No Man Left Behind

As US military personnel, it has been indoctrinated into us since day one that if worst comes to worst, we won’t be left behind to rot in some godforsaken country. We were convinced that our brothers would do everything humanly possible to ensure that we would be repatriated if we were taken as a prisoner by the enemy or killed in action.

The Special Forces Creed reads in part,

“I will not fail those with whom I serve…I will never leave a fallen comrade.” 

It is a sacred oath, not to be taken lightly. Men died, and some were permanently disabled in the attempt to bring deserter and traitor Bowe Bergdahl home. In the end, he was traded for members of the Taliban. And now we leave one of our own, Paul Whelan, a Marine who had done multiple tours of duty in Iraq, to stay in a Russian jail cell. It’s hurtful and embarrassing.

photo of Paul Whelan
Paul Whelan in his Marine Corps uniform. Image courtesy of Twitter.

Who is Paul Whelan?

Most Americans know that he is a former US Marine being held prisoner in Russia. Beyond that, they’d be hard-pressed to say. But, of course, there is more to his story.

Whelan is a citizen of four countries: the US, Canada (born there), Britain, and Ireland. OK, that’s a bit unusual. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1994 and worked in administrative roles with Marine Air Control Group 38, attaining the rank of Staff Sergeant. His full-time civilian job was with Kelly Services as an IT manager. He left that job in 2003 to go on active duty and was deployed to Iraq for several months between 2004 and 2006.

His service, however, was not without its problems. In 2008, Whelan was convicted by a special court-martial for “attempted larceny, making a false official statement, ten specifications of uttering checks without having sufficient funds in his account for payment, wrongfully using another’s social security number and three specifications of dereliction of duty.” As a result, he was sentenced to 60 days restriction, and the military reduced his pay grade to E-4. He ultimately received a bad conduct discharge.

Once back in civilian life, he began working in the corporate security field. At the time of his arrest in Russia, Whelan was the corporate security director for BorgWarner, one of the 25 largest automotive suppliers in the world.