John Skopick is a Midwesterner. Although he spent several years as a Marine at Camp Pendleton, California, and overseas during the first Gulf War as well as having lived down south for a few years, he’s now back in Illinois, where he was raised. He now has his own business as a State Farm independent contractor agent.

John is a busy man. Even amid the coronavirus pandemic, he’s been trying to keep up with the needs of State Farm customers in Lemont, IL, a suburb just southwest of Chicago. “Sorry, I had a few fires to put out this morning,” he said as he was delayed a few minutes for our meeting.

After graduating from high school in the Chicago area, Skopick enlisted in the Marine Corps and was, as he puts it, a “Hollywood Marine,” going to boot camp in San Diego and then getting stationed at Camp Pendleton. Life was good, but then Sadam Hussein invaded Kuwait and the United States was quickly embroiled in the fighting.

As he was finishing up his initial training as a heavy machine gunner (M2 .50 caliber) and as a Mark 19, 40mm Grenade Launcher gunner, he was assigned to a unit that was still in Panama after Operation Just Cause. “It was kind of a ghost unit at first,” he said.

But he soon joined the Fleet and caught up with his unit. He was then on his way to the Middle East, of which he has a couple of interesting remembrances.

“The Mark 19,” he said, “that thing always jammed, and we had this LSA (Lubricant, Small Arms), it seemed like the thing never worked… and yet during the Gulf War the thing never jammed once… my buddies and I would sit around talking about how it must be a miracle…”

“We laughed and thought ‘this thing doesn’t work in perfect conditions but when we get downrange and into desert combat, these things work like a dream.'”