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Father and son share special bond with U.S. Marines

By Thomas Sellers Jr.Itterly overall graphic fade

Stories of the Marine Corps boot camps are legendary for their demanding challenges and only the strong surviving until the end.
Millington Central High School graduate Kevin Itterly was fully aware of those tales because his father Tom served in the Marines from Aug. 16, 1971 until August 1975. Hearing his Dad share the stories about the life of a Marine only made Kevin want to follow in his father’s footsteps even more.
“Childhood thing, it was always planned out long before I graduated,” Kevin said.
Nothing could take the 2008 MCHS graduate off his path toward becoming a Marine. And Kevin served in the branch of the military for 5 years from June 2008-June 2013.
“I was really proud of my son Kevin for joining for the Marines especially after I told him what boot camp was like and all the stories,” Tom said. “All the scare tactics, I wanted him to know what he was getting into.
“He had to go to Parris Island too,” he added. “We both trained at Parris Island. He made it through. Another thing, he was like the top marksman in his platoon and I was, too.”
Kevin sharpened his shooting skills traveling to ranges with his father at the age of 4. Tom competed in national air rifle competitions, winning several championship. Kevin and his mother Susan were nearby supporting him.
“When he was a little kid, about 4 or 5 years old, he used to draw pictures of tanks, guns and shooting,” Tom recalled. “ I was like, ‘Man, he wants to be in the service.’ I was like, ‘OK, I will let you know what the service is all about.’”
Meanwhile Kevin kept taking steps toward becoming a Marine like his father by shooting with him. And he later followed in his big sister Shana’s footstep by joining the MCHS NJROTC for four years.
Less than a month after graduation, Kevin was ready to live out his dream and enlist like his father did in 1971 into the Marines.
“I was more excited than anything,” the 24-year-old said. “I wasn’t worried or scared or anything like that. More like, ‘I wonder how’s this is going to go?’”
The younger Itterly survived boot camp, and all his training and previous shooting experience allowed him to become a CH53 Echo (Helicopter) mechanic and combat marksman. When Tom was in the Marines his duties included crash crewman and senior enlisted officer over BOQ.
While Tom was in the Marines, the Vietnam War was winding down keeping the elderly Itterly stateside. But in January of 2011 Kevin was deployed to Afghanistan.
“Honestly, I had no problem with it,” Kevin said. “We found out and originally I was with one squadron. I switched to a new unit and after two months we went overseas.”
Kevin was ready to perform his duties in the middle of combat. Back home in Millington, Tom and Susan kept the faith their son would be safe.
“I was a little worried,” Tom acknowledged. “I was about what kind of danger was he in. After he got there he said it was pretty calm over here.”
Kevin made routine phone calls to his parents to keep them updated. After 7 months in Afghanistan, his unit returned home. And a few days later the base Kevin called home was attacked by insurgents.
Tom said that was a reminder of his son’s homecoming being a blessing. Now the father and son can share stories of their brotherhood and bond of being Marines.
“The best of being a Marine, just feeling like I’m giving something to my country and supporting our way of life,” Tom said. “Not having to worry about them coming over here trying to blow us up.
“He made his own choice,” he continued. “He probably did it pretty much for same reasons. He was there to serve his country and maybe make some small impact on freedom.”
Kevin said following in his father’s footsteps and living his dream has been rewarding.
“For one being a Marine (is the best part),” he concluded. “For me it was the brotherhood and camaraderie. We weren’t just 9 to 5. At the end of the day we were hanging out and being normal after coming back from deployment. We always have each other’s backs no matter what. We’ve got the same ways. The people might have changed but as for the Marines it’s the same way.”

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