NORFOLK, Va. -- The Sailors and Marines of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command wished Command Master Chief Michael Ruiz “Fair Winds and Following Seas,” in a retirement ceremony conducted on Friday, Nov. 1 after more than 30 years of faithful service.
For some people, choosing to serve may be an easy choice, but deciding what branch to serve in may not be.
That was not the case for Ruiz. The sea has been in his blood from an early age. He knew he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, a World War II veteran, and join the Navy.
“I was always fascinated with the military as a kid and figured I’d eventually join the service,” said Ruiz, a Safford, Ariz. native. “His (grandfather's) ‘sea stories,’ and those of a family friend, were deciding factors in my desire to join during my senior year in high school.”
Ruiz didn’t originally intend to stay in the Navy past his first enlistment. That changed after he became a Hospital Corpsman, however.
“I liked the idea of helping others, especially in the aid of the sick and injured,” said Ruiz. “I was familiar with what Hospital Corpsmen did in the Navy and was really interested in their relationship with the Marines which was my motivation to become a Corpsman.”
With the new challenge of his job as a Corpsman, Ruiz began to see that not only had he come into a new line of work within the naval service; he had joined a brotherhood in the Marine Corps.
“A good Corpsman takes care of their Marines, earning their respect as a ‘Doc’ as one of their own; there is no other bond like the one our Sailors share with their Marines,” said Ruiz. “I will always cherish the camaraderie and esprit de corps I experienced coming up as a young line company Corpsman to the present as a Command Master Chief.”
From Okinawa (under the Unit Deployment Program) to Operation Desert Shield/Storm, Ruiz has deployed around the globe. Though all of his deployments were special, his multiple deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom were the most memorable.
“The camaraderie and unity shared by our Navy and Marine Corps team, especially while deployed during combat operations, was a great experience,” said Ruiz. “The very best in people seems to come out during the most stressful of times and I will always be grateful for being associated with such great professionals.”
Ruiz recalls the accomplishments of those deployments with great pride.
“It was amazing to witness what our team did during the height of the fight while saving the lives of the injured,” he said.
From uniforms and equipment to doctrine and policy, Ruiz has seen a lot of changes in the Navy through the years. He believes change is good and the best changes have been attention towards the health and well being of Sailors, Marines and their families. He also believes that some constants are equally important.
“What hasn’t changed is the spirit and drive of those who choose to serve,” said Ruiz. “We represent one percent of the country’s population and it is the responsibility of our leaders to ensure our men and women in uniform are given every opportunity to succeed.”
Ruiz went on to urge Sailors to never lose site of why they joined the Navy and always find time to reflect and rejuvenate, especially with regards to family.
As he retires from the Navy and opens a new chapter in his life, Ruiz looks back on his career with a sense of pride and accomplishment.
“It has been an honor and privilege to wear the uniform and to have worked with some of the finest men and women our nation has to offer,” said Ruiz. “I leave knowing that the Navy and Marine Corps will continue to move forward without me and find comfort knowing those I served with will continue with the mission.”
Though Ruiz retired from the Navy, his service continues through the example he set and the leadership he instilled in his fellow Sailors and Marines.
“We are grateful that you have done what so many of your countrymen cannot do or will not do and that is make a difference for your Navy, your Marine Corps and the United States of America,” said Lt. Gen. Richard T. Tryon, Commander, Marine Corps Forces Command, during the retirement ceremony. “Your leadership, your professional abilities, your passions and your great image that you have projected over the course of your career has cast a huge shadow and you will be missed.”