ensured that each Marine and sailor in every unit was ready to deploy, fight and win. He was an invaluable advisor to two commanding generals and a shining example for all to emulate.
“He inspires everyone around him,” said Master Chief Joseph B. Langholtz, the command master chief of II Marine Expeditionary Force. “After serving with him for three years, there’s not a doubt in my mind that he’s left a positive impact on everybody he’s come in contact with.”
As the CMDCM of division, Williamson’s duties were equivalent to those of the division sergeant major. Williamson served as the liaison between division sailors and the division commanding general.
“I used to be a line corpsman (Company G, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division), so I know exactly what they’re going through,” Williamson said. “My job was to make sure they had everything they needed to do their job, which is supporting the Marines.”
During his military career, Williamson deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation’s Desert Shield and Desert Storm, to Kosovo in support of Operation Noble Anvil and, most recently, to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“Tom Brokaw wrote a book a few years ago, citing the men who fought during World War II as the greatest generation,” Williamson said. “The Marines and sailors of 2nd Marine Division are the true heroes of today; and I think he’s going to write a new book here soon.”
Williamson’s personal decorations include the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal (3rd award), Navy Achievement Medal (4th award), and Combat Action Ribbon.
To end the ceremony, Williamson quoted Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur, a Medal of Honor recipient and veteran of World War I, World War II and the Korean War.
“General MacArthur said it best, ‘Old soldiers never die, they just fade away’”, Williamson said. “I will now close my military career, and fade away. Goodbye.”