2003 Marine of the Year
Staff Sergeant Karl Garrison
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Staff Sergeant Karl C. Garrison is the epitome of an “everyday hero” and an honor to the proud traditions and values of the United States Marine Corps.
“He gives his Marines 150%,” says one officer. His commander says, “He does things to positively affect people – whether inside this command or outside – and he does not look for fame and glory when assisting others.”
A recent example of that selfless dedication is particularly noteworthy. When SSgt Garrison learned in August 2002 that he was a compatible bone marrow donor to a patient in Washington, D.C., he immediately made himself available to a series of exams and tests. When the patient required an expedited bone marrow donation, SSgt Garrison put in the extra effort and did a lot of the legwork so that decisions could be made quickly by both his chain of command and the donor society, enabling all requirements to be met in a shortened period of time. The donor services coordinator remembered SSgt Garrison as saying, “If you need me out there I will be there … anything you all need.”
While watching a football game, SSgt Garrison received the call on November 4th. He was on the first plane from California to Washington, D.C, the next day, and the collection was done on November 6th. Being a bone marrow donor is an extremely painful process, and this volunteer effort is one not taken lightly. The patient was unknown to him, and after undergoing the procedure, SSgt Garrison was required to go on light duty and miss physical training for a couple of months – a situation that could have harmed his chances of promotion, according to one colleague. Not only did he do it, he offered to undergo the procedure again if necessary. “This is a completely selfless and courageous act to do for someone you don’t know or will never meet,” said the donor program coordinator.
One fellow Marine recalled him saying;, “If you can do something, why wouldn’t you?” Another junior Marine said, “He gave his own bone marrow to try to save the life of someone he never met, sacrificing his own health and fitness, and putting himself through a lot of pain and challenge. He’s a hero and an inspiration to me.” Although he must remain off the register for a year, SSgt Garrison has stated that as soon as he is eligible, he wants “to be back on the donor list.” SSgt Garrison fills a communications/electronics billet normally reserved for a gunnery sergeant, and sets an example in the professionalism with which he approaches his assignment and in his concern for fellow Marines. He has garnered the respect and trust of all those around him. “His character is strong and confident … he is an outstanding leader of Marines,” said one lance corporal.
“SSgt Garrison has been the supervisor who has supported me and allowed me time and opportunities to better myself educationally and career-wise. He’s a role model to us all,” said another junior Marine. “He shows the honor, courage and commitment of the Marine Corps in everything he does – and he continually strives to instill these qualities in the Marines around him. He is always fair and just with junior Marines and makes himself approachable on all things large and small,” said a fellow NCO. “His daily actions are what impress me, and his consistency stands out from others,” says one Marine. “He’s a master of his job, and he passes on his knowledge and the values of the Corps to younger Marines,” says his section officer.
SSgt Garrison has volunteered countless hours to youth athletic activities, seeking to have an impact on impressionable young minds by teaching them not only athletic skills, but positive skills for life. “He stresses how important it is to honor family, community and those who have served before us,” said a fellow NCO. “That commitment lives on in each moment of his day, doing what he knows to be the right thing, doing for others, and never faltering in what he believes in.”
SSgt Karl C. Garrison embodies the commitment, leadership and highest standards of personal dedication, courage and professional conduct that lay at the heart of what it means to be a Marine.