Monday, August 13, 2012

Peter Finnegan: A Hidden Hero

By Christine Chew

Peter Finnegan, age 46 of Charlestown, grew up in Everett with his parents and sister. As a teenager in high school, he considered himself a bad egg. He admits, “I got by in high school but I didn’t have any plans on going to college. I just wanted to ride my motorcycle with my friends and see the world.” Peter never committed any crimes, but he did not have too many accomplishments to be proud of. That is, until he made his own decision to join the Marines at the age of 18. 

Believing his parents would also be proud, he told his father first. Peter reminisces, “The first thing my father said after I told him was, ‘Son, are you gay?! Why did you join the Marines?! Why are you trying to leave home?!’ I tried to ease the situation by joking, ‘If anyone’s gay, it’s you because you were in the Navy!’ but that didn’t work. I never did get along with my father.” On the other hand, although worrisome and distraught, the women in Peter’s life were more accepting. His girlfriend even decided to marry him before he left.

Immediately after graduating high school, Peter left to go to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, which is the Marine Corps Base to the Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF). Every day, he and thousands of other Marines woke up at 5AM to practice physical training. “This is where I really got whipped into shape, physically and mentally. The snooze button didn’t exist and no matter how drained you were, you couldn’t stop training or the whole crew was punished,” Peter describes.

Although Peter never actually fought in battle, he played a valuable role. He boasts proudly, “There is a role for every Marine and no one is more important than the other. We all work together and teamwork is what builds the Marines.” The role of MEF was to support fellow Marines on the ground with supplies. He loaded aircrafts with weapons, food, water, and medicine that would fly overseas to deliver the equipment.

It wasn’t until three years later, at age 21, when his wife became pregnant that he had to make the decision if he should renew his annual contract with the Marines. After careful consideration, he decided to return to Everett to care for his wife. “I would have made a career out of the Marines if I could, but I knew the most important person in my life needed me more,” Peter claims. He decided to serve and help civilians in other ways by joining the police academy. Unfortunately, three days before his police exam, his wife gave birth to premature twins who died 45 minutes later in his arms. With so much on his mind, Peter walked out after completing 50 of the 100 questions. He later found out that he got all 50 questions right.

As much as he wanted to retake the police exam again, Peter’s wife did not support his decision. He clarifies, “I couldn’t leave her again. I know if I were in a situation, I would take a bullet while on duty and that would be unfair to my wife after what she went through.” Peter Finnegan is not your typical hero but he is a hidden hero to his wife and three daughters and adds, “Serving the Marines was the best decision in my life. It made me who I am today and if I could change anything about it, I wouldn’t.”

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