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Patriotic Article

By USMC Pfc. Justin Boling

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Teaching Eases One Marine's Loss
(October 16, 2010)

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MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. -- It is a bright morning as students step into their history class room. The teacher sits behind his desk wearing glasses and a polo shirt with a symbol of the flag raising at Iwo Jima on its front. The students shuffle to get out their binders before the teacher starts his lesson.

Brian Kirkpatrick, a retired first sergeant, is a teacher and a part of history to his classroom. He survived one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in military history - the barracks bombing in Beirut, Lebanon, Oct. 23, 1983.

According to Charles Yahres, the principal of Bolden, Kirkpatrick is walking history, which brings a deeper dimension to everything he teaches.

Kirkpatrick was a 20-year-old corporal standing roof watch after two months of escalating hostility during what was supposed to be a peace-keeping mission. He was a combat engineer with the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit and ready to return to his pregnant wife.

“I do not know why I volunteered, I just stepped out when they asked for non-commissioned officers,” said Kirkpatrick. “My wife did not understand, but I think it was fate moving me.”

After being relieved from his post he checked on his Marines. He then returned to his third floor room, took off his gear and laid down, zipping a sleeping bag around him to keep out the cool Mediterranean air.

Suddenly startled by the cracks of rifle fire, he looked over to his close friend in the next bed. Then a sound like all the air in the world was rushing toward him rungout as the explosives detonated in the center of the barracks.

“I bonded with my guys and I still miss them,” said Kirkpatrick. “I tell my students that all I have to do is close my eyes and I am back there at the barracks seeing their faces again.”

The bond he shared kept the trauma of the bombing from ruining his life. According to Kirkpatrick, in times of adversity he would often pray, asking for their support and they always provided him a moral compass, especially during his two tours on the drill field.

Kirkpatrick developed a love of teaching during this time.

According to Yahres, Kirkpatrick is respected deeply by his students and his peers.

“Respect is defined through him, he is a Marine through and through,” Yahres said. “He passes respect on to the students by demonstrating it himself.”

Kirkpatrick was also recently selected to serve as the school's teacher team leader.

“He brings so much to our school,” said Susan Schmidt, a middle school English teacher at Bolden. “He possesses all the skills anyone could want in a leader, and is happy to share what he knows with anyone.”

Kirkpatrick said he enjoys being a teacher because he gets to be a role model for children. He also likes talking to younger Marines about their lives and giving helpful advice to those struggling with post traumatic stress disorder.

Kirkpatrick said it's important for those suffering from PTSD to share their story.

“A lot of service members returning from deployment deal with survivor guilt because they think they are meant to serve a higher purpose by being spared,” said Kirkpatrick. “I feel as though my teaching is that purpose.”

I just want Marines who endure combat stress to think what the brothers they lost would say,” said Kirkpatrick. “I know when I see my [Marines] again they will be proud.”

By USMC Pfc. Justin Boling
Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort
Copyright 2010

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