MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit said goodbye to one of its respected leaders during a retirement ceremony May 4, which concluded a 29-year-long career in the Marine Corps for Sgt.Maj. Richard “Rick” Cunningham.
Cunningham, from New Richmond, Wis., reported to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego on June 22, 1983. After experiencing recruit training first had, he was inspired to become a drill instructor himself. Just five years later, he was shaping recruits into Devil Dogs at the very same depot.
During his Marine Corps career, Cunningham was the sergeant major of 3rd Medical Battalion, 3rd Force Service Support Group, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163, Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 3 and the 15th MEU.
Cunningham was presented the Legion of Merit at the ceremony, which was awarded for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements.
“I didn’t get this [medal],” said Cunningham in reference to his new award. “I like to think these Marines behind me got me this medal. They’re a small representation of all the things I’ve ever served for and led over the past 12 years in the Marine Corps.”
Col. Scott D. Campbell, commanding officer, 15th MEU, gave farewell remarks to the sergeant major who had served alongside him for the past year.
“It’s a special day for the sergeant major,” said Col. Scott D. Campbell, commanding officer, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. “You do something for 29 years, and that’s what you become. It’s a happy day for your family, I’m sure, but it’s a sad day for you because this is what you do, what you know.”
Few Marines continue their enlistment for almost three decades and even fewer accomplish as much as Cunningham did over the period of his service.
“He’s served in every element of the [Marine Air Ground Task Force],” added Campbell. “That’s a hell of an accomplishment. Serving your country has been well spent. And today we celebrate those 29 years of commitment and service and a job well done. We truly appreciate your service and you will be missed.”