Eighty-year-old retired United States Marine Ben Varon always wears his trademark red U.S.M.C. hat. A short military haircut, khaki pants and freshly pressed shirt completes his look.


"The Marines made a man out of me when I went in," he said.


Hesperia has been home since 1982. Varon's house is organized with military precision. There are lists for everything. A large American flag hangs from the front porch during the summer time. Both vehicles display the U.S.M.C. emblem on the back windows.


The lady of the house is Sassy, a 10-pound rat terrier who has the run of the house. Her doggy door leads to the backyard lawn.


Time has marched on, but this Marine is still caring for others.


"I enjoy people," Ben said.


He has been sending flowers from Acacia's Country Florist for over 10 years. Ben has a list, a calendar of everyone's special dates: holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays. The lucky recipients are from the bank, doctor's office, Department of Motor Vehicles, anyone who has touched his life.


"My mother was always good to people," Ben said.


Ben also purchases $20 worth of freshly minted state quarters and passes them out to people.


"I help when I can," he said.


Ben started out with an umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. From the beginning, on this Thanksgiving Day 1928, this 13 plus pound baby was a fighter.


School ended after fifth grade. To help out his mom, he worked as a maintenance man for Paramount Theater in Los Angeles, working from 3 p.m. until closing and then he slept in the girl's dressing room until early morning. At 2 a.m., he'd hike a few miles to the Grand Center to begin his other job. Often the local police would give him a lift.


Ben enlisted in the U.S. Marines in December 1947. His mom didn't want him to join up, so he missed WW II.


"I didn't get what I wanted for Christmas, so I went into the Marine Corps."


Ben was married in 1950, but the marriage didn't last.


"After that, I made the military my life," he said.


After 22 years of service, he retired as a United States Marine Gunnery Sergeant. In 1968, he and his brother E. Arthur retired at the same time with the same ranking, E7.


After retiring, Ben joined the Army Corps of Engineers. For the first 10 years, he was a flag-officer chauffer.


"I knew how to talk to the officers: The last word always ended in 'sir,'" he said.


In Los Angeles, December 1975, he drove the control car for Vice President Rockefeller's motorcade. A framed Christmas card and two cuff links are a memento of that day.


After 20 years of service, he retired from his second career.


Today, Ben is pretty agile considering his feet were crushed in the third tank battalion. The nerves had to be cut, leaving him without feeling in his feet. Balance is easily lost so a cane sometimes is needed.


Weber-Christian disease has flared up 19 times since 1967. The disease makes your body tempture soar to over 105 degrees. They have to pack your head in ice.


"It's like someone is standing over you with a blow torch," he said.


Despite all of the good this retired Marine has done for others, "I don't like people doing things for me."


Sharon Strickland can be reached at 956-7827 or at sharon@hesperiastar.com.