FROM BUSINESS SUIT TO CAMMIE GREEN
By Sgt John Neal
| | May 06, 2002
GARDEN CITY, N.Y. --
In a brief, private ceremony today at the 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines headquarters here, Captain Jack McGonagle returned to the Marine Corps.
He is just one of many former Marines who have returned to their Corps in the wake of Sept. 11. And like many of those citizens, McGonagle is making huge personal sacrifices in the service of his country.
After eight years of active duty service, Capt. McGonagle left the Marine Corps to pursue a graduate degree from the prestigious Kellogg Business School at Northwest University and a career in financial services in New York City that took him from trading bonds to selling financial software at Aurora Software Inc.
In trading a successful and comfortable civilian life for that of a Marine officer, McGonagle says it was a matter of duty.
"I didn't decide to come back because I have to," said McGonagle. "I came back because I wanted to. There's a new calling for me in coming back to the Marine Corps. I still have a lot to give."
McGonagle's return to the military started the evening of Sept. 11 when he reported for duty and was promptly sworn into the New York Naval Militia. Composed mostly of former active duty Marines and Sailors, the Militia quickly established security zones over half of the World Trade Center and remained activated for the first 60 days. McGonagle's military background put him in an executive officer's position responsible for maintaining security at Ground Zero.
"It helped that we had a lot of former Marines and Navy Seabees who knew about patrolling and security, so we didn't waste a lot of time training."
A few weeks later, he spoke with the Marine Reserve unit in Garden City about returning to the Marine Corps.
For McGonagle, reservations about putting back on the uniform of a Marine officer were nonexistent.
According to McGonagle, his request to reenter the Marine Corps was pushed through faster than normal because of his skill as a forward aircraft controller. Lieutenant Colonel Rayburn Griffith, Inspector-Instructor for 2/25 says McGonagle's skills are valuable in a Marine Corps where forward air controllers are a rare, vital link between air-ground combat.
"We get our firepower from the air," said Griffith. "We're not like the Army with a lot of artillery, so we rely on air support."
To the newly returned captain, the hardest part about returning to the military is not the reduction in pay, but the prospect of being separated from his family. Fortunately, a family-oriented event in January for Marines of the reserve unit in Garden City prior to being activated and deployed to the Marine base at Camp Lejeune, N.C., acquainted his nine-year-old son, Jackson, with the mission and purpose of the Marine Corps.
"It really helped him to see what is Marines do," said McGonagle. "When I told him I was accepted back into the military, he asked me if I was going to join the other Marines. I told him yes. He didn't like it too much but it was easier for him to accept."
Heather Smith, McGonagle's girlfriend, also benefited from the family day event earlier this year and helped her understand what it is her boyfriend will be doing while away from New York.
"I'm definitely proud of him," she said.
"Her support has been incredible," added McGonagle. "Her support mixes so well into the whole spectrum of things and makes it all so much easier on me."
McGonagle, meanwhile, can't wait to unite with the Marines of 2/25 currently at Camp Lejeune. His activation and deployment may come within the next few weeks.
"There's this game going on and if this unit's part of the game you want to be part of it, too," he said, referring to a possibility of being deployed to Southwest Asia.