What a long great trip it's been
By Lance Cpl. Jared Plotts
| | March 30, 2004
U.S. MARINE CORPS FORCES PACIFIC, CAMP H.M. SMITH, Hawaii --
His eyes are a solemn gray. You can tell a lot about a man by his eyes. Sometimes the eyes tell the truth better than words do. Sit down for a half an hour with this man and words like compassion and selflessness seem to slip out in between his sentences that have one focus in mind... Marines.
Master Sgt. Jerry Webb, Camp Smith MCCS and operations chief, will soon retire from the Marine Corps. During his 23 years of service Webb did what we are all suppose to do; he left the Corps a better place than when he found it.
The glossy top of his head cascades down beyond his worn eyes through the small wrinkles that run in every direction. The man is not old by any means; he is more seasoned than anything. Some would say the Marine Corps does that to you, in a good way of course.
Born in Kentucky, this grandfather of one, with two more on the way, speaks to younger Marines like a concerned uncle. The Hawaiian and Polynesian cultures believe in calling all elders "aunty" or "uncle," regardless of their family tree; so it only seems fitting Webb will finish his career in Hawaii.
Webb originally joined the Corps as a tanker in 1980.
"I would have been a coal miner or worked on the railroad back in Kentucky if I didn't join," said Webb.
"Out of a family of ten I'm the only one who completed 20 years of service," Webb said, with a certain warmth and contention in his voice.
When he was a lance corporal, Webb's job field was closed and he was told he couldn't become a full-time tanker. Webb made a lateral move in 1981, working for the Morale Welfare and Recreation service in Camp Lejeune, N.C.
"I did three NATO floats out in cold weather environments. When it snowed, I sold candy bars out of my sled to the grunts," he said.
Webb's career has taken him across the states and back again, including tours in Iwakuni and Panama.
The 15 months he spent at Marine Barracks, Panama, was the greatest duty he ever had.
"The people were superb. We were all real close there," Webb said.
"I remember one of my ol' employees, Johnny Beaut, a shoe shine. He would always do the Panamanian dance at the clubs. He'd be flippin' his cigarette and doin' a dance, and at the same time he'd be playing pool and drinking a beer. I just have some great memories from there," he said, smiling.
Webb said while Panama was his favorite duty station, his toughest duty was as a recruiter in Kentucky. Webb was a recruiter for 38 months and was a gunnery sergeant at the time.
"At that stage in the ball game, I won't say you're set in your ways, but it's pretty tough being an older Marine, going out trying to get 17 and 18-year-old young men and women to join the Corps. They sorta look at you like a father figure," he continued.
Webb ended up here after a successful tour recruiting in Kentucky.
Webb has lived in Hawaii for five years with his wife and two stepdaughters.
"The oldest is in junior ROTC, and I think she is going to become a military officer. She's got that 'oorah' mentality," he said.
Webb said every Sunday is family day. He understands the importance of family outside of his brothers and sisters in the Corps.
"We try to go out and go to the movies, and eat out. Other than that I spend a lot of my time at work."
Webb works about 70 to 80 hours a week.
"There is no such thing as an eight hour day in this business. You're always working when everybody else is off. You don't go home until the job is done."
Now, after 23 years in the Corps, Webb's job is almost done. He officially retires July 31.
"After years of doing this, I'll try to stay in this type of business or start a business of my own. Just as long as I'm doing something that's taking care of people, I think I'll be alright."
Marines have always taken care of their own. For Webb taking care of others has gone hand-in-hand with his profession. All he wants to do when he retires is continue to help others. Compassion is just in his nature, maybe it should be in everyone's.
"I've always wanted that pride of belonging, that pride in doing something good for yourself, and it's paid its dividends...ten fold," his voice inflection lowered as his sentence came to an end. It was like he knew it was the end of the interview. He knew it was the end of a long and great career.