Stationed in Hawaii in the early 1980s, Carl Green was pondering a future outside the Marine Corps when he received orders that would change his life, set him on a course to meet his wife and extend his military career by more than three decades.
Green, then a sergeant, had accomplished all he set out to do in the Corps when he enlisted in 1978 while still a senior at Battery Creek High School.
In the waning days of that first enlistment, Green received the only assignment that could have convinced him to remain a Marine -- he was called to serve as a drill instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, a base fewer than 15 miles from his boyhood home in Seabrook.
"That was the reason I stayed in," said Green, now a sergeant major, the highest rank an enlisted Marine can attain.
Green's two years at Parris Island laid the foundation for a 34-year military career that ended last week, when he retired from the Corps and relinquished his post as sergeant major of the II Marine Expeditionary Force, a massive unit based in Camp Lejeune, N.C., that comprises nearly 60,000 Marines.
"It was the most challenging, exhilarating and rewarding experience of my career," Green said of his service at the depot. "On those graduation days, you sit there and know what it means to ... those new Marines and their families and to be a part of that is something that really touches your heart. It's one of those feelings you can't describe. That's where I learned to be a leader."
It was also where Green met his wife of 22 years, Zelda, to whom he was introduced by a friend. The couple now have three children, the youngest of whom is a student at the University of South Carolina.
" (Zelda) has been as big a part of all of this as I have," Green said.
Upon leaving Parris Island in 1985, Green continued to ascend in rank as he served tours of duty in Japan, at Headquarters Marine Corps in Quantico, Va., and at Camp Lejeune before becoming a sergeant major in 1999, according to Corps records.
He also was deployed to Iraq three times between 2004 and 2009.
Throughout his career, Green led by example and earned the respect of his Marines and his superiors alike, according to Lt. Gen. John Paxton, commanding general of the II Marine Expeditionary Force.
"The reason (the Marine Corps) is a great institution is because you have role models," Paxton said. "You got somebody who whispers in your ear, somebody who tells you to stick around, somebody who ... tells you to straighten up and fly right.
"Sgt. Maj. Green knew how to do all of those at the right time, for the right reason to the right person," Paxton added. "More importantly than doing it, he showed them how to do it and why to do it."
Green said retirement will include more traveling, possibly the construction of a second home in his native Beaufort and more than a little longing for life in the Corps.
"We've got some land there and we'd like to be able to maintain a home (in North Carolina) and go back and forth," Green said. "Beaufort has always been my home. Beaufort and my family are what helped me get to this point. I'll miss the Marine Corps, and I'll miss the people and the friendships I've forged. These last 34 years have been like living a dream."