In just over a year, Lance Cpl. Brendan Kelly narrowly avoided death twice — not on the battlefield, but during a pair of deadly mass shootings in the states, first at the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting in October 2017, then again at a bar in Thousand Oaks, California on Nov. 7, 2018. Now the 22-year-old Marine reservist is preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.
By the time he arrives overseas, Kelly will have likely seen more combat than many of his Marine peers of the same age. His experiences, courage under fire, and the lingering impact of surviving not one, but two shootings was the subject of a recent New York Times profile.
As the Times' Jennifer Medina notes in her poignant article "Mr. Kelly offers a portrait at once inspiring and deeply troubling of how we live with violence, how we can both transcend it and be indelibly scarred by it at the same time."
In two weeks Kelly will arrive in Afghanistan, though he told the Times he never considered delaying his tour, saying in a recent interview "this is what I can do… this is what my role is supposed to be, as an able-bodied and willing young man."
When Stephen Paddock opened fire on concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in October 2017, Kelly said he threw a friend to the ground before helping other bystanders get to safety, hunkering down for hours until help arrived.
Just over a year after later, Kelly was at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California on Nov. 7, when a gunman, who was later identified as Marine veterans Ian David Long, entered the bar armed with a Glock 21 .45-caliber handgun opened fire on a crowd.
During the Thousand Oaks shooting Kelly said he recognized the distinctive "pop, pop" of gunfire, and once again sprung into action, telling the Associated Press that he threw two of his friends to the floor, shielding them with his body before ushering them out of an exit and using his belt to apply a tourniquet to the bleeding arm of a wounded friend, as Task & Purpose previously reported.
"There's not time for emotions to be involved, you have to do," Kelly told ABC News. "You have to act. Because people's lives are on the line."
The experience has stayed with Kelly, however the young Marine said he refuses to let these tragedies define him: "There's no rhyme or reason," he told the New York Times, "and, for me, right now it's enough to be living."
Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.
Coast Guard cutter Bertholf on a counterdrug patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, March 11, 2018. (U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Trees
U.S. Coast Guard cutter Bertholf left California on January 20 for a months-long mission in the Pacific to support U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, the largest of the U.S. military's geographic combatant commands.
Coast Guardsmen aboard the Bertholf left Alameda on the 30th day of what is now the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. They left a few days after not getting their first paycheck since that shutdown started and without knowing when the next will come.