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Once a Marine, always a Marine

Local soldier battling cancer receives overdue promotion

U.S. MARINE CORPORAL BRENTON RUTTER (right) recites the oath administered by Lt. Colonel Brian Neil during a promotion ceremony at Rutter’s family home in Ossipee on Thursday, Oct. 1, Rutter’s birthday. Larissa Mulkern. (click for larger version)
October 07, 2009
OSSIPEE — U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Brenton Rutter of Granite Road had one heck of a 20th birthday.

First, his family arranged a surprise party, but it was no ordinary gathering.

Rutter, who has been battling leukemia since 2007, just two years after graduating from Kingswood High School and enlisting in the U.S. Marines, was officially promoted to the rank of Corporal in a small ceremony on Oct. 1 at the family's Granite Road home. It was a promotion that this highly regarded soldier earned back in 2007, but the ceremony was delayed after Rutter was diagnosed with then embarked on rigorous treatment for leukemia. A special surprise was a visit from the stem cell donor who helped save his life during treatment, Casey Caruso from Upton, Mass.

"I didn't know anything about this until this morning… it really is an honor to be promoted. Thank you for coming," said a soft-spoken Rutter after the ceremony. While he is at this juncture medically retired from the Marines, he retains the rank and full pay and benefits.

Bestowing the honor were superior officers from the First Battalion 21st Marines from Fort Devens, Mass., the Reserve Infantry Battalion, Lt. Colonel Brian Neil, Sgt. Major Robert Murano, and Sgt. Robert O'Connor.

In a ceremony, Lt. Colonel Brian Neil said the promotion is a significant step and reiterated the lifelong support of the Marines.

"Going from lance corporal to corporal is a significant event in the life cycle of a Marine in that you go from being one of the troops to the first level of non commissioned officer leadership which is what he earned and deserves. With that comes greater responsibility; if he were in operating forces now would be leading anywhere from four to 20 Marines," said Neil. Judging by Rutter's background, he continued, the solider advanced quickly and earned the grade of corporal in 2007.

'We're just glad to be here today to be able to do this in a fitting way before Cpl. Rutter is retired medically from the Marine Corps. With that retirement he is a Marine Corporal forever, with pay and benefits. Who knows what life holds. He is still a very young man and happy birthday. So either way, if it's the way you see it or the ways things are, you are a Marine indefinitely. You are a corporal forever," said Neil. "Once a Marine always a Marine," he said.

Sgt. Murano said the promotion was a long time coming and that he was glad to see Rutter out of the hospital. As an enlisted man himself, he recalls the day when he was first promoted. "This is a proud moment for him too," said Sgt. Murano.

Sgt. O'Connor read the statement customary in these ceremonies. "As a corporal in the Marines you must set the example for others to emulate. Your conduct and professionalism both on and off duty shall be beyond reproach. You are responsible for the accomplishment of your assigned mission and for the safety and the professional development and well being of the marines in your charge; you are the embodiment of your institutional corps value of honor, courage and commitment. You will lead your Marines with firmness, fairness and dignity while observing and following the orders and direction of senior leaders."

Brenton's dad, Roger Rutter, who had also served in the Marines, credited the military and Brenton's donor, Caruso, for saving his son's life. He said when his son came home for his sister's wedding two years ago, he looked ill. On June 4, 2007, Brenton was diagnosed with leukemia and began treatment at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Mass. With both his siblings eliminated as potential stem cell donors, which is common, Brenton would have to await a compatible match, but he didn't wait long. Casey had just recently signed on as a donor with a donor bank when they hit a match. In a half-day long medical procedure conducted at Mass General, she donated once in August of 2007. What drew her to become a donor? She replied that the women in her family have a history of breast cancer, and are survivors.

After the treatment Brenton and Casey exchanged some limited information about each other, but were able to finally meet face to face. Arriving at the promotion party last week, Casey said she knew she had the right place when she saw the big pickup truck with "Cancer Sucks" printed on the back window.

On behalf of the family, Roger thanked the Marines and Casey, saying that his son would not be here today without them.

"I appreciate everything they've done," he said.

Matin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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