MARINE CORPS CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- MARINE CORPS CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., Jan. 8, 2015 - Marines and Sailors devote a majority of their professional lives to the development and success of the beloved Corps and Fleet Marine Force. Eventually, the day arrives when those men and women must tie their boots and button their blouses one last time.
Master Chief Petty Officer Robert Lemons, the Command Master Chief Petty Officer with the 1st Marine Division, retired from the U.S. Navy after 30 years of honorable service aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 8, 2016.
The journey to command master chief started at a very young age for Lemonsas he looked back on his father’s career in the Navy.
“My dad was a gunner’s mate on the battleship [USS] Tennessee,” Lemons said. “He had a cruise book and I used to sit and look at it my whole childhood and I knew that I was always going to be a Sailor.”
Lemons began the extensive military chapter of his life in 1986 when he attended Navy recruit training and transitioned into the world of military medicine.
His first state-side tour landed him at Naval Hospital Bremerton, Washington where he learned the basics of the medical field. After his initial stay working at the Naval hospital, Lemons moved to Hawaii to work with the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. During his assignment in Hawaii he deployed in support of Operation Desert Storm, and over the next two decades he deployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom several times with the 5th Marine Regiment and the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.
After such a long and accomplished career, Lemons had some choice words of encouragement to share with the Sailors attending his retirement, some of whom travelled from as far as Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, to be a part of his ceremony.
“I love Sailors and I love what you do,” the Nampa, Idaho native stated. “If I could turn back the clock and start all over again, I would do it. Every choice that you make should be about your happiness.”
Lemons also stressed the importance of family care as much as completing the mission.
“Everybody comes into the Navy for one reason; that’s for an opportunity for the pursuit of happiness,” Lemons said. “What matters at the end of the day is that you have a transition-able skill to take into the civilian world where you can take care of your family.”
To the command master chief, treating the Marines and Sailors around him like his family is a priority in life and as a leader.
“He’s definitely a Sailor’s Sailor,” explained Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Whalen, a corpsman with the 1st Mar. Div. “He looks out after everybody else before he looks after himself. I think that at heart he didn’t forget where he came from and that made him a better person.”
The packed venue was evidence of Lemons’ amiability and the respect he’d earned in so many years of leading Sailors.
“We deal with a humble man,” Maj. Gen. Daniel J. O’Donohue, commanding general of 1st Mar. Div., said of Lemons. “The petty officers are the future of the Navy and the proudest thing he has is the performance of those [noncommissioned officers] on which he can measure his performance.”
O’Donohue explained how Lemons would continue his support to service members by assisting with the Wounded Warrior Regiment in retirement, before wishing the master chief a farewell.
“Give this man a salute and let’s see this Sailor off right,” said O’Donohue.