MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
There are numerous occurrences in the Marine Corps that serve as milestones to Marines; a promotion, a deployment, a rifle score or an award. While these achievements may hold great value to those who earn them, the honor of “Marine of the Year” is one not many Marines can claim.
Sgt. John Slawinski, a section leader with Assault Weapons Platoon, Company I, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, was named this year’s 1st Marine Division Marine of the Year during a ceremony at the 3/4 command post Dec. 9.
He was nominated by fellow Marines of his unit and then screened by a board made of previous Marines of the Year, according to the National Marine of the Year Society Web site, http://www.mcl-moy.org.
Slawinski said he heard he was the recipient of the award about three weeks ago and felt honored and humbled at the news.
Although he admitted that keeping an open mind got him where he is today, he attributed his success to his chain of command and quality of their leadership.
“More than anything, I took lessons from the Marines who came before me and those who’ve mentored me in my chain of command,” said Slawinski, a San Jose, Calif., native. “I’m sure there are many more Marines out there who are as equally deserving as I am. I really don’t have a big head about this, and I am more or less accepting this on behalf of all the Marines of India Company and 3/4.”
Lt. Col. Martin Wetterauer, the 3/4 battalion commanding officer, had a similar opinion.
“We are extremely proud of our Marine,” said Wetterauer. “He has shown dedication to the training he’s received here from his company commander and is leading Marines with the great effort he puts forth. This really is a reflection on how well the squad is working.”
Wetterauer said he also felt honored to have the 1st Marine Division commanding general, Maj. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, attend the ceremony and present Slawinski with a Navy Achievement Medal.
“We are very grateful that the division has taken time out of their schedule to do this,” said Wetterauer, a Fredericksburg, Va., native. “It’s very important to recognize this young sergeant for the work he puts into training his Marines.”
During the ceremony, Waldhauser said he believes Slawinski is a “classy example” of a young volunteer who signed his name on the dotted line of a government contract post-Sept. 11.
He added he always feels a deep sense of pride when Marines like Slawinski reflect a positive image of the division.
“You should all be proud that a Marine from your ranks has been given this high honor,” said Waldhauser.
Waldhauser, along with Sgt. Maj. Randall Carter, the 1st Marine Division sergeant major, shook hands with and congratulated Slawinski, his wife Emilie, and his chain of command after the ceremony.
Carter said in light of the impressive service Slawinski has provided to his Corps and country in only four years, there is no doubt in his mind that Slawinski is worthy of the award.
“He is a Marine who stands head and shoulders above his peers in the 1st Marine Division,” said Carter, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native. “Coming from being a competitive lance corporal last year to earning meritorious sergeant this year is a really great thing. There is no better feeling than knowing those are the kind of Marines who are making things happen.”
A Marine who earns the Marine of the Year award is honored at the annual National Convention Grand Banquet according to the Web site.
Although Slawinski said he does not plan on re-enlisting, those in his chain of command agree he will continue to be successful in whatever future he pursues.
“You will be successful no matter where you go,” said Waldhauser. “Whether you stay in for four years or for 34 years, we applaud your service.”