Veteran stories: Retired Marine reflects on 2 decades of service

Rick Massey salutes in his Marine uniform, St. George, Utah, Nov. 10, 2014 | Photo by Holly Coombs, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Veterans Day is an occasion to not only remember the men and women who have served their country and returned home, but those who did not return.

Those who have served and did not come home gave the ultimate price and gave their life in defense of this country for the freedoms we enjoy,” U.S. Marine Corps veteran Rick Massey said.

Massey served in the U.S. Marines from November 1981 to January 2002. He served in 31 different countries, including portions of the United States, parts of Europe, South America, Central America, Costa Rica, Japan, Afghanistan, India, Africa, Cuba and Korea.

“Being a veteran is honorable,” Massey said. “It is getting out and serving your country, because you’re not only serving your country, you are serving the people and taking care of the people. “

Massey said he is proud to put on his uniform and to know that everywhere he goes, he has earned the title of Marine.

Rick Massey stands at attention in his Marine uniform, St. George, Utah, Nov. 10, 2014 | Photo by Holly Coombs, St. George News
Rick Massey stands at attention in his Marine uniform, St. George, Utah, Nov. 10, 2014 | Photo by Holly Coombs, St. George News

Massey said he joined the Marines because he wanted to see the world. His father also taught him the concept of, “If you want to do something, do it right the first time,” he said. He learned about the Marines and said he knew it was the hardest branch of the military and would provide the best service.

“The Marine Corps is definitely a challenge,” he said. “It is well known, but whatever you put into something, you get the same back out of it. I respect all the (military) services for what they do; I respect anyone that joins and, of course, the Marine Corps is not for everybody.”

Massey said he fit right into the Marine Corps, and the experience pushed him to work hard.

“Once you do something like that, you think, ‘Man, if I can do that I can do anything,'” he said. “It’s a really good basis to get your life on, and my dad taught us how to be mentally and physically tough. The Marines just fine-tuned that.”

Massey, who has been retired from the military almost 13 years, said he misses it and would go back and serve again. Traveling gave him perspective on how people across the world live their lives, he said. People in other countries are very innovative and creative when it comes to obtaining necessities of life, he said, while U.S. citizens have the luxury of going to places like Home Depot, Lowe’s or Wal-Mart to obtain life’s necessities.

Massey, who is from Sacramento, California, said he came to Utah while serving as a recruiter in the Marines. He spent one year in Salt Lake City and two years in Southern Utah before retiring. He then became a deputy with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and was appointed to be the Southern Utah Area Coordinator for the Toys for Tots Foundation, which is a U.S. Marine Corps directed program.

As a Marine, Massey said, he was involved in engineering, construction, explosives, demolitions and marine security guard duty.

He also became a gunnery sergeant, which he said taught him the virtue of being a good leader.

To be a good leader, you have to be a good follower,” he said.

Being a gunnery sergeant was a leadership, counseling and guidance job over fellow Marines, he said. The gunnery sergeant has the title to be in charge – leading other marines in day-to-day missions, training them and looking out for subordinates, he said.

Everyone has an obligation to serve, whether they serve their country, in the military or in the community, Massey said.

“People who have gone before us that have been in the military, they gave their lives or their service for the military and for the defense of this country,” he said. “ That is what has made this country what it is; it’s the people, it’s the freedom we enjoy and the liberty. If we didn’t have the strong military that we have, then where would we be?”

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