CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Governor Henry McMaster on Wednesday awarded the Order of the Palmetto to two retiring members of The Citadel community.
The highest civilian honor a South Carolinian can receive, the Order of the Palmetto is awarded to citizens “for extraordinary lifetime service and achievements of national or statewide significance.”
During a visit to The Citadel, McMaster presented the award to Captain Eugene “Geno” Paluso, class of 1989, USN (Ret.) and Lt. Col. Pam Barton, USA (Ret.). Paluso is a Commandant of Cadets and Barton is the Assistant Commandant for Operations and Training.
After graduating from The Citadel, Paluso served in the United States Navy as an Officer, a SEAL, and a Special Operations warrior. He was deployed 11 times, “undertaking some of the most secretive and challenging tasks given to our military.”
In his letter recommending Paluso for the award, Col. Myron Harrington, class of 1960, USMC (Ret.) said the following of Paluso:
“His impact on our 2,300 cadets far exceeds this brief description. Captain Paluso is on duty 24/7 anytime cadets are on campus, including holiday and summer breaks. He is a leader, and in spite of being the head disciplinarian, the greatest mentor, advocate and friend to every cadet entering our gates. A planned retirement in June 2021 leaves a great gap at The Citadel.”
Barton joined the U.S. Army after graduating from the University of South Carolina. She “commissioned as an Army Officer in a time the military was reeling after Vietnam, and female officers were few and far between.”
Barton was one of the first women to be Airborne-qualified, “amassing over 500 military sport jumps, and appeared with the 82nd Airborne Division Sport Parachute Demonstration Team.”
In his letter of recommendation, Gen. Gelnn Walters, class of 1979, USMC (Ret.) said the following of Barton:
“Her legacy at The Citadel is indelible…Most critically, Pam shows everyone ‘what right looks like.’ This is a powerful message in an environment historically dominated by male cadets and staff. The impression on two-plus decades of cadets and alumni cannot be overstated. Her retirement this summer is a loss, but well-deserved. We built better leaders and citizens for South Carolina as a result of Pam’s efforts.”