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Sgt. Maj. Herbert Wayne Wrench, the sergeant major of 2nd Marine Logistics Group, speaks to his three-year-old grandson, Isaiah, during his retirement ceremony aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., March 16, 2012. Wrench said Isaiah is who will keep him young and energetic for “the next 120 years.” (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Katherine M. Solano)

Photo by Cpl. Katherine M. Solano

Survival, celebration: sergeant major retires

20 Mar 2012 | Cpl. Katherine M. Solano

Three decades of service and faithful marriage, nine deployments and two tours on recruiting duty only skims the surface of one sergeant major’s career.

The retirement ceremony for Sgt. Maj. Herbert Wayne Wrench, the sergeant major for 2nd Marine Logistics Group, took place aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., March 16.

Two children, a grandson and countless friends surrounded the path and saturated the experiences leading to Wrench’s retirement.  

The site of the event itself, Marston Pavilion, was filled with family in suits and dresses, Marines in uniform, and retired, decades-old friends in motorcycle garb. The hour-long event was less of a traditional ceremony and more of a celebration, packed with anecdotes and stories that can only come from people who survived through years of war, service, dedication and hardship, and it celebrated love and good times together.

The tear-jerking moment came when Wrench spoke of how he and his family made it through the trials of the past few years.  Diagnosed with stage-four cancer, Wrench is still undergoing maintenance chemotherapy. He credits his strength, in large part, to an unwavering faith, but he says the support flowing in from his family and friends was priceless, too.

“Whenever I was having a bad day, a friend just knew to call,” said Wrench.  “It’s been the true test of friends. Some of them didn’t even know I had cancer, they just called on the right day. During the five months of the initial chemo I had to go through, there were a lot of phone calls at just the right time.”

Solid friendship was a consistent theme during the speeches, as well as when talking to Wrench’s closest acquaintances before the ceremony.

“Everybody in this room, the extended family, the extended friend network, everybody prayed, everybody thought good thoughts, everybody cared,” said Col. Mark Hollahan, the commanding officer of 2nd MLG, during his speech, specifically about the time following the cancer diagnosis.  “The fact that [Wayne is] sitting here as a healthy man is a part of the investment of the strength of heart, undying faith, and a lot of love.”

The devotion and love pouring forth from those who came to send Wrench ashore following a successful career was a testament to his strong character and his solid convictions.

“He’s the conscience of the regiment,” said Hollahan, a native of Atlanta.  “He’s the guy who makes us do the right thing all the time.  There’s no special ‘Wayne Wrench’ way of doing business.  There’s the way the Marine Corps taught you, and he holds you to the standard.”

The stories came spilling out from both Hollahan and Wrench, with an emphasis on motorcycle riding, a favorite hobby of Wrench’s. Hollahan even joked that Wrench manages to keep his bike up on two wheels “most of the time.”

Wrench took the time to recognize a number of individuals in the crowd, many of them retired Marines.  The cracks about riding, recruiting stories and recently-acquired beards lasted for much of the ceremony, but Wrench brought it all back home to close it out.

“I couldn’t have asked for any better,” said Wrench, a native of Fayetteville, N.C.  “I couldn’t have asked for better friends, associates, better family members, extended family members. My door is always open at home for everybody. I’ve got a local number, a local home. I’m not leaving this place.”

Wrench spoke of his biggest supporter, his wife of almost 30 years, Jo Ann, many times.

“I appreciate her support for all these years,” he said during a meeting a few days before his retirement.  “She is the backbone of the family and my career. She is the reason I’ve made it to where I am.”

Many who retire go on to start a second career, or to find a job that encompasses their hobbies. It’s not the case for Wrench.

“My intent is to ‘just’ retire and enjoy life,” Wrench said. 

Riding motorcycles with Jo Ann and spending as much time outdoors as possible with his three-year-old grandson, Isaiah, are at the top of his retirement to-do list.

“[Isaiah’s] the one who’s gonna keep me energetic for the next 120 years,” he added.

In true fun-loving, humorous, down-to-earth Wayne Wrench fashion, he concluded his retirement speech with an invigorating "Semper Fidelis, peace!"

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