CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
In a recent ceremony at Swanyk’S Scarlet & Gold Traditions in Jacksonville, N.C., the Down East Chapter of the Non Commissioned Officers Association presented the 18th annual Sergeant Major C.A. “Mack” McKinney Award to its latest recipients.
This year’s recipients of the award are Lt. Gen. Dennis J. Hejlik, commanding general, II Marine Expeditionary Force, and retired Navy Chief Petty Officer Randy Reichler.
“The award is presented to military members who have demonstrated professionalism, dedication and service to our country and its military over a sustained period of time,” said retired Marine Sgt. Maj. Paul W. Siverson, chairman of the Board of Directors, NCOA. “It is also awarded to members of the local community who have demonstrated a strong support for our military community and their families.”
The award’s namesake retired from the Marine Corps in 1971 and soon thereafter headed to Washington D.C., to be the first legislative director for the association. Over the next 21 years with the NCOA, McKinney was instrumental in developing the association’s legislative strategy and building its national staff that includes a National Service Officer and Military Liaison. According to Siverson, McKinney also co-founded the Military Coalition, a group of more than 30 military and veteran organizations that acts on behalf of active duty and veteran service members and their families.
“Having been with my father all through Washington and Capitol Hill, when I look at everyone here I see why he dedicated the last half of his life ensuring everyone got the care they deserve,” said Mack McKinney Jr. “He fought for everyone. This was truly his calling in life and it’s nto see his legacy represented.”
Similar to McKinney, Reichler dedicates his time helping Marines, sailors, family members, and veterans.
“I think everyone in this room has a Randy [Richler] story,” said retired Master Gunnery Sgt. Gail Horn. “He has done so much for people that nobody sees.”
Hejlik enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1968 and after being honorably discharged as a sergeant in 1972, attended Minnesota State University before being commissioned a second lieutenant in 1975.
“General Hejlik has spent his entire life taking care of Marines, sailors and their families and that’s what the Non Commissioned Officers Association is about,” said retired Marine Sgt. Maj. Joseph L. Houle, a 1999 award recipient.
Retired Sgt. Maj. Ronald D. Himsworth, former II MEF sergeant major, described Hejlik as a “Marine’s Marine.”
“His first concern is enlisted Marines and his trust and confidence in NCOs is unparalleled.”
Hejlik, who was made an honorary member of the NCOA, echoed that sentiment saying he owed everything to NCOs.
“I owe it all to the NCOs. You know I thought I was a pretty good sergeant, but when I compare myself to them, I sucked! This award, without a doubt is the highest honor I’ve gotten because it came from the NCOs.”
The NCOA was established in 1960 and over the years has become a leading advocate for enhancing and maintaining the quality of life for noncommissioned and petty officers in all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.