Charleston, WV --
Surrounded by friends, family members and fellow Marines from Recruiting Station Charleston, Gunnery Sgt. Darren Mckeone, a W.Va. native and career recruiter, retired during a ceremony held at the West Virginia State Capitol in Charleston March 21.
Mckeone, who was born in Fairmont, W.Va. in 1975, began his Marine Corps journey after enlisting in April 1993. McKeone, who says he did not really have anything going on following high school graduation, found himself drawn to the Marine Corps after speaking to a local recruiter.
When recruiters speak to individuals interested in the Marine Corps they introduce a list of tangible and intangible benefits the Marine Corps has to offer, such as leadership, financial security, travel and adventure. Mckeone found himself particularly drawn in by the promise of travel and adventure.
“Once I sat down and listened to the recruiter, (the Marine Corps) sounded like it was too good to be true…it sounded hard…it sounded like something that would be really challenging and I’d get to see the world,” said McKeone.
After enlisting in the Marine Corps, Mckeone later completed basic training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and later attended Combat Engineer School, where he earned his military occupational specialty of Combat Engineer.
Mckeone received orders to recruiting duty in October 1999 after having served with several units where he was promoted to the rank of sergeant. Mckeone served as a recruiter at both Recruiting Sub-Station Huntington and RSS Charleston from 1999 until 2003, during which time he achieved the rank of staff sergeant meritoriously.
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 occurred, Mckeone found himself conflicted. Although he enjoyed and was successful at recruiting, he felt he was not yet ready to be done with the Fleet Marine Force and wanted to serve overseas before becoming a career recruiter.
"When 9/11 happened, I thought back to why I joined,” said McKeone. “Not just the travel and adventure, but the desire to defend my country. I always knew I was a good recruiter, I always knew that was going to be my path, but I really wanted to go back and help and make a difference in the FMF.”
McKeone went back to the FMF and deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in February 2003 and later deployed to Haiti in support of Operation Secure Tomorrow in March of 2004, obtaining the rank of gunnery sergeant shortly after returning from Haiti.
In 2008 McKeone returned to Recruiting Duty, serving as the RSS Huntington Staff Noncommissioned Officer in Charge. After a year, Mckeone then served a year at the Military Entrance Processing Station in Columbus, Ohio. Following his year at MEPS, he was then transferred back to RS Charleston Headquarters, where he spent the remainder of his career serving as the Operations Chief and later as the Assistant Recruiter Instructor.
Recruiting duty can be considered one of the toughest non-combat jobs in the Marine Corps. Many Marines are chosen to serve as recruiters but only the best are chosen to become career recruiters. Most Marines do not choose to become a career recruiter due to the difficulty of the job; however for some like Mckeone, recruiting is viewed as a chance to make a difference.
“The best part of recruiting duty is building futures,” said McKeone. “No job is better. It is a hard, time consuming job that takes up a lot of your life, but you can help someone build a better path for themselves and discover all the opportunities they have for their future.”
Capt. Eric Albright, the executive officer for RS Charleston, said that Mckeone’s retirement will have an effect on RS Charleston.
“He is one of the most personable, influential and respected members of the command,” said Albright. “Any time you lose a key member of your command it has an impact. He is one of the most charismatic Marines I have ever served with, excellent at his job, extremely hard worker, and he, along with his insight and council, will be sorely missed.”