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."
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs failed to modify its electronic systems and lacked an accountable official to oversee implementation of the "Forever GI Bill," resulting in a bungled rollout last year that affected thousands of college students, a new report from the agency's Inspector General says.
In the early morning hours of March 15, Riley Schultz, a 19-year-old Marine from Longmont, California, was found at his guard post in Camp Pendleton, San Diego with an apparent gunshot wound to the head. Less than 30 minutes later he was pronounced dead.
Ricardo Delano Whitehead, third from left, was honored by Live Oak officials and the Sutter County Sheriff's Office at Wednesday's City Council meeting for intervening in an attack last month. (Courtesy Sutter County Sheriff's Office)
Ricardo Delano Whitehead isn't your average 69-year-old. Despite being just a few weeks shy of 70, the U.S. Army veteran still practices martial arts. In his younger years, he even taught it to an Army battalion at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
On Feb. 13, Whitehead happened upon a man he saw tackle a woman before repeatedly punching her in the doorway of a Live Oak, California business. Whitehead yelled at the suspect to leave the woman alone, at which point the other man turned his attention on the veteran.