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Sgt. Maj. Lee D. Bonar Jr. says farewell during his relief, appointment, and retirement ceremony at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, May 12, 2017. Sgt. Maj. Mario A. Marquez, a native of Lakewood, California, took his place as the III Marine Expeditionary Force sergeant major. Bonar, who enlisted out of Wheeling, West Virginia, retired after 32 years of honorable and faithful service.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Charles Plouffe

Top enlisted Marine in Okinawa retires after 32 years of service | West Virginia native says farewell

12 May 2017 | Lance Cpl. Charles Plouffe III Marine Expeditionary Force

Sgt. Maj. Lee D. Bonar Jr. capped off his 32-year Marine Corps career, May 12, 2017, during a relief, appointment and retirement ceremony here in Okinawa, a place he considers one of the most iconic Marine Corps duty stations.

This relinquishment marks the Wheeling, West Virginia-native's second tour in Okinawa as a sergeant major during his 32 years of active Marine Corps service. Bonar, who has served as the III Marine Expeditionary Force sergeant major since June 2014, passed the sword of office to Sgt. Maj. Mario A. Marquez.

“I always heard -- and I still feel it today -- you are not as good a Marine if you haven’t served in Okinawa, in III MEF,” said Bonar. “I was always told if you haven’t been stationed in Okinawa, you are not a complete Marine.”

Over his career, Bonar earned the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

He also received a Combat Action Ribbon, the Presidential Unit Citation and a NATO Medal for International Security Assistance Force-Afghanistan.

Bonar reflected on the time he served with III MEF.

“It has been an honor to be a United States Marine and to know I have been a part of this family that is the Marine Corps,” he said. “I want to thank the Marines for giving me a professional purpose for 32 years plus.”

Bonar received the Meritorious Service Medal during the ceremony. The citation credited him for strengthening “partnerships with regional allies through numerous key leader engagements and combined exercises, overall advancing III MEF’s combat readiness.”

During his tenure at III MEF, Bonar served as senior-enlisted advisor to the commander of Joint Task Force 505, where he contributed to humanitarian relief efforts during Operation Sahayogi Haat in the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck in Kathmandu during April 2015.

According to Lt. Gen. Larry D. Nicholson, III MEF commanding general, Bonar’s legacy is far greater than any individual award he earned during his career.

“Almost half of the modern Marine Corps has had a Lee Bonar in its ranks,” said Nicholson. “Not only (Bonar’s) reputation, but (his) impact will be carried among the ranks for generations of Marines to come.”

Sgt. Maj. Mario A. Marquez, a native of Lakewood, California, took the post after serving as the sergeant major for 1st Marine Aircraft Wing on Okinawa.

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