NEW YORK CITY -- He runs one of the most famous hotels in the world, has hosted many Marine Corps commandants in New York City, sits on the board of the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation and helps Toys For Tots. He also sounds like a squared away Marine, and even though he has never walked across the grinder at Parris Island, he is a Marine -- an "Honorary Marine".
Gary Schweikert, Regional Vice President and Managing Director for The Plaza Hotel in New York City, has been a friend of the Marine Corps for the past 23 years. "My relationship with the Corps started when I met Jim Kalstrom, former Marine and former director for the FBI in New York City," he said. "Also being affiliated with the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation helps too."
On November 9, 2002 aboard the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum Schweikert was awarded the title "Honorary Marine" by Gen James L. Jones, Commandant of the Marine Corps. "Now that was a truly humbling experience," he said. "He (CMC) took the time out of his busy schedule, especially during ball season, to bestow this honor on me. I was speechless."
When it comes to the Corps and the Plaza, Schweikert is definitely not speechless. "We want the Marine Corps to feel the plaza is a "home away from home" when they visit New York City."
That's the way Schweikert likes it. "Here at the Plaza we have a very strong appreciation for what the Marines do," said Schweikert. "If we can make their stay in New York City better than we have done our job."
In a sense, Schweikert believes the Marines and the Plaza are similar. "We try to be as recognizable as the Marines," he said. "The way Marines conduct themselves, they're polite with high energy and very recognizable. You know they're Marines and proud of what they do."
Recently the employees of the Plaza came together and hosted a party to help Toys For Tots. "All the employees wanted to do something for the children of New York City," said Schweikert. "We couldn't have thought of a better organization to help than the Marine Corps and Toys For Tots."
The crew at the Plaza makes Schweikert shine and it shows. "Mr. Schweikert, leads a team of employees that I think could rival any regiment in our Corps," said Maj. David C. Andersen, Director, Marine Corps Public Affairs New York City. "They make you feel special when you visit and it makes you feel good to see an establishment that treats veterans like kings."
Although Schweikert has never crossed the grinder of Parris Island he has walked the streets of New York City and the corridors of the Plaza. He has accommodated countless VIPs and numerous generals from all the services. He has hosted many benefits and raised funds for charity. One might say he has the traits of a Marine...just ask the commandant.