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Thank you, 1st Lt. Shaun Blue, for a life of integrity and service

Do Americans truly appreciate the sacrifice that this marine made on their behalf?

By Luke Larson / April 16, 2008



Scottsdale, Ariz.

It's been a year since I first heard the news. I was in Kuwait on April 17, 2007, preparing for my second tour in Iraq when I stopped to call my wife on the way to the chow hall. I'll never forget her crying when she told me that Shaun Blue, a fellow Marine lieutenant and a very close personal friend, had been killed in combat the day before in Iraq's Anbar Province.

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I first met Shaun Blue in Quantico, Va., at Officer Candidate School, when he ran the initial three-mile portion of the physical fitness test (PFT) in 16 minutes. He finished first on the run, two minutes faster than his closest competitor.

When we arrived back in Quantico to attend The Basic School, Blue and I were assigned to the same squad, where I soon realized he could not only ace the Marine Corps PFT but every challenge the instructors tried to throw at him.

A top performer – and a helping hand

I've been told that three qualities that make a good Marine Corps officer are intellect, force of will, and character – with character being the most important. Blue showed me on several occasions he had all three attributes.

Though I struggled to get through the very challenging Infantry Officer Course, Blue seemed to glide through the difficulties effortlessly.

In these situations, other officers who probably looked better on paper than Blue crumbled under the mental and physical pressures. When we were tired, when it was cold and wet – that is when Blue excelled.

He was consistently the first person to push the rest of us through those dark nights, a testament to his desire to support his peers. In the very competitive environment of a military school, Blue rose to the top 10 percent of the class with his intellect and force of will.

Ironically, Blue's selfless character is what kept him from being the No. 1 graduate. He could have easily surpassed the other top performers, but he did not care about merits of achievement or superficial accolades – he cared about doing the right thing.

Instead of spending the extra hour on his own work to be the No. 1 guy, he would spend that hour helping the subpar performers reach the level they needed to pass the course. More important, he helped shape them into good infantry officers who would go on to lead men into combat. Blue had character.

He attended the University of Southern California on a Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps Scholarship. The philosophy major's grandfather, a World War II Marine veteran, influenced his decision to join the military.

Standing in Kuwait that day in April 2007, I said a silent prayer for my friend. After taking a deep breath, I decided I would mourn his death only after my own unit made it through our deployment.