When he enlisted in the Navy, recalled Marquis Patton, his grandfather gave him some advice: “Whether you’re in the Navy for a few years or your whole career, make sure to leave the Navy better than you found it.”
As it turned out, Patton spent 35 years as a sailor—13 years enlisted and 22 as an officer. And even before he retired last June, he found a way to continue following his grandfather’s advice as a Society volunteer.
“During my career, I sent hundreds of Sailors to the Society,” Patton said. “Sailors needing assistance with basic living expenses, such as food, shelter or utilities; car repairs, family emergencies; or to get home to loved ones who were terminally ill. When there’s a family in crisis, we come to their assistance.”
Patton, who volunteers in the NMCRS Goose Creek office, has learned something about the Society that he wasn’t familiar with while serving on active duty. He’s learned a great deal about how the Society serves Navy and Marine Corps retirees. “I never realized the number of retirees who also need the Society’s financial assistance,” he said. “Some of the retired sailors and Marines who come in here have fallen on hard times, or lost their second income and are living on their military pension. Some are widows whose husbands were the breadwinners and they never worked outside the home. Now, they’re living on Social Security” and struggling to make ends meet, Patton said. “We strive to be good stewards of the dollars that have been entrusted to us by sailors and marines on active duty, and retirees, and we follow Society policy – but we also understand human hardship and have compassion.”
Throughout his Naval career Patton held a variety of positions, including torpedoman mate, electronic readiness officer, systems test officer, training liaison officer, operations officer, officer-in-charge, weapons officer, executive office, and commanding officer. He served as a Society representative aboard the USS John Paul Jones (DDG-53). “That’s where I got my feet wet doing casework,” he recalled. “I was the XO and CMC go-to guy when it came to assisting Sailors on deployment ensuring we followed NMCRS policy while meeting the needs of our Sailors.”
While Patton’s official retirement date was last June, he had 80 days of leave on the books so, beginning in April, he suddenly had time on his hands. Volunteering for the Society “keeps me engaged with sailors,” Patton explained. “After 35 years, it’s hard to go cold turkey and walk away from the life you’ve known.” Patton especially enjoys the opportunity to chat with sailors while they’re waiting for approval of their requests for financial assistance. “I engage them in conversation. They find out I was enlisted and commissioned. Then the conversation turns to what their plans are. I use the opportunity to share my wisdom about what it takes to be successful in the military, and how to manage money. For me, focusing on faith, family, fitness, and finances has been a recipe for success, and I share that with the young families I meet.” And he never fails to impart his grandfather’s advice as well, to “leave the Navy better than you found it.”