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thedrifter
12-29-05, 02:02 PM
Decorated Marine to retire
Easton high graduate. Mackus spurned college for military service.
Thursday, December 29, 2005
By Sara K. Satullo
The Express-Times

STOCKERTOWN | As a Marine Corps recruiter for the past two-plus years, Gunnery Sgt. John J. Mackus Jr., an Easton native, said he has saved many kids from heading down the wrong path.

In what he calls one of his most rewarding moments last January, he watched one of his recruits graduate, commanded by a senior drill sergeant who was also a Mackus recruit. Prior to enlisting, the drill sergeant had failed his entrance exams numerous times but Mackus said he mentored him through the process until he got into the Marines and out of a California gang.

"He was on the road to hell or prison," Mackus said. "The kid was not a bad guy, but he'd fallen in with the wrong crowd."

During 35 months as a recruiter, he brought in 104 new Marines, Mackus said. The effort earned him the Meritorious Service Medal, which one-quarter of 1 percent of enlisted people will attain, he said.

"John's a wonderful person," said his wife, Masako, "When he was recruiting he didn't care what other people had to say. No matter what he does it's to help the kids. If they make a goal to be a Marine, he helps them to fulfill it."

After 24 years of service and 10 medals in the Marine Corps, Mackus is retiring to Orange County, Calif., where he lives with his wife and their three children. To honor Mackus, on Wednesday evening 60 friends and family members gathered at his sister's restaurant, Cozmo's, in Stockertown. It was the first time in three years Mackus and his six sisters were all together.

"We're just so proud of him, but it's also a relief right now," said Darlene Mackus, owner of the restaurant and a Palmer Township resident, "He was in Desert Storm, and every day you think and wait for the phone call and pray you never get it. We were one of the lucky ones."

Making a decision that would take him to 24 countries, Mackus enlisted in the Marines Corps at 17 after graduating from Easton Area High School in 1981. He turned down a college scholarship, choosing the Marines for its "straight power of authority," he said.

"When I'm recruiting, I ask them their goals for the future: 'Are you the guy who wants to be the driver of the bus or the passenger?'" Mackus said. "There are 175,000 active Marines. We may be the smallest, but we're the guys leading the bus showing the way, we're not the guy in the back of the bus asking where we are going."

Ellie