The refrain “the Few, the Proud, the Marines” has special meaning for the family of Jim Blaine, the president/CEO of State Employees’ Credit Union of Raleigh, N.C.
Blaine, his wife, Jean, and extended family are celebrating “somethingunique,” an exhibit by photographer Stephen Dupont at the National Marine Corps Museum honoring their son, Thomas, and the members of his Marine platoon.
The black and white prints taken by the noted Australian photo-journalist Stephen Dupont and on display in Quantico, Va., were taken in Afghanistan while Dupont was embedded with troops, including Thomas Blaine’s Second Light Armor Reconnaissance unit stationed in Helmand province.
“Over those many months we spent in Afghanistan in 2009, we had any number of reporters become embedded with us, but this guy, always nice, kept asking lots of questions and taking those photos, but I never thought much about it,” recalled Thomas, now 27 and a senior studying history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
It was not until his brother-in-law started e-mailing photos of Tom and his Marine buddies to him that he realized the recognition his Marine service was receiving at the National Marine museum.
The Dupont exhibit, “Weapon’s Platoon: A Marine’s Life in Afghanistan,” with a “why I am a Marine” theme, includes 35 photographs taken by Dupont in the spring of 2009
“You know, when I first told my mom that I was planning to join the Marines back in 2007, she was a bit angry and threatened my life, but it was my dad who said it would be good experience, and I might get a lot out of it,” recalled Thomas.
Today, he is gratified he served, which included a yearlong tour in Iraq and then a stint at Camp Lejuene in Jacksonville, N.C., prior to getting deployed to Afghanistan.
He said he was fortunate that he did not see that much combat until Afghanistan, and his time in Iraq was filled with endless hours patrolling the desert “in the middle of nowhere, going without showers for long periods of time.”
Thomas, who admits he has not always been the most serious student, does expect to receive a bachelor’s degree in August from UNC and is considering a move out West to join a firefighting crew since “I have always loved the outdoors.”
As for the Fourth of July holiday, he said he is looking forward to spending time with his family, including a brother and three sisters, at the Blaines’ home near Raleigh.
“I plan to be by the water, cooking dogs and drinking beer, but don’t tell my dad that,” he joked. “Tell him I’ve been studying in the library.”
The Dupont exhibit opened April 4 and ends in December, said the National Museum.
And as for Jim Blaine, he puts it this way:
“When you have a family member in harm’s way, you pay very, very close attention to the fact that our country is at war.”
“Unfortunately, most Americans aren’t paying attention to that fact. When this country goes to war, we should all stop and go to war together.
“Our boots on the ground deserve your full, unwavering support. Many are paying a heavy price.”
“There is a Marine recruiter in North Carolina who’s going to get a chance to prove he’s combat ready if my wife ever catches him in a dark alley.”