BELIZE CITY, Belize - Volunteer firefighter, actor, flight instructor, commercial airline pilot and Marine.
United States Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Keith Day holds all of these titles.
“I believe you have to find what your niche is,” he said. “My dad used to tell me to do whatever I wanted to do as long as I'm successful.”
And, he has been in all his chosen paths.
U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Keith Day challenges Hattieville Government School students to a race during a physical fitness lesson he led on May 13, 2014. Day is deployed in support of the New Horizons training exercise in Belize. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kelly Ogden)
At the young age of 14, Day began working as a volunteer firefighter starting with the Lower South Hampton Fire Department in Trevose, Pennsylvania, then moving to the Langhorne Middletown Fire Company in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, of which he is still an inactive member today.
“God blessed me with the ability to love people,” he said. “I always want to help people.”
Throughout his adolescence, Day lacked passion for any specific career path but had dreams of becoming a professional drummer, veterinarian, or a defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles.
“Unfortunately, my parents hated when I played the drums, and I wasn't keeping up with the growth needed to be a defensive end.”
It wasn't until his senior year of high school that he found his passion.
“My parents took us on a family trip to Florida, it was my first time flying, and I fell in love with it,” the Marine said.
This new love of flying inspired Day to look into joining the U.S. Air Force. Only there was one small hitch when he went to enlist ... the recruiter wasn't there.
“I went in and the door was closed, so I walked down the hall to the United States Marine Corps recruiting office to ask when he might be back,” said Day. “The sergeant greeted me with a booming voice and asked, ‘Why would you want to join the Air Force when you could join the Marines?'"
So 24 hours later, Day swore in.
“I have no regrets ... it was a perfect fit for me,” he says of joining the Marine Corps.
Day joined the U.S. Marine Reserve in 1988 and spent the next six years in fire crash and rescue, separating in 1994. During his time in the reserves, he completed training in California and decided to move there, working odd jobs, going to school and ultimately enlisting once again in the Marine Corps reserves into civil affairs.
“I am basically the liaison between the commander and the host nation,” Day explains. “I get to meet a lot of people, and I like it.”
Despite his enjoyment in his new job in the Marines, he never gave up his dream to someday fly and, in 2005, he earned his professional aeronautics degree with a minor in marketing. He would later continue on to earn his single and multi-engine commercial licenses, single engine flight instructor and single engine instruments certifications.
In the years to follow, Day would hold a variety of jobs, continuing his flight instructing and picking up another specialty, acting.
Day was introduced to a career in acting by a friend as a way to make ends meet.
He went on to appear in a television series, national commercial campaign, multiple plays and an independent movie.
“I enjoy entertaining people and making them feel good,” said Day.
The acting jobs led to Day joining the Screen Actors Guild, opening the door for an opportunity for him to make a difference in his community.
He began volunteering his time in a program called BookPALS, reading to children in Los Angeles area schools. It was during his participation in the program that he found yet another way to help, he began a 20-minute fitness program for one of the classes.
His experience in this program has proved valuable during his recent deployment to Belize in support of the New Horizons training exercise. While acting as a liaison for the engineering and medical specialist as they build schools and provide medical treatment to Belizeans, Day ran across a unique opportunity to provide his own type of assistance to the local population.
During a meeting with the Ministry of Health and the principal at a government school in Belize, he learned of their desire to incorporate a physical fitness program into the government school system.
The Marine jumped at the opportunity to help.
“The Marine Corps keeps me young and physically fit,” he said. “I like sharing that with the kids while making them laugh” he adds.
Assisted by a team of Airmen and Marines attached to the New Horizons Task Force, Day led over 370 students ranging from ages 3 to 11 through a series of exercises.
“This has been the best annual training exercise I've ever participated in,” he added.
Despite all of the jobs Day has held over the years, he always comes back to his love of flying.
“I am working on submitting a package for the U.S. Navy's aerospace engineering duty officers, I would love to be at least a lieutenant commander someday,” said Day. “I love being an enlisted gunnery sergeant, but I've always wanted to wear the officer rank.”
No matter where his future career path may lead, Day says one thing will never change.
“I will always be a Marine.”
By U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brandy Stocker
Provided through DVIDS
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