ALBANY, Ga - For most individuals, retiring once in their lifetime is an accomplishment, but having the opportunity to do so twice in 43 years is rare.
Dick French, a retired Marine and former director, Marine Corps Community Services, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, will officially retire for the second time, Wednesday.
French, a native of Lebanon, Ind., joined the Marine Corps in 1968 at the age of 17 and attended recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, Calif. Not yet old enough for the Vietnam War, he was sent to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., until he turned 18.
“As soon as I turned 18, I received orders for Vietnam and spent a year there,” he said. “After Vietnam, I was reassigned to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, California, where I worked on the rifle and pistol ranges.”
From there, French was transferred to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C., where he worked in the noncommissioned officer and staff noncommissioned officer clubs.
In 1976, he was assigned to Marine Barracks London, England, where he continued his work in the clubs field. French was promoted to the rank of gunnery sergeant and later sent to Marine District Recruiting Command in Long Island, N.Y.
“While in New York, I submitted my package for warrant officer selection and was chosen for the exchange field,” he said. “After becoming a warrant officer in 1982, I was assigned to the Warrant Officer Basic Course in Quantico, Virginia. I remained in Quantico as the assistant exchange officer.”
French, a limited duty officer, reported to MCLB Albany July 1, 1985, to accept the position as the exchange officer and retired as a captain in 1990. Some of his awards include the Purple Heart and Navy Achievement Medal with combat V for being wounded in Vietnam.
“After retiring, I returned to work here as the operations manager for Morale, Welfare and Recreation and later as the store manager for the Marine Corps Exchange, before becoming head of business operations at MCCS,” French said.
In 2005, French became the MCCS director with responsibility for the MCX, base restaurants, Child Development Center, sports programs, auto skills center and Marine and Family Programs.
“Through the various components of MCCS, we are able to touch Marines and their families in every way, from taking care of their babies to supplying equipment for outdoor recreation,” he said. “I’ve been successful here because I’ve had 206 great people to work with and support me all the way.”
Deborah Bouyer, former deputy director, MCCS, who succeeded French as the MCCS director said he leaves a rich history that covers 43 years of service to the Marine Corps.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Dick and witnessed him pouring out his time, talents and resources to improve and maintain the quality of life for our Marines, Sailors, retirees and their dependents,” she said.
Bouyer added French’s hard work will not be discontinued nor forgotten and will be carried on for many years to come.
Paula Caserio, director, Marine Corps Family Team Building, MCCS, echoed Bouyer’s comments.
(French) has dedicated his career and his life to the Marine Corps and always sought the best for the Marines, Sailors and their families,” she said.
Caserio added French was always fighting for the best interest of the Marines and continues to do so.
“Because of his decisions, the quality of life has greatly improved for the families,” she said. He will be sorely missed.”
Kent D. Morrison, executive director, MCLB Albany, has worked with French for many years.
"When I first met Dick, it was obvious to me that he loved Marines and their families,” he said. “I hired Dick to be my deputy director of MCCS when I was the director of MCCS. He possessed the skills and the passion for the job.
“I always enjoyed his can-do approach to any undertaking or idea,” Morrison continued. “He found solutions--not excuses.”
Morrison also said he and French have celebrated the Marine Corps Birthday Ball together for the past several years.
“We sit together at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball every year and have made a promise to always share this special day together,” he said. “French is a warrior, having fought and been wounded in the Vietnam War, and I deeply respect and appreciate his service to our Corps and this great nation, but most importantly I am proud to call him my friend."
French said he is not the type of person to sit around and do nothing and has already begun looking for work.
“I have enjoyed every bit of my service to the Marine Corps and am looking forward to my next chapter in life which will begin with taking a few weeks off, get some yard work and other tasks done around the house,” he said. “It’s been a great ride and I’m not quite ready to fully retire, but I am ready to slow the train down and take some of the high spots out of the roller coaster.”