Charles V. Corrado – Master Gunnery Sergeant, United States Marine Corps


From a contemporary news report:

1 July 2004

Master Gunnery Sergeant Charles V. Corrado

Served 45 Years in U.S. Marine Band

On Saturday, June 26, 2004, Master Gunnery Sergeant Charles V. Corrado passed away after a lengthy battle with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).  ALS, often referred to as “Lou Gehrig's disease,” is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.

Master Gunnery Sergeant. Corrado retired from the United States Marine Corps on July 10, 2003, marking the close of a 45-year career of service unparalleled in the United States Marine Corps. He was awarded the prestigious Legion of
Merit at that time.

In remarks given at the retirement ceremony, Marine Band Director Colonel Timothy W. Foley said of Master Gunnery Sergeant Corrado's long and storied career, “If I were asked to identify Charlie's greatest professional accomplishment, I would point to all of the people on this stage, because the Marine Band and its members would not be what or where they are today without Charlie's incalculable contributions to the Marine Band, both personal and professional.”

Just prior to retirement, Master Gunnery Sergeant Corrado said of his time in the band, “I never dreamed when I joined the band in 1962 that it would become such a part of who I am.  I will always be a Marine Bandsman.”

Master Gunnery Sergeant Corrado began his musical instruction at age 11 and enlisted in the Marine Corps in Boston on July 11, 1958 at the age of 18. Scheduled for assignment as a motor vehicle maintenance technician upon graduation from recruit training at Parris Island, South Carolina, Corrado was given the opportunity during boot camp to audition for the Parris Island Marine Band on accordion.

Following the successful completion of recruit training, he was assigned to the Parris Island band as their accordionist.  While with the Parris Island band, he earned a promotion to private first class on April 1, 1959.

During an 18-month tour on Okinawa, Japan, Corrado was promoted to Lance Corporal on April 1, 1960, and performed for the commander in chief for the very first time when President Dwight D. Eisenhower made an historic visit.
This performance would mark the first of countless performances in support of 10 different commanders in chief over the next 45 years.

Upon completion of his tour on Okinawa, Corrado was ordered to report to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, for duty as a bandsman with the Second Marine Division Band.  In March 1962, he successfully auditioned for “The President's Own” U.S. Marine Band as an accordionist.

He was ordered to Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., appointed directly to the rank of Sergeant, and assigned the military occupational specialty 9811 (member, U.S. Marine Band) on April 20, 1962.

Once in Washington, Corrado became a very popular fixture at White House social events and earned a promotion to the rank of staff sergeant on June 1, 1963.  His first performance at the White House was as an accordionist at a state dinner for which Mrs. Kennedy requested a polka group in the private residence.  It was another performance for the Kennedys that Corrado remembered most fondly.  “My favorite memory from the White House,” Corrado said, “would have to be playing solo accordion for President Kennedy's birthday in May of 1963.”

Six months later, Mrs. Kennedy again requested that Corrado play accordion, this time for John F. Kennedy, Jr.'s third birthday party, which took place 10 days after President Kennedy's funeral.  Photos of the occasion were featured in Time and People magazines.

Corrado was promoted to the rank of Gunnery Sergeant on July 1, 1966, and was promoted to Master Sergeant on December 1, 1969.  Corrado was promoted to the rank of Master Gunnery Sergeant on July 1, 1975. His date of rank made him the senior Master Gunnery Sergeant in the Marine Corps at the time of his retirement.  In 1980, Master Gunnery Sergeant Corrado was appointed combo section leader and section commander, serving as the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of any musical commitment involving jazz and popular music groups at
the White House, and providing consultation to the White House Social Office on many occasions regarding special musical requirements occurring during events at the Executive Mansion.

In January 1995, the White House Social Office sent Master Gunnery Sergeant Corrado to Hollywood to advise movie director Rob Reiner during production of the movie “The American President.”  As the technical advisor, he was tasked
with ensuring an accurate portrayal of White House state dinner scenes.

Master Gunnery Sergeant Corrado was an indelible fixture at the Executive Mansion for 10 Presidents, including the current commander in chief.  Prior to performing for First Lady Laura Bush's surprise 50th birthday party in the
private residence, President George W. Bush recognized Master Gunnery Sergeant Corrado from the first Bush administration and spoke with him about his long career in the Marine Corps.

Master Gunnery Sergeant Corrado's uncommon loyalty and dedication to his duties earned the respect of all with whom he came into contact.  Though he became the most recognized musician at the White House and personified the term “The President's Own,” when asked to sum up his career, Master Gunnery Sergeant Corrado said simply,  “It was an honor to work with these fantastic musicians.  I have no regrets.”

Master Gunnery Sergeant Corrado will be buried with full military honors on August 12, 2004, at Arlington National Cemetery.


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