October 11, 2004

The Student Next to You

I missed this post by Lt. Col. Bellon in my travels. I so enjoy reading his writing and do hope that he considers penning a book when he returns.

The Marine he eulogizes in this letter was mentioned in a post by Blackfive.

Here are several other places of interest set up in memoriam to Lt. Col. Shea:
Arlington National Cemetary Website
Scuttlebutt & Small Chow

Emphasis mine.

Dad -

Right now we are finishing our rotation of units out of the area with new ones arriving and taking over. We were concerned about a spike in enemy activity as they knew we were rotating troops. Because of this we conducted a couple of operations on the front end of the rotation and put a hurting on them. Another unit here that operates with us also pulled a couple of operations at about the same time. The result is that we put the enemy back on its heels for a couple of weeks and got some breathing room. Unfortunately, if these guys are true to form, things will pick up again very soon.

It is great to see the Marines who have completed their tour come off the line. Most are now out of day-to-day operations and you can literally see the relief and the letting down as they wait for their flight out. It is hard to believe how much they have done in the past 3 years. Some of the Marines just finishing up their first contract have three combat tours under their belts (one in Afghanistan and two in Iraq). A few of these guys will be in college next year and they will look like any other freshman sitting in class. The rest of the students will have no idea what a hero the guy sitting next them is.

As you have seen from the news, Fallujah is reaching critical mass. Actually nothing has changed except for the fact that there apparently is the will to do what has to be done. We will see. The Marines are ready and the only thing they worry about is the backbone of the decision makers. If we are told to take the town again, we just cannot be ordered to stop like last time.

Shortly after my last letter to you, we took some incoming and lost a great man. It was a one in a million shot but just happened to hit in very place where Kevin Shea was sitting. Kevin was the first guy that I met when I arrived at the Regiment. He was a very big guy who actually went to the Air Force Academy where he played defensive end. His lost his 20/20 vision while at the academy and was told he could not fly. Kevin crossed over to the Marine Corps and accepted his commission as a Second Lieutenant. He played rugby with the Marines and had a very full career as a communications officer. Shortly after arriving to the fleet, he deployed for the Gulf War. When he returned, he did a tour with Force Reconnaissance. Following that, he worked in a joint command conducting special operations. Over here, he proved his bravery time and time again during firefights and leading Marines. Like I said, he had a full career.

Regardless of all of his operational experiences, clearly the one that he loved and talked about the most was being stationed at the Naval Academy.

He was an instructor who became fast friends with the guy that I wrote you about a few weeks ago. In fact, Kevin made such a mark at the Naval Academy that he was made an honorary member of the class of 2003. I cannot accurately describe the impact he had on Marines. I would call him a natural leader but that would undermine how hard he worked at it.

He was also a fun loving guy who was such a gentlemen and so honest that it made him a target for our practical jokes. Last spring we got one of the special operators that are around to go up to him in the chow hall and tell him that he had "read his file" and was interested in recruiting him. Kevin was a frustrated operator and wanted nothing more than to be an "action guy" even though he was seeing plenty of action. The caveat was that we got the guy to tell him that he had to lose some weight fast and that he could not tell anyone about it. Sparky and I watched as Kevin ate salad and worked out with a fury. We would ask him what was up and he would just say "nothing" as he scraped the extra salad dressing off his lettuce.

Kevin did not suffer in the end. We were to him within seconds of the blast and he was gone. It is hard to believe because the guy was a mountain of a man who was an anchor for the Regiment. Kevin was posthumously promoted to Lt Col. Col Toolan just turned over the Regiment the morning Kevin was hit.

He flew to Dover to escort Kevin home. Sparky went back to DC to be with them. Kevin left a wife and two young children who no doubt could use all the prayers in the world.

Please tell Steve when you talk with him next that I received all of the well wishes from United and sincerely appreciate each and every one of them.



Posted by Rae at October 11, 2004 09:19 AM | TrackBack
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