13 MARIE DURLING THE “GURU” OF RETIREE BENEFITS T his edition of FAM’s spotlight heads to Bordentown, New Jersey to shine the light on Marie Durling, Retire- ment Services Officer, New Jersey National Guard stationed at the Joint Military and Family Assistance Center in Bordentown. Even at 8:15 in the morning; Marie greeted me with a warm smile, welcoming spirit and caring heart. As a retirement officer, Marie’s job is to educate National Guard members, upcoming retirees and their families on the full scope of their retirement benefits. Marie understands the importance of retirees accessing the many benefits made available to them, noting that it all starts with knowing what to do and where to go. This infor- mation is shared during the four benefits seminars she conducts annually to at least 130 attendees each session. Ninety-percent of the attendees are retired while ten- percent are reaching retirement age and come to get infor- mation for retirement planning. Marie then follows this up with one-to-one sessions where she reviews the service members’ applications for accuracy and ensures that they have the needed documents to accompany the application that includes the 20-year letter and their discharge orders. By the way, many service members have displaced their original 20-year letter, no worries ~ Marie does the research to find that letter and issues a duplicate so that the retiree’s application can be com- plete and they can receive their benefits. When Marie Durling, Retirement Services Of- ficer, a civilian, was asked about the most im- portant message she would like to relay to the National Guard members she said, “Thank you for your service” she went on to talk about the benefits that were onsite at her location including assistance completing the NGB22, financial counseling, mental health counseling, survivor outreach, youth activities information and applying for health benefits. Marie noted that there is a Tricare/US Family Health office onsite and that the cost is minimal for family healthcare, $578 annually. Mrs. Darling said with emo- tion as though each one of those service members was part of her family that she wanted each retiree to receive all of the benefits they are entitled to. She handed me her busi- ness card so that any soldier needing her assistance could just give her a call. Now let’s shine the light on Marie and her personal life. Marie married her childhood sweetheart Mr. Bill Durling a retired financial systems analyst, they are celebrating 46 years of marriage. Marie has two children and two grandchil- dren (twins – boy and a girl) the loves of her life. Marie and Bill enjoy road trips to visit her grands as Bill doesn’t like to fly. As a matter of fact, when her husband’s employer relocated to New Jersey in 1988 she found work as the Director of a daycare center. While on summer break, in order to receive unemployment, you had to look for a job. This was the start of her career that led to her helping thou- sands of service members over the years! Marie worked in several branches 1988, Secretary at Picatinny New Jersey Arsenal, 1989, Secretary at the State Aviation Office, West Trenton, New Jersey, 2004, Secretary to the Chief of State Joint Force Headquarters, 2004 pro- moted from Family Program Specialist to the Assistant Director of the Family Program Office at Fort Dix. In 2014, Marie Durling became the Retirement Services Officer where she currently provides services in Bordentown. Marie recalls that working as the Assistant Director at the Family Program Office was one of the most satisfying jobs as she was able to assist service members, families and work with volunteers. She laughed stating, “I was on-call 24/7 such a rewarding job to be able to help others’. Marie shared a story with me about one year when she was asked to have Thanksgiving with the soldiers and how her daughter did not under- stand as she felt she should be home with her own family. Marie told her daughter that the service members didn’t have any family to spend the holiday with and she needed to be there with them. Today, her family understands her com- mitment to her work and to the service members who valiantly serve our country. Marie was also the daughter of a soldier, both of us recall- ing that we didn’t really understand the significance of our fathers being of service during our youth, however, these were selfless men that gave of themselves as they loved the country they served. In a heart stopping moment, Marie reached in her drawer and handed me the retire- ment kit that she gives to the retired service members in honor of my father who fought in World War II with her dad. Today, we celebrate Marie Durling, Retirement Services Officer legacy of service who like the service members she serves is loyal, proving selfless service with a personal touch. So I asked the magic question, “Marie it has been 30 years, when will you retire”? She replied simply “I’m not ready yet”. Thank you Marie Durling for all that you do. ✪ COMMUNITY Interviewed by Dr. Natalie Richardson SPOTLIGHT SPOTLIGHT “many of the retired service members think benefits are automatic, however, they must file an application to receive benefits”