“I didn’t choose the Marine Corps, it chose me.” Those words still resonate with one man, 45 years after first enlisting.
In 1972, Ernest B. Freeman walked into a recruiting station in Middletown, New York, one morning to enlist in the U.S. Army and walked out as a U.S. Marine Corps enlistee.
“I was looking for something, I didn’t necessarily know what, a purpose,” said Freeman. “I looked around me, at the people I graduated high school with and I knew I just wanted more, I wanted to be better. So, I went to see an Army recruiter, listened to what he had to say, and then saw a Marine recruiter walking by, and I thought to myself; wow, he looks sharp.”
The Whiteville, North Carolina, native enlisted in the Marine Corps as a brig guard and spent the next 10 years serving at various brigs to include Fort Leavenworth, Marine Corps Base Quantico and MCB Camp Lejeune.
“Working in the brig, seeing those who had made poor decisions and had affected their lives, careers gave me a true appreciation for the good Marines, the dedicated, loyal Marines,” Freeman said.
From 1978-1980, Freeman trained new recruits as a drill instructor on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. While there, Freeman met his wife, Donna, who eventually retired from the Marine Corps as a gunnery sergeant and they would have two daughters.
In 1982, Freeman commissioned as a warrant officer, gaining even more experience and leadership.
“It was interesting to start out as a tower guard, and then years later become commanding officer of the same brig I was a guard for,” Freeman said. “Sometime after D.I. duty, a recruit I personally trained became a prisoner at my brig. It gave me a feeling of disappointment, I know the training I instilled in him, however we all make choices and have to overcome the challenges to become not only good Marines, but good citizens.”
With 27 years of Marine Corps service, Freeman retired as a chief warrant officer 4 as the Camp Lejeune Brig Commanding Officer. Not ready to leave the Marine Corps behind, Freeman started his 18 year career as the evidence custodian, Criminal Investigation Division, Provost Marshals Office, Marine Corps Installations East-MCB Camp Lejeune.
“He has provided invaluable support and training to all the Military Police, civilian law enforcement professionals and our criminal investigators, as well as providing training to junior lawyers on evidence processes and procedures,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Joseph Ponte, the officer in charge of the Criminal Investigation Division on MCB Camp Lejeune. “His collective efforts provided unfailing support to law enforcement, trial counsels and ultimately to commanders, who are charged with protecting the force and holding offenders accountable.”
During his tenure as an evidence custodian, Freeman verified, examined and processed 8,261 log numbers, which included over 17,612 items of evidence. He maintained 100 percent accuracy over all 17,612 items. He accounted for the largest volume of evidence of any Provost Marshals Office.
“Freeman’s military police and corrections training provided him valuable insight on the importance of physical evidence from initial seizure by a military policeman and how it is utilized during judicial and administrative proceedings,” said Ponte. “These experiences ultimately prepared him for success as our sole evidence custodian at the Provost Marshals Office.”
Because of his tireless efforts, Freeman received the Navy Superior Civilian Service Award, one of the highest civilian awards that can be bestowed.
Surrounded by family, friends and colleagues, Freeman thanked those in attendance for their support and friendship over the years at the Paradise Point Officers Club on MCB Camp Lejeune.