COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Two Midlands military veterans who served our country for decades now spend their days serving those who serve.
“John and Jack are just two fabulous volunteers,” said Katie Kennedy, the USO Senior Operations and Programs Manager. She adds that just begins to describe the pair. John Marcucci, a retired Marine Lt. Colonel, and Lorren “Jack” Jackson, a retired Navy Master Chief, have 60 years of military service between them.
“I dropped out of high school and joined the Marines,” said Marcucci who served for 33 years.
“I saw my first ship and I fell in love,” said Jackson, who served for 27 years.
While they didn’t know each other while serving, their paths crossed in Columbia when they were both retired and working with JROTC programs. Then, again unknowingly, they both started volunteering for the USO South Carolina.
“They actually both helped us before we officially opened and hung our USO sign,” said Kennedy.
That was 10 years ago. Since then they have each volunteered more than 4-thousand hours. That’s the equivalent of 500 8-hour work days or almost two full years of a full-time job.
“This is the very first time in the history of USO South Carolina that we've been able to honor two volunteers for serving 4000 hours,” said Kennedy. “We never had a volunteer reach that milestone.”
So after the two were honored in December with a letter from the president and a presidential challenge coin for their efforts, a Columbia Chamber official nominated the duo as Community Builders. Matt Mungo caught them in the middle of one of their shifts at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport.
“John and Jack let me interrupt real quick,” said Mungo. “I am here because you all have been nominated and chosen as our WIS in Mungo homes community builder and you will get $1000 check from the Michael J Mungo Foundation. Thank you for the work with the USO and volunteering over 4000 hours each.”
“It just makes your heart feel proud when you see somebody that spent their entire life dedicated to serving the country to come back out and volunteer their time to serve those who are serving the country still,” said Susan McPherson, the director of public policy and military affairs with the Columbia Chamber of Commerce. She was there for the big surprise after submitting the nomination.
The Community Builder surprise also comes on the heels of the Chamber’s announcement that Columbia was named one of five Great American Defense Communities in the U.S.
“It really speaks to the heart and fabric of what we do,” said McPherson. “It's our soul and so as my boss would say it's in our DNA. The military is part of our community, and we have a wonderful partnership.”
Both John and Jack say their $1,000 donation from the Michael J. Mungo Foundation will go to the USO South Carolina. John’s wife, Martha, is also an active volunteer.