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Photo by Cpl. Jennifer Brofer

We don't promise you a rose garden

21 Feb 2006 | Cpl. Jennifer Brofer Marine Corps Training and Education Command

The menacing look on the drill instructor's face says it all.

The salty DI glares up at a new recruit at receiving - the muscles in his face so tight the veins are popping out of his neck - in order to give the recruit a bit of what he calls "attitude readjustment" on his first day in recruit training.

The Marine in the infamous "We don't promise you a rose garden" poster is none other than former Sgt. Charles A. "Sgt. T" Taliano, who, even after 38 years removed from active duty, continues to inspire future generations of Marines.

Taliano, who currently serves as the manager for Alexander Ship's Store located in the Parris Island Museum, said he was just assisting other drill instructors with a platoon pick-up on that fateful day in 1968 when a photographer snapped the photo that would transform him into a Marine icon. 

"There was a Marine reservist who was an author and photographer, and he was writing a book about Marine Corps boot camp," said Taliano, who said he was on outpost awaiting an honorable discharge from the Marine Corps on the day the photo was taken. "It was titled 'Marine Machine: the Making of the United States Marine.'"

It wasn't until three years later when his father called him up and told him of the photograph that appeared in Newsweek Magazine that he realized the poster even existed, he said.

"I went down to the local newsstand, I paged through it, and there was an article in there about the Marine Corps, and I saw that a picture of the poster was in the magazine," said Taliano, of the article that was published Nov. 29, 1971. "That's the first I was aware of the poster."

The "Rose Garden" poster was the first in a series of posters with a slogan that read, "The Marines are looking for a few good men," a recruiting campaign that ran from late 1971 until mid-1984, said Taliano.

At one point in the 1990s, the Marine Corps Association even had a jigsaw puzzle of the image, which was later discontinued, he said.

Even to this day, Taliano said he still gets recognized, and often gets requests to autograph copies of the campaign poster, which are sold at the museum gift shop.

A few years ago when Taliano began attending the drill instructor reunions at Parris Island, he held a poster signing and remembered a line of customers out the door, and the
store sold about 500 posters within a two-day period, he said.
"[Of] the Marines that were in line, many of them that were buying multiple posters for other Marines who had to be at work," he said.

Taliano continues to hold poster signings across the country, and all of the proceeds go toward funding the Parris Island Museum and scholarships for the Women Marines Association, he said.

Having received recognition for the past three decades, Taliano can't help but wonder what happened to the frightened recruit whose face is barely visible in the photograph that made him famous so long ago.

"There have been a few attempts to find him over the years," said Taliano.  [I] guess I would ask him about his time in the Marine Corps ... if life was good to him."

During a poster signing, a gunnery sergeant told him the recruit in the poster was a sergeant major who had retired, but without the name of the gunnery sergeant or the sergeant major the information would be impossible to verify, he said.

However, if he ever saw his former recruit again, he would want to have a reunion since [the alleged sergeant major] now "outranks" him, he said. 

"If he indeed retired as a sergeant major as I was told, that would be a historical reunion," he said.

Although he has been off the drill field nearly 40 years, Taliano credits much of his success in life to his tour as a drill instructor.

"It was the best job I have ever had," he said. The hours were long; the pressure was great; the rewards were many. I would not trade the experience for anything. Being a drill instructor has changed my life. It certainly helped me in my civilian career."

Taliano continues to stay close to the Marine Corps by working at the Parris Island Museum, where he enjoys seeing new Marines on Family Day, he said. 

"I'm having a lot of fun, and it's fun being surrounded by Marines," said the Cleveland native.

As long as he is in good health, Taliano said he will continue to work for the Parris Island Museum, and, of course, sign autographs upon request.

"As long as my health remains good ... I'll be here."

Marine Corps Training and Education Command