Today is March 7th. John P. Phillips my friend (we all called him John Paul) was injured gravely in Iraq 8 years ago today. He later died from those wounds on August 16th, just 5 months later. He was an honorable man, a good friend and a US Marine.
I was older and a couple of grades ahead of John but we were friends and since I was dating his cousin (now my wife,) we were tight. We bonded over playing the guitar and martial arts stuff, particularly boxing when we were teenagers. He always got the wrong end of whatever came his way back then. I suppose it was just the way things were, people are always pretty quick to judge someone in High School – especially a small town like where we come from. As such John never backed down from ANYONE and he was quick to get into with you if he thought you were doing someone wrong. Our shared talents for questioning authority was also something we enjoyed together.
John was a very mentally tough person, even back then. When he set his mind on something he usually saw it through to the end. Like with High School, he went back after a brief vacation from his educational career and finished it. He eventually walked with his classmates instead of just getting a GED like you’d expect someone would. I kind of lost touch with John when I went to college, just the way things go with people from “back home”. He eventually enlisted in the Marines in 1996. I remember talking to him beforehand and it was clear this was something he really wanted to do. I distinctly remember him talking about not having a clue about what to expect from a career like this except that he really wanted to belong to something bigger than himself. I imagine he achieved that goal, I don’t suspect the Marine Corps would have it any other way.
I was at his graduation march on Paris Island. The look on his face was immeasurable, he was a very proud man at that point in his life. We talked about boot camp and how incredibly difficult it was, he loved the martial arts component that was new to boot camp. His was one of the first classes to test it’s addition as part of basic training. We also specifically discussed the Crucible, which is a hellish training event that breaks you down physically and mentally.
It seemed to me that he took to being a Marine pretty well. He was an MVO, motor vehicle operator, and wasn’t too fond of that specific work. I think he was just unchallenged with it. At least the monthly emails we would exchange told me enough to think so. He was deployed to Okinawa, Japan – that he loved. He furthered his martial arts training and we talked a lot about guitars and new songs we were each learning.
It wasn’t too long before he signed up for security detail training to become an Embassy Guard. Later serving in Cairo, Egypt to guard the US Embassy there. I still have the papyrus paper he mailed me because he saw I was into woodblock printing and thought the paper was cool and maybe “I could do something neat with it.” I honestly can’t bring myself to use it for anything, but I still have it.
He came home after his enlistment ended and tried to make a life in the same small town where we grew up. I’m sure he was restless, that was his nature. John always longed to do something outside the scope of Berkeley county, even back in High School.
He eventually reenlisted in the Marine Corps, deployed to Iraq and also signed up for EOD training. To be an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Specialist. In our emails I told him how crazy this sounded and I asked him how serious it was. He responded that it was deadly serious and what he loved most was; “the idea that he would be helping other soldiers who were being taken out by bullshit IEDs.” In short he loved it and I think it was the ultimate challenge he was searching for all his life.
He was deployed to Iraq in 2006 as an EOD specialist. The vehicle he was in was hit with an IED explosion and the blast burned 75% of his body. He was transported back to the US to San Antonio. To this day I regret not traveling to see him then. I don’t think I truly appreciated how bad it was for him, he emailed me once while in the hospital, god he was tough. But it was bad. He fought his injuries through multiple surgeries for 5 months until it was just too much.
At his funeral we met a couple of his fellow Marine brothers and EOD teammates. The EOD community is really close knit, there aren’t many in the field that do that job. The rigors and stress are too much for most people to handle. I can see how it suited John though.
Until those Marines and EOD Specialists lined up to put their USMC pins on the casket that day; I’d never seen such a display of honor and distinction. John was gone and while I felt very sad that I could no longer talk to my friend, I also felt envious of him, that he had experienced a level of brotherhood with being a Marine that i’d never find.
SGT John P. Phillips
Marine Embassy Guard
9th Engineer Support Batallion, EOD Company
In honor of SGT John Phillips a few buddies of mine and I are going to get together and perform a workout we’ve designed. We’re going to call it the “John Paul”. It is based on the idea of the Spartan 300 style workout and mixed with the spirt of the “Murph”. As such the workout will consist of the following, performed in whatever order you desire and without a set time, but time yourself so the next time you do it you can try to do it faster:
- Start with a 1 Mile Run
- 100 Burpees
- 100 Push Ups
- 100 Squats
- Finish with a 1 Mile Run
If you can not complete the workout, that’s okay, do as much as you can.
It may not seem like much, but trust me if you do this workout and think about those that have served you’ll feel it. Do it in honor of the man it’s named after and try to make the Marines proud of how hard you work.
Original article posted here: https://crawfish.tumblr.com/post/78844491446/sgt-john-p-phillips