MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Of all the traditions and sayings in the Marine Corps, "Once a Marine, Always a Marine" holds a special place in the hearts of veterans.
It becomes more than just a saying, but a way of living. For Chuck Adrianson, his three years and 10 months of active-duty service in the Marine Corps built the foundation for a life that, up until death, would be dedicated to giving back to the Corps and his comrades.
Adrianson’s love of the Corps led him to more than 60 years of combined contributions to the Marine Corps. From active duty, to becoming the president of the West Coast Toys for Tots program, to founding a scholarship program for wounded veterans, he loved Marines and the Marine Corps right up until his last breath.
A memorial service held in honor of the man and Marine Adrianson was at the Center for Spiritual Living in Palm Desert, Calif., Saturday.
“Whatever they taught him in boot camp all those years ago must have stuck with him,” said Terry Adrianson, wife of Adrianson and co-founder of the Desert Scholarship Program. “He was a true man’s man, and a Marine’s Marine. He dedicated his whole life to giving back to Marines, and never once asked for anything in return.”
While Adrianson was in the Marine Corps, he served more than half of his active service overseas, fighting in the Korean War.
“This is where he developed his love for helping veterans,” said Daniel K. Mulvihill, tactical safety specialist, 7th Marine Regiment, and friend of Adrianson. “He was there; he fought through combat, and learned the terrors of war. When anyone goes through something like that, it changes you. For Adrianson, it led him to want to help Marines.
After his discharge, Adrianson wasted no time getting involved with the Marines as a veteran volunteer. He began working with the Marine Corps League of Glendale, where he worked his way up to Commandant.
“He really enjoyed his time in the league, and particularly the Toys for Tots program,” Terry said. “He left the league to be a part of West Coast Toys for Tots, where he eventually became the president.”
While running the West Coast Toys for Tots program, Adrianson became involved in the Marine Corps Scholarship program in Los Angeles, Calif., where he would meet his wife, Terry.
“For whatever reason, he never stopped loving Marines,” said Terry. “I can remember no matter where we were or what we were doing, there were always Marines over. If they weren’t over, he was talking and mentoring them over the phone. He gave every moment he had to helping Marines.”
From L.A., Adrianson and his wife moved to Palm Desert, where they founded the Desert Scholarship Program for wounded veterans.
“Our application process was simple,” Terry said. “We wanted to give wounded veterans an opportunity to pursue the school and career of their dreams. We awarded 153 recipients with Marine Corps scholarships. These individuals made a sacrifice and commitment to their country, and each was well-deserving.”
To fund the scholarships, Adrianson and Terry accepted various donations as well as hosted golf tournaments to raise the money.
“It wasn’t hard to come up with the money,” Terry said. “Everyone knew what we were doing, and knew the money was going to a good cause.”
While some of the scholarship recipients went on to be doctors, teachers and lawyers, one man, Ricardo Bengochea, took his scholarship and decided to follow in the footsteps of Adrianson.
“He was such an inspiration to me, I wanted to use my scholarship and pursue a field where I could give back to wounded veterans, like he did,” said Bengochea, wounded veteran and scholarship recipient.
Bengochea, who was wounded in Iraq, applied and was accepted for the scholarship program. From that point, he and Adrianson kept in close contact and continued their bond through love of the Marine Corps.
“He had to have been the most humble guy I knew,” Bengochea said. “His contributions to the Marine Corps were remarkable.”
Bengochea used his scholarship to pursue a degree in business, and now runs Bullyz 4 Vets, which is a non-profit animal shelter that provides service dogs to wounded veterans.
“Adrianson definitely inspired my passion to want to help veterans,” Bengochea said. “What he gave back was unmatchable, but I’m blessed to be able to do my part in giving back what I received.”
Adrianson, who passed away in April from heart complications, dedicated his entire life to helping Marines. He is loved and remembered by many for his contributions, but will live on through his legacy of upholding the highest standard of what it means to be, "Once a Marine, Always a Marine."
“I remember the last thing he said to me,” Bengochea said. “He told me that no matter what I did in life to always remember two things: ‘Take care of your family, and your brother and sister Marines.’”