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Sgt. Maj. Charles McDew, sergeant major, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, 7th Marine Regiment, assumed leadership of "Darkside" in January of 2016 and has served in the Marine Corps for more than 20 years. (Official Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo/ Released)

Photo by Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo

What I’ve Learned: Charles McDew

8 Aug 2016 | Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

I’m originally from Atlanta, Georgia. I had nine aunts and uncles, and there were five of us, brothers and sisters. I had a good family. We didn’t have a whole lot of money but we had a whole lot of love.

Atlanta was kind of rough. I went to a school where you had to learn how to take care of yourself.

Growing up, I played sports and was in the band for a little bit. After high school, I took a break and spent some time as a truck driver. I met my wife through a mutual friend and after we had our first daughter we decided “let’s do something different.”

I didn’t know a lot about the military, but when I walked in to the Marine Corps’ recruiting office and I looked over and saw that recruiter I thought, “well hell, if I’m going to be somebody I guess I’m going to be one of them.” It turns out I made a good choice.

My first four years were kind of rough. I never intended to be here this long but, like I did my wife, I fell in love with it and I’ve been here ever since.

I think the one thing that keeps me driving is when I look at my kids and all they can say is “we’re so proud of you.” I know in 30 years I have to go home, that’s what my wife and I agreed on, but they make me want to stay for 35 or 40 years.

I have three girls. One is 26 years old, one is 18, one is 13 and then my grandson, he’ll be 5 in September. My oldest daughter is married and she promised me, I made all my daughters promise me, that when they get married they have to keep my last name, too.

As a man, I wanted a son to carry my last name and now I have my grandson. He’s just a little man, he wants to do everything I do. He’s the other heartbeat of what I am.

I didn’t think things in the Marine Corps would pan out this way. I think every rank after corporal was a blessing. I had a lot of people who invested in me and it would have been impossible for me to have done any of this by myself.

I’m a big supporter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Young Marines Program.

I know for a fact that if it weren’t for the sacrifices of our veterans, it wouldn’t be possible today for us to do what we do. I invest in the younger people so that when I hang up my uniform for good, I leave the Marine Corps with a good product. I can’t do that overnight; it takes time and discipline so it’s good for me to interact with both sides of the playing field.

I spend a lot of time at the Wood Hobby Shop. I also like to work on cars and tinker with stuff. If it’s broken I like to try and fix it, I don’t care what it is.

It’s almost the same way I look at Marines. People say we have bad Marines, no we don’t. We just have some Marines that are kind of broken.

I liken it to restoring a car. When you first look at it, all people see is a hunk of metal. But if you take time to invest in that car and put some love and time into it, it will turn out beautiful. Same thing with the Marines; if you take some time with them and try to figure out what the problem is you’ll learn things and be able to help them but you have to be genuine about it.

After I do my 30 years, I want to take it easy, build myself a house near the lake so I can fish, watch my kids finish growing and spoil my grandson to death.

I’ve been fishing for years. Whether it’s in salt water, fresh water or a creek; it’s for the excitement. I love to clean them, I love to cook them, I love to make a meal for my family. From the time that I hook the fish to the time that I put it up to grease and feed my family with it, I enjoy the whole process of it.

I would give junior Marines advice based on what I’ve learned. Listen to the people who’ve made mistakes before you, it’s not about being older or younger.

I think humility is one of the things we lack as individuals. It’s good to be strong and dedicated but being humble, that takes a lot. For you to humble yourself and stop and listen, I think that’s a great thing.

I became a sergeant major because I wanted to take care of people. These chevrons I wear are not for me, they’re for everybody who’s a lower rank than me.

That’s what I love about being a Marine; I’m in the people’s service. There’s no greater feeling than to have a Marine come in here with a serious problem, and be able to help them. That’s the greatest reward ever.

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms