Today’s veteran: Robert Reed, 52
Born: Jacksonville, Fla.
Residence: St. Marys
Service: Marine Corps, 20 years
Rank: Staff sergeant
Recognitions: Global War on Terrorism Medal; Korean Defense Service Medal; Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal; Nato Service Medal; Marine Corps Achievement Medal; Wartime Detention Medal; Norwegian Arctic Service Medal; Sea Service Medal; Armed Forces Service Medal; Navy Achievement Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Good Conduct Medal
Duty stations: Iraq; Okinawa; Panama; Norway; Korea; Philippine Islands; Haiti; Russia; France; Turkey; Greece; Albania; Spain; Camp Geiger, N.C.; Parris Island, S.C.; Camp Pendleton, Calif.; Camp Lejeune, N.C.
His story: Robert Reed had several friends who enlisted in the Marine Corps after they graduated high school. He remained in contact with his friends, and they influenced him to enlist a year later.
“I wanted to be a machine gunner,” he said. “The hard job was what I was looking for.”
Reed said he loved infantry training, especially when they were in the field.
“We trained all the time,” he said.
He was sent to Panama for jungle warfare training and as a show of force while there was ongoing unrest in the nation.
His unit was sent to Okinawa, where they spent the first week getting used to the weather. They trained in Iwo Jima and later with the Philippine army.
After more training in Thailand, he was sent to South Korea to provide security for the 1988 Olympics.
“What made it hard was I just got married,” he said of traveling from one location to another.
He returned to North Carolina for training before he was sent to Wisconsin to prepare for his next duty assignment. He was sent above the arctic circle to train for three months in Finland.
“The first day there we had a white-out,” he said. “You couldn’t see nothing, nowhere.”
Living conditions were challenging during the cold-weather training. The Marines built snow caves to weather the frigid conditions.
“We slept on the ground 33 days,” he said. “There was lots of frostbite.”
His next duty station was at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, where he was part of a security detail.
He got orders to return to North Carolina and barely had time to grab his gear before his unit was sent to Haiti, where political unrest was ongoing.
From there, he was sent to Okinawa for more training before going to South Korea to train with the Korean army.
His final stop in the Pacific was in Japan, which he said was among his favorite duty stations.
“I liked the food, culture. I liked it all,” he said.
His next tour of duty was halfway across the world. He went on a Mediterranean tour where his unit made many port stops.
“We were going country to country playing war games,” he said.
After the tour, Reed returned to Kings Bay, then left for Parris Island, S.C., where he was a drill instructor.
In March 2003, his unit was sent to Iraq for a seven-month tour of duty. He was a platoon commander responsible for setting up patrols. Luckily, his unit didn’t lose a man during the tour, but things were much different when his unit returned in 2005.
Reed said a sniper killed the first Marine to get off the plane when they arrived in Iraq. By the end of the seven-month tour, he said his unit lost 13 men.
The loss of every Marine was upsetting to Reed and the others in his unit.
“The hardest thing was kicking in those doors,” he said. “When I got back, I talked in my sleep.”
He retired after he returned to North Carolina to end his 20-year career. Reed said he has no regrets about military service and the only thing he’d change is to stay in longer than 20 years.
“It helped me be smarter, wiser,” he said. “It taught me how to cope with life. It gave me a good outlook on life.”
Our Veterans runs Wednesdays. Contact Gordon Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 912-464-7655 to suggest a veteran for a column.