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The family of Sgt. Maj. Harrison L. Tanksley, recent Sergeant Major of I Marine Expeditionary Force Forward, listens to speeches during his retirement ceremony after 32 years of service aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Aug. 29. During the ceremony, Tanksley received a Bronze Star for superior professionalism and inspiring leadership during his recent one year deployment to Afghanistan.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Reel

Sgt. Maj. Harrison L. Tanksley retires after 32 years of service

29 Aug 2013 | Lance Cpl. Scott Reel

Sgt. Maj. Harrison L. Tanksley, recent Sergeant Major of I Marine Expeditionary Force Forward, retired after 32 years of service during a ceremony aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Aug. 29.

During the ceremony, Tanksley received a Bronze Star for superior professionalism and inspiring leadership during his recent one year deployment to Afghanistan.

Maj. Gen. David H. Berger, commanding general of Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., explained Tanksley’s impact on many Marines.   

“He’s taught us. He’s coached us. He’s mentored us. We’ve learned from him, and we’re here today to thank him, which I think makes it a very special day this morning,” Berger said.

Berger read a letter from Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus, former commanding general of I MEF (Fwd), who couldn’t be present at the ceremony.

“I often reflect back on our time as battle buddies in Afghanistan. I will never be able to express my gratitude for all you did to promote the spirit of teamwork, to keep me focused on the important things, to be the advocate for our Marines and coalition partners, and to keep the Chief of Staff in line. ... You made a difference. And you left a legacy of professionalism that will live on in our hearts and in our actions as we try to be like ‘Tank,'” Gurganus wrote.  

After reading the letter and providing an extensive list of specifics regarding Tanksley’s impact over his career, he gave the podium over to the Marine being honored.

“I didn’t get here by myself,” Tanksley said. “I had a lot of help along the way, some senior to me, some junior to me. It’s a bittersweet day for me, but I am truly blessed to have had the honor and privilege to serve our Corps, our nation and our individual Marines.”

Tanksley individually thanked almost every person in the crowd with some tribute to how they helped him to his current success. After thanking his family, children and loving wife; Tanksley finished his speech in a signature manner.

“In closing, thanks to each one of you for sharing this moment with my family and I. It means a lot to us, and we hope you enjoy the rest of the day like we will. God bless our country, our Corps and Semper Fidelis,” Tanksley said.