In a military ceremony preceded by a Mass he will officiate, Father Robert Marciano will retire from the Rhode Island Air National Guard on Oct. 1 after serving 36 years in the military.
Marciano holds the rank of colonel and serves as State Command Chaplain of the Rhode Island National Guard with a staff of about 20.
At the 5 p.m. Mass at St. Kevin Church, where Marciano is pastor, Col. Mark Rowan of New York and a friend will deliver the homily. Brigadier General Alphonse Stephenson of New Jersey will be the presiding officer at the military ceremony to follow at 6 p.m. A reception will follow at the church hall.
With a desire to see the world and the consent of then Bishop Louis Edward Gelineau, Marciano joined a chaplaincy program in the Air Force Reserves in 1980. His first assignment was to Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas followed by a stint at Travis Air Force Base outside San Francisco.
“I never thought I would last,” Marciano said Friday at Warwick Fire Station 8, where he joined city officials who participated in a demonstration of the department’s training tower and rescue techniques.
Marciano serves as chaplain for the department and wore a white shirt with the designation embroidered over the left chest. He was not outfitted in the heavy protective clothing, headgear, and air packs other official had donned for the exercise.
“I avoid fire in this life and the next,” he said with a smile.
But Marciano’s military career has included tours at the hot spots.
He remembers saying Mass to about 500 troops during the Iraq war. The area was heavily armed, tensions ran deep and the base was on the alert. The Mass was held in a tent and when it was over a solider came up to him with tears in his eyes. The soldier told him for those brief 20 minutes he felt like he was home again.
He served in Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and Water Reed Hospital in Washington, where he ministered to the wounded. Most trying was his assignment to the Mortuary Recovery Team at the Pentagon immediately following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, where he prayed and worked with the victims and the family and friends of those who lost their lives.
These were emotional and difficult times demanding fortitude and strength. But Marciano also says they made for “pleasant memories of supporting people in their faith.”
From 1994 to 2005 he served as the Wing Chaplain for the 143 AirLift Wing at Quonset Point rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Then in 2006 he accepted an active duty Air Force assignment at the National Guard Bureau at the Pentagon as chief of personnel and accessions, being responsible for the recruiting, training, and readiness of the Air National Guard Chaplain Corps. He was a distinguished graduate of Air War College in June 2007.
In April 2008 he was named the chief of chaplains and was promoted to the rank of colonel. In that capacity, he was responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Air National Guard Chaplain Corps and served as the “Senior Pastor” of the 107,000 men and women of the Air National Guard and their families. After completing his active duty in Washington, Marciano returned to the state and took on his role at the Rhode Island National Guard.
The recipient of many military and church honors during his career, Marciano imagined he would retire from the National Guard without fanfare, but friends convinced him of the ceremony. He said he is looking forward to having his father in attendance, his family, and the church and military communities to whom he has devoted his life.