MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Every Marine past and present is an honored part of the Marine Corps family, responsible for handing down its values and ideals. From oldest to youngest, America knows “once a Marine, always a Marine.”
It has been 26 years, six months and 13 days today since one of the Combat Center’s most distinguished leaders, Col. Anthony F. Weddington, Combat Center inspector and safety inspector, and the officer-in-charge of the Reserve Support Unit, has been serving in the Marine Corps and executing the Corps’ mission.
Weddington has been aboard the Combat Center since September 2002, two months after being promoted to colonel. After serving many billets in the Marine Corps on both active and reserve duty, he will retire from his honorable service in the Corps today on the commanding general’s parade field at 3 p.m.
Weddington was born in Moses Lake, Wash., but was raised in Burlington, N.C. His father was an enlisted Airman and ended his service in the Air Force as a staff sergeant after 10 years.
Weddington graduated from Hugh M. Cummings High School in 1975. He continued his education at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, and achieved a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1979.
During his time at UNC, his younger brother went to Officer Candidate School through the Marine Corps’ Platoon Leader’s Course. Weddington was so intrigued by his brother’s experience that he made it a point to meet with a Marine recruiter, who he saw walking through his campus.
“I walked up to the campus’s recruiter, who was a Marine captain, and I was very impressed with him and what he had to offer,” said Weddington. “I was probably most interested because my father and some relatives served in the military before me.”
Weddington went to OCS in January 1980, graduated in April and went to The Basic School the following week, after having a weekend to relax, he said. The week after he completed TBS, he went to Infantry Officer’s Course, concluding his initial training in November 1980.
“Being an infantry Marine was an independent decision for me,” said Weddington. “I initially joined the service to become a bombardier, but that did not work out. I had the choice to walk away, but I felt that if I couldn’t fly, I would be an infantryman.”
Weddington reported to his first duty station, 2nd Marine Division in Camp Lejeune, N.C., in December 1980. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, as a rifle platoon commander, then as a weapons platoon commander, he said. His first deployment was to the Mediterranean Sea during the time the president of Israel was assassinated. His battalion was part of a Marine Amphibious Ready Group, or a force in readiness.
After three years serving in Camp Lejeune, he was assigned to serve at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., as a series commander for 2nd Recruit Training Battalion. He later became commanding officer of Delta Company.
“My duty in Parris Island was the most memorable experience in my Marine Corps career,” said Weddington. During his service as series commander in October 1983, a recruit died while asleep due to heart failure. “Recruit Hurst was a 17-year-old recruit, and he had only been on the island for three weeks. I was a first lieutenant when he died, and I took my duties very seriously. There were 15 drill instructors I was in charge of and roughly 250 recruits under my command. The experience changed my life. I realized a bit more that day, that as a Marine officer, I must always be conscious of what’s going on with our procedures and our people because I’ll never know when lightning will strike.”
Weddington served three years at MCRD Parris Island.
“It’s an incredible thing to witness, the amount of time drill instructors put into recruit training,” said Weddington. “It’s a phenomenon watching drill instructors turn American citizens into Marines and form them into units where they will fight alongside each other. The drill instructors really leave their mark. If a recruit or Marine falls short, it’s the drill instructors at fault. They make sure they are ready for anything they will encounter in the fleet. Everything is done by the numbers in boot camp, and that is why I feel that MCRDs are the purest environment in the Marine Corps. There is never compromise in training. The Marines today are every bit as good as I first encountered. Officers and staff noncommissioned officers couldn’t have been more proud to witness this.”
After serving at MCRD Parris Island, he was sent to the University of Mississippi as a Marine officer instructor in the Naval Science Department. He was tasked with training and counseling midshipmen who would later become Marine officers.
After three years of instructing at the university, Weddington resigned his active commission and became a reservist.
“I wanted to take the time to pursue something that I always wanted to since I was a kid,” said Weddington. He painted pictures and started a gallery of portrait, landscape and still-life paintings. “It became a strong business for me. It worked out well, and I made a lot of money.”
As a reservist, Weddington became a combat artist for Headquarters Marine Corps. He was tasked to create several hundred drawings of recruit training at Parris Island, he said.
In the spring of 1996, Weddington was introduced to the Active Reserve Program and later was reassigned to Manpower and Reserve Affairs in Quantico, Va. In 1999, he was assigned to Marine Forces Reserve in New Orleans as director of reserve Marine Corps Community Services programs, determining their budget and requirements.
In September of 2002, Weddington checked in to the Combat Center.
“My time here at the Combat Center has been really enjoyable, and it’s good to be with Marines that are training to carry on the Marine Corps mission,” said Weddington. “I really enjoy the professional relationships and camaraderie among my colleagues.
“I had no idea I was going to be in the Marine Corps for this long,” he continued. “I was obligated to serve one term, and 26 years later I’m retiring as a colonel. It has gone by really fast.”
Weddington will continue his hobby in the painting business from his Yucca Valley home, living with his wife, Linnea.
“He’s definitely excited about continuing his business in painting and playing golf,” said Linnea, who has been married to Weddington for 20 years in May. “I’m glad the time has come, and I am very proud of him. He has certainly served his country.
“As his business manager and his number one critic, I know he’s ready for this day. He’s a man with a lot of integrity and a great sense of humor, so I know he will continue to be happy,” she added.
Weddington’s reason for coming back to active duty was he missed being around Marines, he said. He really has no intention of leaving the Marines, just the service.
“Throughout my career, I loved being around people who made a conscious decision to volunteer and be a Marine,” said Weddington. “It’s only something Marines can understand and appreciate. You like Marines because they want to do well and you cannot pull wool over a Marine’s eyes. They will tell it like it is and go through great lengths to get the job done. You can tell a Marine what you want done and get out the way, they will surprise you. I never knew a Marine who gets up in the morning and says ‘I’m going to fail today.’ It’s impossible. Marines will always make the Marine Corps look good. There is no correlation between rank and intelligence. That’s why we have faith in the Marine Corps.
“When you are able to lay your head down at night and go to sleep, you know you’ve done the right thing.”