News: Through the years Marine Olympians represent country
Story by Lance Cpl. Scott L. Tomaszycki
CHERRY POINT, N.C. - The Olympic torch was put out Sunday and the athletes started their journeys home. For some of them, that meant returning to military base and waiting for their next assignment or deployment.
Since 1940, hundreds of service members and more than 80 Marines have called themselves Olympians. The Marine Corps has many athletic programs Marines can take advantage of and develop their skills in sport. World-class athletes share a lot in common with Marines, said
Maj. Greg Burgess, the executive officer of Marine Air Support Squadron 1, and former Olympian.
Burgess swam in the Olympics in 1992 and 1996, won a silver medal and then joined the Marine Corps in 1997.
“You have to have a serious work ethic to do both, and that’s something that’s carried over into my Marine Corps career,” said Burgess.
In terms of work ethic, Burgess spent about 27 hours every week training for swimming, six or seven days a week. He said it is his greatest takeaway from swimming and something he tries to pass down to his Marines. Work ethic is even more important for Marines, he said, because lives can ride on their work.
Sports organizations benefit from Marines in their ranks as well, said Jim Medley, a manager of several All-Marine Teams who works with the Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame at Headquarters Marine Corps. He pointed to Sgt. Jamel Herring, a Marine veteran with two tours in Iraq, who served as the captain of the 2012 U.S. Olympic boxing team.
“When they make these teams, a lot of people look at Marines for leadership and the things they do in the Marine Corps that carry over into being a leader as part of a U.S. team,” said Medley.
The Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame honors Marines who have made accomplishments in the world of sports.
The project started in 2001 and has inducted 45 members so far, including Burgess.
Medley said Marine athletes are recognized in part because they not only play sports, but fight for the freedom of people to pursue sports. While civilian Olympians represent their country, Burgess said it is not service in its own right.
“There’s a difference in representing and serving,” said Burgess. “You’ll hear some of the Olympians saying they’re serving the country. They’re representing our country, there’s a big difference. As a Marine, I honestly feel that I’m serving the country. Being an athlete is more about being yourself – being a Marine is really about service.”