Robert Becker is considered by his peers to be a ” Marine ‘s Marine ,” but he’s more modest about the term.
He explained that his heart has been with the Marine Corps since he left boot camp at Parris Island in 1960 and he’s always been a strong believer in America.
“It’s a dirty job being [a Marine ], but we always come out doing our mission in the end,” he said.
This year , the 72- year -old Schenectady resident received both the state and national ” Marine of the Year ” awards from the Marine Corps League for 42 years of hard work and dedication to the veterans organization. He said the awards were a surprise, but they shouldn’t have been with the amount of volunteer work he performs each week for local veterans and the community.
“It was nice that I received [them], but I don’t like to brag,” he said. “I do it just to keep myself busy.”
Becker served from 1960 to 1968. When he returned stateside as a recruiter in 1968, he joined the local Marine Corps League, but when it disbanded, he joined the Albany detachment in 1972. After holding several elected positions, he went on to form Electric City Detachment No. 222 a year later in Schenectady and was detachment commandant for five terms. In 1984, he retired from the Marine Reserves as a first sergeant.
Over the years , Becker has helped to form 17 other local Marine Corps League detachments and for 32 years has chaired the local Toys for Tots program. He was the editor of the detachment newsletter and vice president of the Marine Corps League Foundation — a charitable subsidiary of the national organization, which helps fund scholarships, memorials and youth programs. He also held several national positions including junior vice commandant, senior vice commandant and the 50th national commandant.
Currently, Becker is still the department paymaster, chairman of the convention journal and chairman of the National Legislative and Veteran Committee.
He is involved is several other veteran’s organizations like the Marine Corps Association, Military Order of the Devil Dogs No. 134, American Overseas Veterans, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Becker also volunteers locally driving for Disabled American Veterans and helps organize many of the local Memorial Day and Veterans Day celebrations.
“Everyday I’m doing something. I just enjoy helping people. If I can make someone smile, it makes my day better,” he said. “Though Tuesdays I keep open to play golf.”
Established in 1923 by Marine Corps Commandant John A. Lejeune, there are currently 72 Marine Corps League detachments in New York state and 1,100 chapters throughout the United States. As of last year , the organization had about 85,000 members.
Candidates for the awards have to be nominated by their detachments with a cover letter, proof of the nominee’s accomplishments and letters of recommendation. Twenty-six members were nominated for the national award this year , and Becker was named ” Marine of the Year ” at the annual national convention in Idaho earlier this month.
“The award represents what someone has done, not only for himself, but for vets, the community, youth … that’s what it adds up to,” said Becker. “I’m happy someone noticed and just thrilled I won.”
Fellow League member Dom Famularo called Becker “an outstanding person” but joked that the detachment would not be nominating him for ” Marine of the World” because he has enough awards now.
Detachment Commandant John Manning said the local chapter is thrilled with his achievements.
“He just believes in public service,” said Manning. “He’s active in church and the community at large.”
Becker will be celebrated locally for his two awards at tonight’s meeting at their headquarters in Rotterdam.
In the future, Becker is hoping to create a soup kitchen in Schenectady for homeless veterans, and his new goal is to become the oldest living Marine in the world.
“I think the old record was 106 years old, so I’ve got some time still,” he said.