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« 100 Days of Gratitude - Day Twelve - Smart & Creative People | Main | 100 Days of Gratitude - Day Ten - iPad »
Thursday
Feb032011

100 Days of Gratitude - Day Eleven - Sgt. Major Harvey Gilmore

I'm grateful for the late Sgt/Maj Harvey Milton Gilmore, USMC Ret.

For those who don't know from a previous post on this 100 Days of Gratitude project, I attended the Marine Military Academy from Fall of 1977-May 1982. For all of that time I was in Delta Company, and my Drill Instructor was Sgt/Maj. Gilmore.

I started at MMA in 8th Grade and because I was one of the younger kids, I my room (it was boarding school) was situated two doors down from the Drill Instructors Quarters (his apartment). I lived in that same room for three years and I was typically the first room that Gilmore looked into when he walked out of his apartment in the morning. He kept me on track.

He also scared the shit out of me - especially when I was younger! I was never quite sure if he would bolt over the desk and rip my throat out with his teeth or not. He certainly seemed capable of doing this. I would have to knock on his office door to ask for change for the Coke machine, and I'd literally have to work up the nerve to knock and ask - after all, he was a bulldog looking Marine with a gruff, gravel filled voice who spent 31 years in the Marine Corps. He had attained the 2nd highest rank an elisted man could attain - short of being Sgt/Maj of the Marine Corps - and there was only ONE of them. He had been the Senior Drill Instructor at USMC Recruit Depot Parris Island and he was the last Marine of his rank to leave Vietnam. In short - he was a bad ass.

Here's a video about MMA featuring Sgt/Maj Gilmore.

 

As I got older I began to understand him a little better and when I figured out that he wouldn't rip my throat out (though he always held a power of respect, of prescense) and I got to know him better, I realized that he cared deeply for the students entrusted to him. As I became Delta Company's First Sergeant and eventually Commanding Officer, and had to work closer with him, I realized that everything he did, he did because he knew he was entrusted with molding the 65-68 kids in his care into "young men". He taught me lessons every single day, whether he realized it or not.

It wasn't until I saw him with his Granddaughter the first time, I think it was in 1981, that I realized he was a big teddy bear.

He saw potential in me, even when everyone else saw me as the little kid who was always in trouble - nothing ever malicious, but always about being a smart ass (now I make a living that way!). He saw enough potential that he actively sought out scholarships and "angels" so I could keep attending MMA when my Mom got sick and could no longer afford the tuition. He saw the potential and invested himself in me. A debt I can never repay.

We were very close. Whenever anything big happened in my life I'd call my Mom, then I'd call Sgt/Maj Gilmore. He and Mrs. Gilmore came to Austin to a party that my Mom threw, and I'm told that mine was the first wedding of a former cadet outside of the Rio Grande Valley that he attended.

When he passed away I got phone calls from half a dozen staff members at MMA letting me know and, of course, I attended his funeral.

Being raised by a single mom, and never knowing my dad, it's the closest to burying a parent as I can imagine. And it sucked. At his funeral I waited around graveside to have a private moment. I believe I would have lost it completely, but Gunny Ski saw what was happening and interrupted and kept me from breaking down. Those were wise, wise men - we just didn't always see it.

I still have a picture of Gilmore in the hallway of our home, and for years I've had one above my desk reminding me to get back to work. And when he told me to work, I did, and I do.

Thank you Sgt/Major Gilmore for all you did, for molding me into the man I am, for teaching me discipline, for keeping on me about my studies, for seeing my potential, for trusting me with leadership positions and for your continuted support and even friendship after I graduated. I miss you every day.

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Reader Comments (3)

CJ,

That is a beautiful tribute to Sgt. Major Gilmore, I am delighted to find it and read your name as the author. Excellent!//Bill Maltsberger

August 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBill Maltsberger

Very well written, I knew the Sgt. Maj. from S.N.A. Sanford Naval Academy and YES he scared the crap out of me but I knew he was a good guy.

August 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRick Van Alphen

I also knew Sgt Maj Gilmore at Sanford Naval Academy. He changed my life for the better and instilled a drive and discipline in me. Respected him and grew to love him. He was a GREAT friend and mentor. I had lost track of him in the early 80s and am sorry to hear of his passing. Semper Fi Sergeant Major, I miss you.

November 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChip Del Plato

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