The famous face of the Marines, Sgt. Taliano, to be laid to rest

Charles Taliano, former drill instructor, held a smaller version of the poster that made him the face of Marine Corps recruiting in this 2006 photo.
Charles Taliano, former drill instructor, held a smaller version of the poster that made him the face of Marine Corps recruiting in this 2006 photo. Special to The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette

Sgt. Chuck Taliano was awaiting an honorable discharge at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in 1968 when a reservist writing a book about boot camp snapped a picture of him giving a recruit an "attitude readjustment."

That cemented Taliano's place in Corps legend.

The photo captured his snarling mug inches from a fresh-faced recruit with the caption, "We don't promise you a rose garden." It was printed on thousands of Marine Corps recruiting posters printed during the 1970s and 1980s.

The poster made Taliano a celebrity among Marines, said Stephen Wise, curator of the Parris Island Museum, where Taliano worked as manager of the gift shop.

"Everyone from generals to former privates would stop by to see him," Wise said. "Everyone knew Chuck."

Taliano, 65, died in his Beaufort home Friday after a long battle with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow. A memorial service was held Wednesday for Taliano at the depot's Recruit Chapel, and he will be buried today at Beaufort National Cemetery.

Taliano's outlook on life was an inspiration to those who knew him, but particularly to Bruce Kinsey, one of Taliano's co-workers at the museum who has the same form of cancer.

"He had such a great attitude about his disease," Kinsey said. "I can only hope that I deal with this disease half as well as Chuck did. It was the disease that slowed him down, not his attitude. He was always positive."

A Cleveland native, Taliano joined the Marine Corps in 1963 and was selected for drill instructor duty at Parris Island in 1966, according to an obituary prepared by Anderson Funeral Home.

Mike Theroux of Merrimack, N.H., trained under Taliano in 1966 before he was deployed to Vietnam and later befriended his former drill instructor.

"He was a very fair DI to all of his Marines," Theroux said. "He was one of the most caring people in the world and just a really good man."

That famous photo of Taliano was taken less than a month before he was released from active duty, according to his obituary. He was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in November 1969 and retired to Beaufort in 2001 after working in publishing for more than 30 years.

Taliano began managing the Parris Island Museum's gift shop, the Alexander Ship's Store, in late 2002 and quickly became a living attraction, said Dana MacBain, the museum's exhibits coordinator.

"People would come in the museum, and they could care less about the exhibits or anything else in the museum," MacBain said. "They just wanted to see Sgt. T."

Lt. Sharon Hyland, Parris Island spokeswoman, said Taliano's death has left a void at the place that helped make him famous.

"For generations, Chuck Taliano served as the face of the Marine Corps," Hyland said. "His iconic image as a drill instructor not only reinforced the intensity of a United States Marine, but it stood as an affirmation of the Marine Corps standard. Chuck Taliano's legacy will live on at Parris Island in the many lives he touched. He will be missed."