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Lifetime with Marines finally ends for man, 84

Richard Govoni (center) gets ready for the official party arrival portion of his retirement ceremony with Brig. Gen. Frank L. Kelley (right) and Sgt. Maj. Fletcher Pearson at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. Govoni served more than 60 years as an active duty member of the United States Marine Corps and as a federal employee for the corps.

Richard Govoni (center) gets ready for the official party arrival portion of his retirement ceremony with Brig. Gen. Frank L. Kelley (right) and Sgt. Maj. Fletcher Pearson at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. Govoni served more than 60 years as an active duty member of the United States Marine Corps and as a federal employee for the corps.

After dedicating 65 years of his life to the Marines, Richard Govoni will finally take a break.

The 84-year-old was sent off on Tuesday in a retirement service at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, with dozens of friends, family and high-ranking officials from the Pentagon in attendance.

Govoni joined the Marine Corps in 1948, fresh out of high school. Having grown up during World War II, Govoni had always planned on enlisting.

“I was in seventh grade when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor,” Govoni said. “I remember sitting in our auditorium and hearing the declaration of war. It was a different time back then. I felt it was my patriotic duty, and that’s a spirit you just don’t see anymore. It’s all about political divisions now.”

Brig. Gen. Frank L. Kelley pins a medal on Richard Govoni as Sgt. Maj. Fletcher Pearson looks on during Govoni's retirement ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. Govoni served more than 60 years as an active duty member of the United States Marine Corps and as a federal employee for the corps.

Brig. Gen. Frank L. Kelley pins a medal on Richard Govoni as Sgt. Maj. Fletcher Pearson looks on during Govoni’s retirement ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. Govoni served more than 60 years as an active duty member of the United States Marine Corps and as a federal employee for the corps.

Govoni served on active duty in the Marines for 23 years, during which he was deployed multiple times, including twice in Vietnam. During his time on active duty, Govoni earned the distinction of being one of the few men to fly almost every type of aircraft the Marine Corps had.

In addition, Govoni served as Marine air traffic control officer. Govoni was the last Marine Avionics officer to hold this position, as it is now manned exclusively by air traffic controllers.

However, those 23 years were only the beginning.

After retiring from active service as a major in 1972, Govoni worked briefly as a government contractor before realizing that he would never be content away from the Marines.

Brig. Gen. Frank L. Kelley thanks Richard Govoni for his service at the close of Govoni's retirement ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. Govoni served more than 60 years as an active duty member of the United States Marine Corps and as a federal employee for the corps.

Brig. Gen. Frank L. Kelley thanks Richard Govoni for his service at the close of Govoni’s retirement ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. Govoni served more than 60 years as an active duty member of the United States Marine Corps and as a federal employee for the corps.

“A lot of guys retired from the Marines and went to go fly commercial planes and work normal civilian jobs, which I could have done,” Govoni said. “But I decided to stay with the Marines. It was my dream, and I love what I do.”

In 1974, Govoni was hired by the Marines as a civilian employee, starting as a budget analyst and holding countless positions up until 2008, when he became the acquisition command’s government property manager.

At the time of his retirement, Govoni remained one of the community’s top logisticians.

During his retirement ceremony, Govoni discussed his time working for the Marines.

“It never occurred to me to retire before. I love my job. The Marine Corps is my passion.”

Brig. Gen. Frank L. Kelley of the Marine Corps System’s Command spoke at the ceremony about the dedication Govoni has shown.

“Your entire life has been about service, and you have shown the Marines what the word service truly means,” Kelley told Govoni.

Family and co-workers present echoed Kelley’s sentiments.

“What he’s done for the service and the Marine Corps is unparalleled,” said Katrina McFarland, the assistant secretary of defense for acquisition, who worked with Govoni from 1991 to 2006. “No one could ever ask for more.”

While Govoni’s retirement is bittersweet for many around him, his wife Marguerite is thankful that he has finally chosen to retire.

“I’m just excited to finally get him to myself. People keep thanking me for lending him to the Marines for so long, and now I finally get him back.”

Hope Racine 540/374-5403

hracine@freelancestar.com

 

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