Marine Corps Base Quantico -- What simply began as a daughter’s visit to Quantico nearly two years ago became something considerably more on Saturday for Sgt. Charles Curcio.
The 83-year-old Marine Korean War veteran was at a loss for words after his family honored him with a memorable experience at the National Museum of the Marine Corps as a moving tribute to his military service, love of family and lasting impact on their own lives. Sgt. Major Justin D. Lehew, sergeant major, Training and Education command, greeted Curcio prior to a guided tour of the museum and shared lunch afterwards at the nearby Globe and Laurel restaurant with the entire Curcio family.
The trip to the NMMC was the first for Curcio, a Purple Heart recipient who nearly died after being wounded in combat in Korea.
“This has just been awesome,” Curcio said. “It just brings back tears to my eyes. It really brought back a lot of memories.”
Lehew said that was just the idea.
“This is what makes the Marines different,” said Lehew, a Navy Cross recipient. “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.”
Curcio was 19 years old when he enlisted in the Marine Corps following the start of the Korean War. He was serving with Charlie Company, First Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment when he was hit in both legs by shrapnel from a mine that had gone off nearby on March 29, 1953. Curcio literally remained outside bleeding all night until being airlifted out at daylight and eventually required a titanium rod placed into his left leg to secure his femur.
He remained at sea on a Danish hospital for several months before he was stable enough to be transported back to the U.S. Curcio continued his convalescence at St. Alban’s Naval Hospital in New York for several months before finally returning home.
The wounds to his leg left him with a permanent disability and ruled out any chance of becoming a law enforcement officer.
Now a father to seven children, 25 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, he basked in the love shown to him by family during his first visit to the NMMC. Surrounded by Alma Curcio, his wife of nearly 60 years, and more than 20 members of his family from the metropolitan New York City area, he listened attentively as doscent Lon Martin, the head of the MCBQ Awards and Recognition Program and a retired base sergeant major, led the guided tour through the museum.
Curcio praised the museum for being everything he thought it would be.
“It was very good,” he said. “It made me feel proud to be a Marine.”
His family thought so much of him as to add to the occasion by surprising him with a brick in Curcio’s honor in Semper Fidelis Park just outside the museum. He understandably became very emotional upon seeing his name etched in the brick.
“We figured it would make a full day and he wanted to do this,” said James Curcio, who was one of the retired Marine’s two sons and two grandsons to follow his father into the Marine Corps. “We wanted to do something special to recognize his sacrifice.”
Lunch followed the museum tour, with Curcio being hailed by restaurant owner and retired Maj. Richard T. Spooner for his service. Martin presented Curcio with an American flag that had previously flown over both Lejeune Hall and the Marine Corps Memorial, while Lehew offered up a book detailing Marine combat history in the Korean War.
A teary-eyed Curcio was again overcome with emotions.
“Once you’ve been a Marine,” Curcio said, “it’s a part of you and it never leaves you.”