MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (Feb. 1, 2011) --
If you’re a member of the air station and visited the Naval Health Clinic Cherry Point, it’s more than likely an older, beard-bearing, small-statured man greeted you at the door as you entered the building.
That man is Charles Miller, a Red Cross volunteer affectionately known as ‘Chuck’ at the clinic. He is a retired Marine master gunnery sergeant and proudly wears patriotic pins on his red volunteer vest.
“He can put a smile on anybody’s face,” said Hospital Mate 3rd class Cynthia E. Mann, a hospital corpsman at the clinic. “No matter who walks in or who walks out, he greets every single person.”
After 30 years of faithful service to the United States Marine Corps from 1950-1980, Miller swung into his retirement, golfing as much as he could, until a shoulder injury hindered his golfing days.
“I played a lot of golf – everyday – I love golf,” Miller said. “My shoulder though, for that reason I said, well, I might as well volunteer to help Marines.”
His wife of 58 years approved and they haven’t looked back.
“She is so sweet,” Miller said of his high school sweetheart. “She has stood with me through all of these years.”
The Marine Corps was a centerpiece for many of those years, even though the Corps wasn’t the path Miller envisioned himself on as a young man growing up in Northampton, Pa.
He thought he’d own a farm with a lot of animals, like his uncle, Charles, he said.
“I want to be big and fat like Uncle Charles,” Miller used to tell his mother.
He wanted to be like his uncle, Charles, so much that he requested his mother to start calling him Charles rather than Sonny, which was how his mother referred to him.
Charles stuck, but the farm dream faded.
In high school, Miller found himself working as an usher at a local theater with a buddy who turned out to be his door opener into the Corps.
Miller said his buddy screwed something up really bad at the theater.
“He got fired and he came up to me the next morning and said, let’s join the Navy,” Miller explained. “I said OK and we went down to join. The Navy recruiter wasn’t there, but the Marine recruiter was, so my friend said, let’s join the Marines.”
Miller said he passed the recruiter’s initial screening test and was at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., a few weeks later, whereas his buddy flunked the test and went back home.
“Remembering it … it’s a pretty funny story,” said Miller.
Miller’s career in the Marine Corps took him from one end of the world to the other, from deployments to Korea and Vietnam, to duty stations in California, Hawaii, Iwakuni, Okinawa and Havelock, N.C.
While being stationed at Cherry Point in 1973, Miller and his wife decided to build a home in Havelock.
“My wife said we’re staying here,” said Miller. “She couldn’t stand the cold up north anymore.”
Miller administratively retired from the Marine Corps in 1980 as a maintenance chief with Marine Aircraft Group 14.
To this day, Miller’s heart still stands with the Corps, and most people would say he didn’t quite retire because he still lives the Marine Corps life.
“It’s something somebody has to do and I’m the one to do it,” Miller said.
“You can see how much everybody appreciates him,” said Mann.