Paul (Obie) O’Brien-Kinsey-Sgt-2097636
2nd Recon Bn (1964-1966)
2nd Marine Division Rifle & Pistol Team (1966-1967)
2nd Battalion 8th Marines (1967-1968)
Honorable Discharge (1968)

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It’s Official! Once a Marine, Always a Marine!

“A Marine is a Marine. I set that policy two weeks ago – there’s no such thing as a former Marine. You’re a Marine, just in a different uniform and you’re in a different phase of your life. But you’ll always be a Marine because you went to Parris Island, San Diego or the hills of Quantico. There’s no such thing as a former Marine.”

~Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James F. Amos

To clarify, my good buddy and combat Marine Marion Sturkey wrote in his book “Warrior Culture of the U.S. Marines;

Once the title, United States Marine, has been earned, it is retained forever. The enlisted and commissioning oaths are never rescinded.

Marines fall into five categories:

  • Active Duty Marines
  • Retired Marines
  • Marine Veterans
  • Reserve Marines
  • Dead Marines
  • General James F. Amos
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    Buried Treasure at Eighth and Eye

    In August 1814, as the British Army approached Washington, two sergeants of the detachment at Marine Headquarters (then located at the Marine Barracks) were, so the story goes, charged with the safety of a chest containing a considerable amount of Marine Corps funds. The Marines were supposed to have buried the chest on the grounds of the barracks or to have hidden it within the walls of the Commandant’s House. They then rejoined their comrades on the battlefield of Bladensburg where they were killed in the fighting, taking the secret of the money’s location with them to the grave.

    In another version of this story, the two NCO’s were killed in a rugged floor-to-floor defense of the Commandant’s House when the British invaders reached Washington. Treasure seekers still eye the walled barracks and hoary house with longing, for the money has never been found and may still be, as legend has it, waiting for the persistent hunter.

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    Lucy Brewer – Legendary First Woman Marine

    No compilation of legends would be complete without mention of Lucy Brewer. A farm girl from Massachusetts, Lucy Brewer was the legendary first woman Marine.

    The War of 1812 was raging when Lucy arrived at Boston. Friendless in the strange city, she met a woman who seemed eager to take a stranger into her home. Lucy was surprised that one woman could have so many daughters, but she soon discovered that home was just a house.

    Unsuited to a life of sin, Lucy fled her benefactress, donned men’s clothing, and found refuge in the Marine Corps. No one discovered she was a woman, and as a member of the “Constitution’s” Marine guard, she saw action in some of the bloodiest sea fights of the war.

    Her exploits came to light when she published an autobiographical account of her experiences. She described her heroism in the major battles of the “Constitution” with such details as manning the fighting tops as a marksman, taking toll of the British with musket fire. True or not, the story of Lucy Brewer makes a wonderful addition to the colorful legends about the Marine Corps.

    The first recognized female Marine was Opha M. Johnson who enlisted on August 13, 1918, the day after the Secretary of the Navy granted authority for women to enlist in the Marine Corps Reserve. World War I saw 305 female Marines serving. At that time, there was a military propaganda campaign that showed a now famous Marine Corps poster encouraging women to serve to “free a man to fight”, meaning that women could perform clerical duties that would allow the Corps to use their male Marines for battlefield positions.

    Semper Fi Lucy!

    Read more:

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    Merry Christmas From Afghanistan

    “Merry Christmas From Afghanistan”

    Merry Christmas from Afghanistan, oh man, it’s that time of year, and the birth of Jesus doesn’t seem to please the terrorists down here; I’d like to take a moment for you folks at home to make it clear; Merry Christmas from the Eastern Hemisphere.

    Merry Christmas from Afghanistan, way back in the USA, You’ve got mistletoe and falling snow, we’ve got sandstorms and grenades But what the hell, it’s just as well we celebrate it anyway, Merry Christmas from 5,000 miles away.

    And I remember many Decembers, sitting ’round that tree, And now I’m in an outer cordon sitting ’round an IED, I’ve traded yams and roasted ham for a chicken noodle MRE, Merry Christmas from out here in the middle east.

    So merry Christmas from Afghanistan, from our AO to yours, I’ll be watching illegal DVDs and defecating out of doors, Put my pedal to the metal man, I’ll settle for that medal of honor when I when the war, Single-handedly from my armored drivers door.

    Yuletide salutations from our vacation in the sand, from this E-3 Lance Coolie and up the whole chain of command Between Al Qaeda, Al Jazeera, Mujahadeen, and the Taliban, It’s a very merry Christmas in Afghanistan.

    From south Montana, to northwest Indiana, to the shores of North Caroline, From NYC to LA’s beaches and down the Mason-Dixon Line, It’s that season where we’re freezing, but all in all, we’re doing fine, So merry Christmas from Afghanistan tonight. It’s that season where we’re freezing, but all in all, we’re doing fine, So Merry Christmas down the Final Protection Line!

    Seasons greetings from CAAT 1, WPNS CO, 2nd Battalion 2nd Marines. (filmed on site at Alpha 1)


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    Tell It to the Marines

    This legend goes back to the London of 1664, when Charles II was King of England. A ship’s master, returned from a long cruise, told him a sea story he couldn’t believe.

    Lon Cheney

    “Fish that fly like birds?” the Merry Monarch exclaimed. “I have my doubts!”

    “Nay, sire, it is true,” said Sir William Killigren, colonel of the new British Marine regiment raised that year. “I have myself seen flying fish many a time in southern waters. I vouch for the truth of this strange tale, your Majesty.”

    The King thought it over. At last he turned to Samuel Pepys, the Secretary of the Admiralty.

    “Mr. Pepys,” he said, “no class of our subjects hath such knowledge of odd things on land and sea as our Marines. Hereafter, when we hear a yarn that lacketh likelihood, we will tell it to the Marines. If they believe it, then we shall know it is true.”

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    Send us more Japs!

    Many, many instances of the fighting spirit of Marines could be cited but one story in particular attracts the attention.  
    Courtesy of
    When the Japanese initiated the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, they did not neglect the tiny island of Wake which served as an outpost for Hawaii.  Their plans had been for a speedy seizure of this objective; however, the Marine garrison thwarted their initial attempts. 
    Late in December, the enemy returned with an even more powerful armada.  Attack after attack was mounted against the heroic defenders.   
    All Marine planes were shot down, casualties mounted, the situation was becoming desperate.  However, communications were still maintained with Pearl Harbor.  A relief expedition was mounted but the remnants of the Navy were so pitifully weak that the mission was canceled at the last minute.   
    Finally, Pearl Harbor queried Wake “Is there anything that we can provide?”   
    In one of the last messages from the doomed island came back:
    “Send us more Japs!”
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    A General Mattis Christmas Story

    A couple of months ago, when I told General Krulak, the former Commandant of the Marine Corps, now the chair of the Naval Academy Board of Visitors, that we were having General Mattis speak this evening, he said, “Let me tell you a Jim Mattis story.”

    General Krulak said, when he was Commandant of the Marine Corps, every year, starting about a week before Christmas, he and his wife would bake hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of Christmas cookies. They would package them in small bundles.

    Then on Christmas day, he would load his vehicle. At about 4 a.m., General Krulak would drive himself to every Marine guard post in the Washington-Annapolis-Baltimore area and deliver a small package of Christmas cookies to whatever Marines were pulling guard duty that day. He said that one year, he had gone down to Quantico as one of his stops to deliver Christmas cookies to the Marines on guard duty. He went to the command center and gave a package to the lance corporal who was on duty.

    He asked, “Who’s the officer of the day?” The lance corporal said, “Sir, it’s Brigadier General Mattis.” And General Krulak said, “No, no, no. I know who General Mattis is. I mean, who’s the officer of the day today, Christmas day?” The lance corporal, feeling a little anxious, said, “Sir, it is Brigadier General Mattis.”

    General Krulak said that, about that time, he spotted in the back room a cot, or a daybed. He said, “No, Lance Corporal. Who slept in that bed last night?” The lance corporal said, “Sir, it was Brigadier General Mattis.”

    About that time, General Krulak said that General Mattis came in, in a duty uniform with a sword, and General Krulak said, “Jim, what are you doing here on Christmas day? Why do you have duty?” General Mattis told him that the young officer who was scheduled to have duty on Christmas day had a family, and General Mattis decided it was better for the young officer to spend Christmas Day with his family, and so he chose to have duty on Christmas Day.

    General Krulak said, “That’s the kind of officer that Jim Mattis is.”

    The story above was told by Dr. Albert C. Pierce, the Director of the Center for the Study of Professional Military Ethics at The United States Naval Academy. He was introducing General James Mattis who gave a lecture on Ethical Challenges in Contemporary Conflict in the spring of 2006. This was taken from the transcript of that lecture.

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    Fourth of July

    Enjoy your freedoms on the 4th of July!

    Always Faithful!
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    The Iwo Jima Story

    Life: A Dual Value.

    One often hears the statement “self preservation is the first law of nature.” Is that really true? Here is a surprising Robert L. Humphrey story from the battle of Iwo Jima that sheds light on this question. Humphrey was a rifle platoon commander on Iwo. As you read, ask yourself, if you were the young platoon leader, whether you would think that life was a selfish value.

    The Iwo Jima Story.

    On the sixth day of the battle for Iwo Jima, I took command of the only six (teenage) American Marines who were still left in a front-line rifle platoon that had more than 40 original members [Company F/,2d Battalion/, 28th Marines].

    I took over my platoon in a protected area. Men were walking around. They were an experienced, confident group who had been involved in the fighting at the top of Mount Suribachi.

    One young man was especially noticeable, carrying an unusual Thompson submachine gun. He oozed self-confidence and independence.

    After chow that first evening, as he perfected his foxhole, he started declaring to himself in a loud voice: “I don’t volunteer for nothin’ else! Screw the Marine Corps! Screw Mount Suribachi! Screw everything except ol’ number one! That’s all that counts: gettin’ off this island alive! I don’t volunteer for nothin’!”

    He shouted it so repeatedly that a couple of the other men picked it up. “Yeah! Right! We don’t volunteer for nothing!” Suddenly it dawned on me that they were obliquely speaking to me, their new platoon leader. I felt the chill of having my leadership threatened.

    The next morning, as we prepared to edge out of our positions, a message came down from higher headquarters. As luck would have it, I was being ordered to send a volunteer out onto a hill in front of us on a sure-death reconnaissance mission. Hesitant to ask for volunteers after what I had heard the night before, I announced that I, myself would go. I made the excuse that, since I was new, I wanted to see the terrain. No sooner had I spoken, than the same Marine who had made the declarations the previous night said, “No, I’ll go, Lieutenant.”

    “What!” I exclaimed, “You were the one last night saying that you never volunteer for anything!”

    Almost sheepishly trying to cover his willingness to take my place, he answered, “Well, I just can’t trust any of you other jarheads on such a mission.” Stunned, I realized that this Marine was saying, “My turn to die, Lieutenant—not yours.”

    from Humphrey, Robert L., Values for a New Millennium, Life Values Press, Maynardville, TN, 1992, p. 145-146

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    Castra Praetoria

    Time to help recognize some true Marine blogging efforts here: 
    Read below.  Vote.

    Hey people!
    I need you to go and vote for Castra Praetoria if you haven’t already. This is the blog I have been administering and editting for the last year.

    Mike made it to the finals for the Milblog of the Year award in the Marine Corps  branch of the competition.

    If you read him or want to head over, is where to have a look.

    All you need to vote is an account at

    Here is the page that separates the nominees by branch or type:

    Please go sign up.
    No spam.
    All they want is a user name and a password.

    A link will be sent immediately and you can go to the page and vote.
    It’s very fast.

    I would just hit the link above and if you don’t have an account it will prompt you as a new user.

    We are only one ahead so please, please go vote for this blog.


    Hope  (

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    The Making of a Marine

    February 18, 2010
    The short essay below is by Jordan Blashek, Princeton 2009, who decided to turn down acceptance to medical school to join the U.S. Marine Corps and enter its Officer Candidate School, from which he graduated in December 2009. Written originally as an explanation of his decision for his high school classmates, it is worth reading – and appreciating – by us all.

    “You Joined Us” — That phrase is carved into a steel plaque that tauntingly guards the entrance to the Officers’ barracks at Camp Barrett in Quantico, VA.  As I hobbled inside, exhausted from another 15-hour day, my roommate half-jokingly pointed to the plaque, “Why did we do that again?”  I smiled.  Today had been a long day.  Waking at 4 AM, we spent the next 9 hours outside in the pouring rain learning hand-to-hand combat and outdated bayonet techniques.  Without warming layers, hats or gloves, our hands quickly went numb and our bodies started shaking uncontrollably in the 30-degree temperature.  Finally, we were sent back inside to clean our rifles, which must be spotless before we can wash off our bodies.  As 8 PM rolled around and we were still cleaning on a Friday night – when my high school and college friends were out at Happy Hours – I thought about that plaque on the wall: Why exactly did I join, again?

    It’s a question I have tried to answer many times for my family and friends, but never feel as though I have fully conveyed my reasons.  I made the decision to join the U.S. Marine Corps at the start of my senior year at Princeton, turning down an acceptance to medical school in the process.  I kept the decision to myself until I broke the news to my shocked parents over Christmas Break.  I ran through the litany of justifications for them: I wanted to serve my country.  I wanted the camaraderie and the pride of being in the Marine Corps brotherhood.  I needed the challenge to test my true capabilities and strength.  I would receive the best leadership training on the planet, which would help me in any future career I chose.  I wanted adventure and the chance to be a part of history in Iraq or Afghanistan.  I wanted to exude that same confidence that I saw in every Marine officer I have met.  Whether I convinced them or not, in the end, none of these “reasons” alleviated my parents’ understandable anxiety.

    When I told my plans to anyone else, I felt as though I were talking to a brick wall – the Military, especially the Marine Corps, was simply outside their reality.  My closer friends would nod their heads and say something to the effect of “Wow, that’s cool;” but since I was the perennial flake of the group, most did not take my decision very seriously.  And to be honest, even I was not quite sure that I would follow through with the choice.  In the comfort of my college dorm, the decision to become a Marine Corps officer seemed glamorously abstract.  However, on October 1, 2009 my decision suddenly became very real when I arrived at the Marine Corps’ Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Quantico, VA.

    My OCS experience was surreal.  Along with 407 other “Candidates” – all college graduates with newly shaved heads – I ran around for 10 weeks carrying an M16 rifle, while the Marine Corps’ famous drill instructors screamed increasingly creative insults at us.  In reality, we were beginning the painful, yet deliberate process of transforming from civilians into Marine officers through some of the most intense training that exists in the US military.  Meanwhile, the drill instructors continually evaluated our leadership potential as part of the time-honored tradition whereby enlisted Marines select the officers that will eventually lead them in combat.  After nearly half of the officer candidates were dropped or dropped out on their own, we emerged from OCS standing a little taller and a little straighter on graduation day, December 11, 2009.  That afternoon, I raised my right hand to swear the oath of office and receive my commission as a second lieutenant.  That oath obligates me to serve a minimum of four years in uniform.

    Ultimately, I joined the US Marine Corps because I believe that officers bear the most solemn responsibility in our nation, and that was a duty I could not, and should not, leave for others to assume.  To say that I wanted that responsibility is not quite right, because being a Marine officer is not about one’s self, wants or needs; it is about guiding the young 18 and 19 year-old Marines fighting this country’s wars on our behalf.  I decided that serving them was the highest honor and responsibility I could have at this point in my life.  As one speaker at my commissioning ceremony explained:

    “As second lieutenants, you must have a strong sense of the great responsibility of your office; the resources which you will expend in war are human lives.  This is not about you anymore.  This is about the young Marines who will place their lives in your hands.  It is your job to take care of them, even when that means placing them in mortal danger.  That awesome responsibility – the weight which now rests on you – is reflected in those gold bars which you will soon place on your shoulders.”

    That is why the plaque hangs in every portal through which we pass – You Joined Us.  We chose to bear this responsibility and we must make absolutely sure we are prepared to fulfill it, because young American lives are at stake.  If that means being cold and miserable; studying for ungodly hours; and going for days without sleep, then so be it.  That is the price of the salute we receive from our Marines.  

    Five months into my service commitment, I have not regretted my decision for a moment.  I already have unforgettable memories from my experience and new friendships with diverse and exceptional peers from all over the country.  We have had moments of pure fun together and laughed harder than I ever thought possible.  We have also been humbled by the stories and portraits of brave Lieutenants – those who fought and died after roaming the very halls where we now stand and their portraits hang.  Most of all, I am immensely proud to bear the title of ‘United States Marine,’ an honor that I will carry with me my entire life. 

    Semper Fi.

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