Written by MIDN 3/C Kevin Zhu
Photo by MIDN 4/C Savannah Clarke
On the morning of April 2nd, Midshipmen of the Boston NROTC Battalion gathered to listen to retired Marine Sgt Lawrence Kirby speak. A native of Boston, he had been an infantryman in the 2nd battalion, 9th Marines, in “E” Company during WWII. Having enlisted in the Marines in 1942, he saw action in Bougainville, Guam and Iwo Jima, before returning home. Since retiring he has gone on to law school and settled down with a family in Manchester-by-the-Sea.
A natural storyteller, he regaled the Midshipmen with tales of his time overseas. He described an incident in which he had taken charge of a patrol in Bougainville gone wrong, and organized a withdrawal to get back to their own lines. By doing so he had inadvertently held off a company sized element and given his own company time to dig in before a banzai attack. Awarded a silver star for his actions, he had stated that he was simply in the right place at the wrong time. His humility served as a lesson for the future officers and illustrated that in times of great adversity, great things can come from ordinary people.
On a more somber note, he informed the Midshipmen that since his time in Iwo Jima, he has never missed a day thinking about the twenty-two men in his platoon who had fallen in battle. As a way of coping with loss and honoring their memory, he blocks out time daily to think of each individual. It was a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by service members and served as a lesson for the future Naval and Marine Corps officers not to take their friends and comrades in arms for granted.
Giving advice to the Midshipmen on command, Sgt. Kirby emphasized the value of diligence. He defined diligence being as the character trait necessary to being both consistent and competent. He stated that, “diligence is when you crawl out of your hole and take care of the little things like checking your weapons and gear. The enemy will bring the fight to you when you are not diligent, so don’t give them the chance catch you off guard”. He informed the Midshipmen that by maintaining diligence they will be leaders who know what they are doing and will be able to act in their men and women’s best interests.
When asked if he noticed differences between Marines of his generation and Marines today, Sgt. Kirby said that there isn’t one. “At the end of the day,” he said, “they’re just the same”.