CAPT Donny O'Malley (USMC, OEF Veteran)
I want to preface this blog by saying, “If you’re looking for a sweet, little dose of political correctness you can probably just close this screen out and not read this blog.” If you’re looking for a nice warm and fuzzy, don’t read this blog. If you don’t want to see inside the mind of a Marine, you probably shouldn’t read this blog. You may have heard the term “A Marine’s Marine.” If you read this blog you’ll have a better understanding of just what that is. I can’t speak for the Marine Corps because I was never a Marine. However, the majority of the Marines I personally know (and I know quite a few) think exactly like Donny speaks. And that’s why I believe young Marines love this guy unabashedly. He says what everyone else in the Corps wants to say. I think the quote I used above is perfect for the Marine Corps and it’s kind of ironic that it came from a soldier. You truly don’t understand the Marine Corps unless you’ve been a part of it. How do I know? I was a part of something else that’s hard for others to understand, an infantry unit. I can speak from that perspective and say that the majority of infantrymen in my circle would stand in agreement with Donny O’Malley, (born Daniel Peter Maher). It’s one of those long-standing boys clubs none can understand unless they’ve been a part of it.
Political correctness? What’s that? It doesn’t win wars and, in my experience, it definitely does not exist within the sacred brotherhood of the infantryman. I’ve heard things I would never repeat to a civilian in those hallowed inner circles. Although I don’t know that I’m proud of that necessarily, I do know that the lack of worry about reciprocity is one of the things that makes the infantry unit so dangerous. To be honest, civilians don’t belong around us. That’s why media effectively kills many of our campaigns. Many civilians scream and lash out when “innocents” are killed in warfare yet how many people would be able to make a decision in many cases that’s like hitting a 95 mph fastball. Except, this 95 mph fastball is now the decision between taking a life and not taking one. 19-year-old kids forced to double-time into the arena of manhood are making these split-second decisions for us, yet we ask for an end to war when it gets messy; and messy it inevitably gets. Donny says some things in this interview that some will disagree with, and these same things will be the things that almost every Marine and infantryman reciprocates. We may stand back and not say it because we worry about how civilians will perceive us. Donny doesn’t care about that. He’s not here to comfort you and tell you everything will be okay. He’s a Marine Corps Commander and one of the reasons the Corps is majorly dominant in skirmishes with the enemy. Truthfully the only thing that incapacitates the Corps is the same group that sends it to war, civilian politicians.
My goal throughout this project was to get to the heart of Captain Donny O’Malley and to see who this man truly was. I’m so accustomed to seeing the comedic side of skits and the comedy sketches that are now his calling card. I knew there was a Marine Corps officer there though and I wanted to see the veteran side of that officer. What I found was an extremely well-spoken, intelligent man with an unquestionable love for his brothers. Here’s Donny with his perspective.
Why did you join the Marine Corps?
DO: I had probably started killing small rodents when I was like six then I realized when I got older that joining the Marine Corps was how I could step my game up and actually kill people, and get away with it.... That's a complete joke (laughs). You believed me, didn't you?
When I was a little kid I'd watched the movie Platoon with my parents and everyone fucking dies and I was like, "I need to be a Marine." My dad was a Marine but he didn't talk about it that much. I could just always tell that he loved it and I was just drawn to it. I wanted to ride in helicopters, carry guns, go camping, and all that led me to the Marine Corps. After 9/11 I was like, "Fuck yeah, now I definitely need to be a Marine." I was going to enlist but my dad convinced me to wait. He was like, "Look trust me. Get your education first and if you still want to join when you're done with your education, the war will still be going on." He was right but he was actually lying. He was hoping that the war would be over because after he got out of the Marine Corps he became a doctor in the Navy. Then he became the Director of Medical Services at Balboa Hospital which was filled, for the last fifteen years, with blown up Marines and soldiers. He really just didn't want his son to be one of the thousands of casualties in his hospital. He fought me hard to convince me to not join. He's an intellectual and he was giving me all these reasons why the Marine Corps was not going to be good for me and how it was going to restrain me. I'm very different from him. I've got the entrepreneurial spirit and I fucking hate bosses and rigidity. I hate being told what to do. He was just like, "Look man, this isn't for you. You're going to feel really stuck." I was like, "No dad, I know exactly what I'm getting into. I know what I need to do for the time that I'm in." I was exactly right. Finally, at some point in the conversation, I had him sold. I mean it didn't matter that much because I was going to do it anyways, but I finally convinced him. He said to me, "You passed my test. I wanted to make sure you're doing it for the right reasons and I think you'll be great at it."
How old were you joined, what MOS, and how many tours?
DO: I was 25 years old when I joined and 26 when I got to my unit as a boot lieutenant. It was cool being one of the oldest guys in my platoon. I was 0323 Infantry and I did only one tour to combat to Afghanistan in 2012. First deployment was to Southeast Asia with 31st MEU and it was a great time. I was with 2nd Battallion, 5th Marines.
What was the toughest day for you on deployment?
DO: We popped two IEDs in one day. One guy stepped on one and then one of our trucks drove over one, in a spot where I'd been actually lying earlier with my fire support team and half of a sniper team. We had laid down on a fucking land mine and a truck popped it after we'd displaced and patrolled back into the wire. So, we had five casualties that day. We had that first one and we were like "Oh fuck..." We knew it was going to happen. We were ordered into a building that would give us no tactical advantage and we knew we'd pop an IED for sure. I literally looked to my JTAC and said, "I have a feeling we are going to pop an IED," and sure enough a few seconds later "BOOM!" I looked down my scope at the building and I was just like, "God dammit. What the fuck?" Then we came back into the wire two hours later and we heard someone pop another IED. We looked and sure enough one of the trucks is smoking. Again, it's like, "God dammit... how bad are they hurt?" They got the truck back to the base and the crew was like, "Yo, that's right where you guys were lying down." I felt a good sense of fear at that moment (laughs). It was the first time where I was thinking, "Fuck this place." Before that, I was always like, "Let's get some!" After that happened it was like, "Nah, fuck this place." Then I slept it off and I was fine the next day (laughs).
What was the hardest part of Officer Candidate School (OCS)?
DO: The hardest part of OCS was not hysterically laughing all the time. Literally, everything that the Drill Instructors did I found humorous. The more serious they got the more I thought, "You're a fucking tool because you actually get off on the power you have over these dorky-ass candidates (laughs)." It was such a joke. The hardest part was honestly stemming off the criticism of a lot of my peers, because I didn't take it seriously. They got mad at me for it. But I would just think, "If this is that fucking intense for you bro, what are you going to be like in combat? If OCS is this bad for you what are you going to do when you get overseas? Chill the fuck out. This is like summer camp." I remember just being like, "All of you need to chill the fuck out. This is fucking boot camp. Big deal (laughs)." I remember some of these tools would be making us run up and down through the squad bay in like 16 layers of clothing with the heat on blast and we'd just keep running back and forth.
I remember as we were running I'd purposely trip guys in front of me and push them. They'd be trampled by the rest of the fucking platoon (laughs). I was so bad dude. I would pull my dick out the second the Drill Instructors would turn their backs. I can not believe I wasn't caught. I was a complete piece of shit. I couldn't take anything seriously. The hardest part was not getting caught laughing and not fucking off. At 18-years-old a ton of my friends joined the Marine Corps. I saw their experience and thought it was fucking awesome. I always knew that if I was their Platoon Commander I could take care of them. I just knew it. I was a shy insecure, little-bullied kid until I was 16, and I've been a leader ever since then. I just always knew at that point if I had a platoon of Marines, they'd be my little brothers and I would fucking lead them well.
What was the hardest part of being an officer in the Marine Corps?
DO: Getting my haircut every Sunday night because I'd be partying 'til the last minute of course. Not getting in trouble on libo was also hard. I didn't want to be a shitty example for all my Marines. I mean I knew my boys were all getting loaded and partying too. Any officer that doesn't know that or doesn't think that's going on is a fucking tool. But I didn't ever want to be the one to get in trouble. I narrowly dodged that bullet, or I should say narrowly dodged that hail of machine gun fire. Then having bosses who sucked was fucking hard. Keeping my mouth shut was so difficult. Like when a Captain is being a fucking idiot or when a Major or Lt. Colonel is being a fucking coward. I used to see it all the time where they wouldn't hold their officers to the same standard as their Marines. Not speaking up was the hardest part of being an officer. A lot of the Officer Corps genuinely thinks of itself as the way the recruitment posters look. They think they're the epitome of leadership.
I would preface this by saying the lieutenants I served with were some of the best men I've ever met. These were amazing fucking men, amazing men, and incredible Marines. I am so lucky to have served with all of them. There's not a bad thing I can say about any of the lieutenants I served with. I had a great crew in my battalion. But, in general, I passionately hate the Officer Corps in the Marines. I'm going to write books that are going to fucking murder Marine officers for their cowardice. I get the chills thinking about it because the cowardice I speak of is an officer's inability to hold other officers accountable. It's pure cowardice and then there's selfishness on top of that. There are things officers do in combat because they want to look good. It looks good on their fucking resumé or billet of accomplishments so they give orders without considering the Marine who carries those orders out. That's absolutely infuriating. A perfect example and specific one that I will write about one day is operations officers who know we are pulling out of Afghanistan and they know this is their last chance to make an "impact." It's their last chance to have their names put on an operation so they're sending us out into fucking minefields. I don't even have the same amount of bitterness as some guys do. I was lucky because I got to HELO into these areas. The reason the Sangin guys are so fucked up is because they were made to fucking patrol down the alleys they knew with 100% certainty were riddled with IEDs.
They knew that these Marines would most likely step on one, and they still sent them into that area. Why? Because some fucking officer in their command said they needed to maintain their presence in that area. Why? Because he needed to tell his boss that they were maintaining this presence. They don't fucking think outside of the box and realize there are other ways to make impacts in that area. So they'd send these young Marines down these alleyways they knew were loaded with bombs. At their level, it seems as simple as telling Marine to patrol a certain area. It's moving a chess piece but now these Marines are fucked in the head for life. They're blowing their own brains out and it's not just because they're angry at the Afghans. They're angry at their own government for making them do ridiculous shit. It was different in WWII where you had to move a chess piece in order to accomplish a mission. In Afghanistan, we knew we were pulling out but officers were still sending their men on these intensely dangerous missions that had no point. So how many Marines lost their lives or were injured horribly because some officer wanted their name on an operation? That goes on their resumés and shows up as medals on their fucking chests while young Marines were killed for those commendations. I will crush Marine officers until the day I die for their selfish cowardice.
What was your time like overseas on deployment?
DO: Afghanistan was my dream. I enjoyed it every single second I was there, except for that first month. The first month I was there I was the Fire Support Team Leader and there was no reason for me to leave the wire. I was actually miserable that first month. Everyone could tell I hated it and I acted like a piece of shit of course. When I was able to be the Marine I was trained to be after that first month, it brought out the best in me. I was the best version of myself during that time when I started leaving the wire. It elevated me to a level that I never needed to be elevated to. All of these Marine's lives were on the fucking line and I needed to be my best. It was the most motivated I'd ever been. I'd never felt that. I wasn't a trigger-puller. I was fire support so I needed to understand the battlefield and every fucking inch of that battlefield. I needed to know where all of our guys were, where they were going to, where all the bad guys were, and even what was in the sky at 6,000, 8,000, and 10,000 feet. My brain had to move at a level that it never had. It was an amazing feeling that I've now tried to take into the rest of my life. I've been using those experience to help these organizations I've created and started running. Knowing that my brain has the ability to do those things has given me the confidence to do what I do now. I'm lucky to have had that. A lot of guys saw a lot more tragedy than I saw, and their brains are not better than they were before. They're worse off and they didn't experience post-traumatic growth that Mattis talks about. I'm fortunate to have experienced growth.
Talk about your time as a Marine and what you enjoyed most about being in the Marine Corps.
DO: To be honest, the most fun I had in the Marine Corps was getting to do helicopter missions. That was literally the shit I saw in movies. Getting to do that was amazing. I remember landing after my first HELO Op, like super dangerous, all the Taliban big dogs were supposedly there, nobody had ever set foot in that area, and we were flying into this area to go fucking raid them. I remember as I was waiting for the bird to come thinking, "This is what I've been dreaming of my entire life." I was giddy like a little kid. I remember it turned out to be bullshit but the intel was basically like we had an expected number of casualties we were going to take so everyone was scared as fuck. I remember thinking, "I'm ready to fucking die because I'm going to die as happy as a motherfucker right now." I was ecstatic and the operation ended up turning out fine. We took very few casualties and there weren't even that many enemies in the area. But, that right there was the best part of being a fucking Marine. That was one of four moments like that.
Can you explain the complexities of our battle against terrorism?
DO: Terrorism is part of an ideology. Terrorism is the result and product of an ideology, and that ideology being permeated by the extreme factions of Islam is not something you can kill. You can't kill an ideology. Killing them all... "them all" is the stupidest fucking thing to talk about. Let's say you kill every single person in Afghanistan to just destroy Islam there, then you have every single Muslim that was on the fence now being six hundred times more pissed off. The hardest part, for one, is that the ideology is like a virus and the virus is rapidly spreading because it's easy to spread. It's easy to spread because it's spreading in areas that are very poor with no jobs. They have nothing except this ideology so it lends itself to extremism. The reality is the military is not going to win this battle. We're never going to. This battle is going to be won by technology that is going to improve the quality of life in the shittiest parts of the world. That and, I say this half-jokingly, but getting Christians to step up their fucking recruiting game. They seem to be less extreme than Islam but Islam is spreading so rapidly.
Like I said before this ideology is disseminating so rapidly because they have nothing else to believe in, other than this idea. If they had a better quality of life, they'd be less likely to be infected by this virus. You go to some of the less poor parts of Africa like Tanzania where it's like 60/40 Christian to Muslim and they live happily with each other; because they have jobs and food. Even if it's a shitty job, they still have it and they're not fucking fighting each other. I mean there are a few shit-bags here and there but for the most part, they're living happily amongst each other. It sucks that this is turning into just a Muslim thing because it's not all Muslims. It's extremist factions of Islam. The hardest part for us is knowing that we can't stop it. What we can do is just keep killing as many pieces of shit as we have the opportunity to because it has to be a combined effort. You don't fight an evil ideology with peaceful reactions. You fight an evil ideology by fucking killing the leaders of this evil ideology. At the same time, you're making these places better through tech. It's a combined effort.
What was your most memorable experience in Afghanistan where you felt you made a difference?
DO: My most memorable moments were two that were almost identical. It was when I dropped a hellfire missile into four Taliban sitting cross-legged, indian style in a circle de-briefing their attack on us. I put a hellfire into the middle of them. Actually I put two hellfires in the middle for good measure. Watching the screen go white and then watching their fucking body parts fly everywhere, some of them were twitching, and knowing that I just fucking killed these guys. I just ended their lives. It's a sense of joy and happiness that I'd only felt when I was a basketball coach. I coached a high school rec team when I was in college and I had this one kid on my team who was the scrub. I spent a lot of time with this kid just teaching him basic shit and he ended up scoring the last point of a game at the buzzer. I don't remember if it was to win the game, but I remember the joy I saw on his face. There was joy in the stands, with his teammates, and obviously with me as the coach. That was the single most joyous moment of my life until I killed those fucking pieces of shit. And you can see the smile on my face right now, right (laughs)? I'm beaming from ear-to-ear thinking about killing those fucking people. I'll never forget that. I just remember thinking, "I'll probably never feel this happy again." And actually it was the next day when I dropped a hellfire into the middle of five of them.
What was the hardest part of getting out of the Marine Corps?
DO: Knowing that, because I was medically retired, that I wouldn't be around a rifle company. It was my dream to be MARSOC but I'm a fucking pussy made of brittle glass so I couldn't do that. Being in a rifle company is what I miss. Busting a lieutenant's balls, getting my balls busted by staff sergeants, and just being around all the joking. You're around 150 men that you have the utmost love and respect for. That was an intense thing and knowing that I was not going to have it anymore fucking sucked. But, my transition was not that hard. I was in Wounded Warrior Battalion so my transition was a long one. I wasn't hit by enemy fire but I just kept breaking. Surgeries really fucked me. I took 43 units of classes my last year I was in the Corps. I was getting paid fucking Captain's pay and all I did was think about my future because I had the time to.
Did you feel stigmatized or disconnected when you left the Corps?
DO: I felt slightly detached but if anything I just felt a little different. I would talk to some of my friends and it would sound like I was giving orders. You can't do that in the civilian world. One of my favorite things about the Marine Corps is how direct you can be with someone. I could tell someone in the Corps, "You look fat as fuck in your uniform. You need to fix that shit." You can't say that to civilians. I would still say things like that when I got out. I'd be that direct and blunt. So many people just couldn't handle it. It didn't make me feel alone because my network is so awesome. My family is very close. I'd lived in San Diego for twenty years. I've had the same friends for twenty years and in college, I was in a frat. Me and my frat buddies talk to each other every day. We have a get together like three times a year. I didn't have that same feeling of detachment that many guys have when they get out. Part of why I'm doing what I'm doing though is because I saw that in everyone else. It's my nature to include everyone in what I'm doing and try to take care of others. I felt like, "This isn't right that I have community and they don't. Fuck that. I'm going to make community for us."
If you could tell a civilian one thing to change perception what would that be?
DO: If I could tell civilians one thing to change perception it would be to look at all of the mass killings that we've had in the U.S. The one thing they all have in common is that the person that did it was socially isolated before they did it. They were dealing with mental issues and their reaction was to fucking kill everyone else. A veteran who is dealing with mental issues and is on the same brink as those others, their reaction is to kill themselves. A veteran joined because they want to protect others. It's in our nature. I think if they understand that about us it might improve the way civilians interact with us and help us.
What do we do to build a bridge between us and civilians?
DO: Well we need to keep grunts away from civilians. Leave them at least 30 miles outside of major cities on fucking twenty acres (laughs). Truthfully, there are two parts. A lot of civilians that you and I know are probably friends with a lot of military. They get us. My civilian friends understand me. They've been around it for so long. Those who are not used to it, need to take a minute to observe us then try to understand why we are the way we are. It just needs to come from patience and understanding. The second half of that is that all veterans need to completely rid their fucking mind, body, and spirit of this fucking entitlement bullshit. "I'm a veteran!" Get the fuck out of here with that. That closes the bridges. That makes civilians think that we are high and mighty entitled pieces of shit.
And most of the people pulling that entitled shit sat behind a desk for four years. I know like four examples of chicks that spent three quarters of their time on convalescent leave and they come out saying, "I'm a veteran. How dare you talk to me like that!" Get the fuck out of here. In addition to removing entitlement, they need to get out and continue doing what they know, which is serving. Continue serving your community in any capacity. There are 60 million ways to volunteer your time to better your community. If they did that more without throwing it in the faces of everyone else that they're a veteran, that would make a powerful statement. So everyone listening, "Stop posting thirsty fucking pictures on Facebook and get out there and fucking volunteer. Hand out water bottles at a fucking marathon. Fat fucks (laughs)."
What's been your most memorable experience post-service?
DO: It's really hard to identify my most memorable experience post-service. Every Silkies Hike I go to is the best day of my life. So it's really hard to identify a single moment as my best one post-service. Actually, it might've been in New York City a couple weeks ago. Every hike is very similar because there are dozens or hundreds of veterans getting together having this elating experience. I'm getting hundreds of people coming up to me and saying, "Thank you" and explaining what it means to them. There are none that stand out completely. I get tons of these experiences where someone says, "I'm certain I'm alive because of this. I was putting a gun to my head every night and thinking about pulling the trigger. This hike pulled me out of my depression." I hear that tons and tons of times. What greater thing could I possibly hope to hear? Nothing.
If I had to pinpoint it, though, it might've been New York where we had over three hundred people at our hike and it was our second biggest event in one of the biggest cities in the entire world. It went flawlessly. There were bombs going off in New York that day. I'm pretty sure they targeted our route because it was on our route even though we hadn't posted our route. If you were the enemy and you were thinking about which way we'd go, it was planned well. That's where a fucking bomb went off, and yet the day was flawless. The whole city was involved, NYPD was involved, and that was so amazing. Seeing what we had the ability to create, plan, and execute on such a big stage was a really fucking humble experience. And I say "we" but I didn't do shit for that. The Irreverent Warriors team did all that.
What about comedy is so therapeutic for you and your brothers?
DO: I'd like to think I'm good at this kind of shit. I've never really identified the root of why humor is therapeutic for me. I just know that it is. I just know that as a kid growing up in a huge Irish-Catholic family humor was important. My grandparents had like ten kids and all of their kids had like five each. At funerals, my cousins and uncles would be placing bets on the next to die (laughs). Everyone would brace themselves at the funeral for someone to throw out a joke about whoever had just died to one of their brothers or sisters. That's what I grew up with. That's Marine Corps humor right there. Not even just the Marines. That's combat humor. It's dark, dirty, gritty humor used by those who've been in the shit. I grew up with it and it's natural to me. Just being able to say what you're thinking is therapeutic. That's specifically why it's therapeutic to me I guess. I'm already thinking these jokes I tell in my head. The ability to come out and say them, whether I'm writing a book, making a film, a skit, or I'm on a stage is awesome.
Those words coming out of my mouth that I'm thinking, that I know are horrible, and I should not say, makes me feel good to get out. I think it's therapeutic to my audience because they were thinking it too. It's therapeutic to them to know that they're not the only ones to think it. They no longer think, "I'm dark. I'm fucked up. There's something wrong with me." They no longer think that because they can read it or watch it come out of me and think, "Fuck yeah." Some of my videos that are the most controversial and offensive are getting the most support. That is part of the therapy. I script everything so that when I bring up really dark shit, there's no choice but to laugh. I've acknowledged it, they've laughed, and now they can process whatever it is I'm speaking about. That's the first step in the healing process. Being able to acknowledge whatever demon you're facing. That's the next step in the remedial process for helping heal our demographic through humor.
What do we need to fix in our country?
DO: I think that all of the successful leaders of the black community need to step up and call bullshit where there is bullshit. I believe cowardice is an accessory to evil. Cowardice existed in Hitler's officers, Marine officers, and the leaders in the black community who don't step up and say, "You're all wrong. You are so fucking ignorant to the fact that 90% of black men are killed by black men. You're talking about the wrong problem." If they don't step up and do that, the racial divide will continue to increase. It has to come from them. The leaders in the Muslim community need to openly speak against extremism, fundamentalism, and terrorism. They need to shout it from their social media and every chance they get denounce those evils. The reason they are not doing that is cowardice. That's an accessory to the problem. The media needs to also stop perpetuating the problem. In San Diego the other day, we had a guy who committed suicide by cop. It happens in every city, almost every fucking day, everywhere in the country. Somebody pretends to point a weapon at a cop and that cop shoots them. When this happened in San Diego the media story was not that, "Man commits suicide by cop." The story was, "Cop shoots unarmed black man."
This guy had a vape pen that looked exactly like a gun, and he pointed it at cops. That's a perfect example of these problems being exasperated. They're not even exasperated, they're really created by the press. Look at Ferguson. It started when that one kid with the dreads stood in front of a camera and flat out lied. He said, "I saw it man. He had his hands up! He wasn't doing shit! I saw it." Meanwhile, there were tons of other people that saw it too. He didn't have his hands up. He was bum-rushing the cop but their cowardice made them sit back. Finally, when they got to the courts we realized this was all bullshit. Black leadership dressed this "witness" in a nice collared shirt and had them tell their story. They said, "Tell them what you saw, son! Tell them what you saw." Then it gets into a courtroom and all the witnesses say, "They lied. What really happened was that he bum-rushed the cop." I'm getting chills because this whole movement is predicated upon lies. Cops who do the fucking wrong thing should be hammered on a case-by-case basis. But judging all cops as pieces of shit for a bad shooting is the same as judging all black people as pieces of shit for a robbery by a black man. It's the same thing. But now this is a movement that's seen as acceptable. The movement is tolerated by our politicians and that's a huge fucking problem.
It won't stop until black leaders step up and say, "This is bullshit. Martin Luther King Jr. would be rolling over in his grave right now. The way to fix this problem is for all of us to come together and improve our education system. We as the black leadership need to offer better educational programs to kids, we need to be better fathers, and parents." My mother has worked in the hood her entire fucking life. Every weekend they offer free tutoring to students in the school who are struggling. Nobody shows up. And what does the community do? They come and bitch that the school isn't doing this and that. They cry out, "How dare you flunk my son? How dare you hold my son back? How dare you not let my son graduate?" How many times did your son show up to Saturday tutoring? O, not at all? Then shut the fuck up. It's the typical fucking bullshit of entitlement and, "It's not my fault." Start accepting responsibility and take action to fucking fix the problem. Right now it's the black community that's having issues but it needs to be this way in every one of our poorer demographics. That, from my viewpoint, is what needs to happen if we want to un-fuck this racial shit we have going on right now.
Why did you decide to write the book?
DO: When I first started writing the book (Embarrassing Confessions of a Marine Lieutenant: Operation Branding Iron) I did it because I knew I could make people laugh with it. I knew my stories were funny and it was all from journal entries from Afghanistan, that I wrote humorously. My buddies read them and they were like, "That's fucking awesome," so I wanted to make more people laugh with these entries. I took a book about combat that's funny and kind of gives you a look into the grunt mindset showing all the funny shit that we think and see; and I re-tweaked that to make it about suicide prevention and awareness because my buddy killed himself while he was writing it. He was my biggest fan. That's the reason I started working on suicide and helping prevent that. It's because my number one fan who had his legs blown off in Sangin (a part of 1st Battalion 5th Marines) told me that my writing was the only thing that could make him laugh hysterically in his entire life. There were a couple other things he told me that alluded to the fact that I provided him with an outlet to not think about how miserable he was. So as a result of that writing, we had a connection.
When my buddy killed himself then my whole mindset changed to, "Okay, I have to do something now and what can I do? Well, I can fucking raise awareness over veteran suicide." But, I also knew that raising awareness isn't enough. I knew that there had to be an executable plan as there needs to be with anything in order to achieve success. If you're raising awareness to cure a disease that money goes to researchers so in a very real way that awareness helps. But this is suicide we are talking about which is very different. What's the plan to prevent it? I wrote an actual plan in my book to prevent veteran suicide. I thought to myself, "I know this book is going to be read by thousands of people and I'm going to have their attention. How can I use that attention for good?" I bring up awareness at the end of the book followed by the fucking plan to prevent. The plan is simple. Bring veterans together to form a connective bond. I said, "Government, Marine Corps, DOD, this is what you can do to facilitate communication amongst veterans of the same unit." Because the guy that can help you the most is in your squad, your fire team, your platoon, your company, your battalion and finally someone else who's been on that battlefield. It doesn't even matter if they're in the same unit. It just has to be someone who has also been on that battlefield. If you facilitate the connections between all those fucking people you reduce the number of suicides. That's the specific plan. Ever since I brought that up, I've been executing that plan. Everything that I've done with my non-profits has brought veterans together to connect the bond.
What do you think about the superhero mantra attached to soldiers by many civilians?
DO: I think that thinking of us as superheroes is much better than the alternative. The alternative being how we were looked at after Vietnam. Civilians have already chosen how they look at us with all these video games. Call of Duty sensationalizes what we do and shows us as these combat badasses. I absolutely love that. I love it. It's much better than the alternative for one and for two who else do we sensationalize as a society? Football players, basketball players, a large percentage of whom are pieces of shit I might add. Fucking singers and rappers are idolized. All of them are pieces of shit. Chris Brown? People like that. These guys are fucking insignificant scumbag, pieces of shit and some of them are very talented but they're looked at like gods, like deity. And they're so fucking pathetic and such soul-less human beings that they don't even take seriously the responsibility they have to the people that idolize them. They don't take it seriously. They have the attitude that says, "I don't give a fuck. This is my life. I do what I want." They don't care about the impact that they have.
What I'm going to do with VET TV is continue to sensationalize and celebritize veterans and combat badasses. The things Mat Best has done with his crew, I want accomplished on a much larger scale for our community. Instead of reading about some fucking piece of shit, no-name loser in Enquirer is doing with their lives, who was in one good movie I want to read about what Mat Best, JT, Rocco, Drew Hernandez (A Combat Veteran), and Rudy Reyes are doing. Because I already have them on a pedestal because they signed on the dotted line. Now if we can build even more of a pedestal for them through entertainment then we are doing good for the veteran community. So many people idolize these entertainers so let's put some veterans there who can do it. It is within every single one of us as veterans to do good things, be a good influence, and to help the community. If all of us are sensationalized that's a good thing for the veteran community.
Talk about Irreverent Warriors and what the eventual goals of that are.
DO: I initially started Irreverent Warriors just to be a brand that fell under my publishing company that had parties and brought veterans together. That was it. I wanted to take veterans on trips, go out into the wilderness, boat trips, and fucking have parties. The first event that I threw was the first Silkies Hike which then blew up all over the country. I then turned Irreverent Warriors into a non-profit because people already presumed that it was a non-profit. They were trying to give me money and I was like, "I'm not taking money unless I'm a non-profit." Then the other reason was because there needed to be some sort of structure, a headquarters to control the Silkies Hike movement so that it didn't get out of hand and it didn't turn into a money-making vehicle so that the message wasn't lost. It was actually a challenge from my father. I told him, "Dad I can't control what they're doing. These hikes are popping up all over the fucking country." He said, "Yeah you can. You're a fucking leader." I was like, "Alright, roger that (laughs)." I dedicated the next year of my life to creating a large non-profit that could manage the Silkies Hikes and manage the messaging, keeping the intentions pure so that it was never forgotten. We use humor and camaraderie to bring veterans together to heal and mend the wounds of war to further prevent veteran suicide. I need to make sure that message is never lost.
How do we lower the number of those taking their lives every day?
DO: Facilitate the connecting bonds between veterans of the same unit and all veterans in general. That's the most simple answer that I can give. Since I wrote my book, I've been saying I want to hire other people to say, "Let's fucking get together and watch the game at my house." It's that simple. Come into my living room, watch the game with me, watch the fight with me, or we'll just have a family potluck. You bring this veteran together with that veteran's family and before you know it you have six or seven veteran's families hanging out and sharing experiences. There's an awesome guy named Isaac here in Texas that did just that. He's just that kind of guy. He's always been that way and now he's doing it specifically for veterans and the result is a sense of community. We need to create our own sense of community because we aren't the same as WWII veterans. Our population is much bigger and we're way more spread out. VFWs and American Legions are insignificant now. We have to recreate our sense of community and that's what Irreverent Warriors has set out to do. We are creating a sense of community. VET TV's intent is to use entertainment to create community.
Why is the Marine Corps the best from your viewpoint?
DO: Nobody will disagree with this statement. The Marine Corps is the best because the sense of Esprit De Corps, our sense of loyalty, love, and respect for the Marine Corps as an entity is 100 times more powerful than all of the other branches because how hard everyone had to work to be a Marine. It doesn't matter what you did in the Marine Corps. I see these guys out on hikes all the time. They're carrying the Marine Corps flag, sprinting down and back with weight on their back, running loops around the other hikers, yelling at the top of their lungs and I go talk to that particular Marine and he was fucking admin or an air winger. You don't see that from the other branches. The only ones you see that from are the fucking Army Rangers, Airborne, and the infantry units. They don't have loyalty to the Army flag. They have loyalty to the Ranger flag, the Airborne flag, or the Rakkasan flag, or the 10th Mountain flag. In the Marine Corps, your loyalty is to the Corps and that loyalty is beaten into you from fucking day one. The Corps is god. The Corps is life. The Corps is family. The Corps is you. The Corps is all of us. That's why the Marine Corps is the best.
I remember being at MEPS at 17 years old at Ft. Sam Houston as I contemplated what version of hell Ft. Knox would possibly bring me. The various branches were represented by kids just slightly older than me, ready to experience their own edition of what I was about to go through. One person brought up they were joining the Navy, then the next person Air Force, I was going Army, then we rolled around to the last guy. He stared straight ahead. "I'm going to be the best." Cue the collective eye roll of course. I got in a quick jab and laughed congratulating him on his recruiter getting 18-Xray (Army Special Forces) worked into his contract. He didn't seem too amused though and simply grunted. We all knew he was going to be a Marine. What's the quickest way to find a Marine? Don't worry, they'll tell you they're a Marine. Don't like it? Don't be a Marine. The few, the proud, the Marines.
I grew up in San Antonio (Military City USA) and I'm very proud of my service to the United States Army. I'm even more proud that I was in an infantry unit. I admittedly didn't know too much about the Marine Corps when I joined because San Antonio is inundated with Army and Air Force (the biggest contingency) recruiters. However, throughout the course of my commitment to this project, I've become very good friends with a lot of Marines. They are very loyal to the project and have been some of the quickest to get behind me and my work. I'm honored. Their loyalty is unquestionable and, interestingly enough, that's the first trait I look for in a person. The quickest thing to go in a declining society or failing civilization is loyalty. I'm thankful for those that exhibit this trait.
You're probably asking by now, "Tim aren't you going to mention humility? It's in literally every blog you've ever written." Well, here it is. One of my favorite things about Donny was something I noticed in the meetings with his team. I know that I would've LOVED to serve under Donny. How do I know this? I watched his behavior with the Irreverent Warrior team and with other Marines on the hike. Donny is extremely outgoing but in these moments when others were spilling their guts or bringing things to his attention about his non-profit, he was extremely quiet. He didn't interject. He simply listened. He reminded me of my favorite Lieutenant in these moments, Lieutenant Vira. Vira was one of those leaders that was an absolute joy to be around in the moments when things weren't serious. When it was time to go to work, he was a subject matter expert in every place he needed to be. People would sometimes accuse him of fraternization because he was so good with the enlisted. I guess if you consider good leadership fraternization, then he was a fraternizer. Donny exhibited these same traits. I believe that the greatest leaders in the world are also the greatest listeners. How else do you grow? How else do you know what's going on with your men? When the men are uncomfortable to speak up, change will never come and growth will never be achieved.
I'd like to thank Donny for his time and for being a part of the project. The Silkies Hike was an incredible event and if you're a veteran and you haven't been to one absolutely GO. You'll experience that camaraderie you miss when you get into the civilian world. You'll be amongst your brothers and you'll be reminded of that brotherhood that only the military can bring. Check out Donny's new endeavor Vet TV on Instagram @vet_tv, and on Facebook www.facebook.com/veterantelevision/. Check out Irreverent Warriors on Facebook www.facebook.com/irreverentwarriors/ and on Instagram @irreverent_warriors. Donny's personal Instagram is @donnyomalley.