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Small town boys reunited in service

9 Dec 2002 | Staff Sgt. Bryan P. Reed 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Nearly two decades after attending a small community college together in Herkimer, N.Y., a Marine with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) and a Sailor from the USS Nassau (LHA-4) once again find themselves in a small community deployed together in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Hailing from the small town of Herkimer, Maj. Louis J. Maida, air liaison officer, and Navy Lt. Cmdr. Sean O'Brien, chaplain, met back in the 1983-1984 school year at Herkimer Community College where it was Maida's second year and O'Brien's first. "We weren't exactly fast friends in college but we did know each other," said O'Brien about the nature of their friendship. "We hung around with some of the same people and some of his friends were some of my friends."

"He was a local county (resident) and I was originally from Vestal, NY. Where I graduated from high school in 1983," added O'Brien. "Herkimer Community College is a small college.  We probably met hanging around in the lunchroom or in study hall."

Maida echoed this statement. "I remember Father O'Brien. We had the same friends but never really hung out together directly. I knew of him because it's a very small school and after I left school I never saw him again," said Maida.

One reason for this was because Maida and O'Brien had different interests in college. Maida was majoring in Computer Science and O'Brien was majoring in Radio and Television.

But these different interests eventually led to them being reunited and deployed together. After Herkimer, Maida went on to Utica College in Utica, N.Y. following that he joined the Marine Corps. O'Brien went to the seminary and then joined the Navy Reserves.

But with a little twist of fate and the help of a green pipe, the two were finally united as they fought together during the war on terrorism. "I was excited to discover that we were getting a new priest, said Maida. "But then to meet the guy and find out he's someone I knew from Herkimer ...," said Maida before O'Brien jumped in. "He remembered that I smoked a green pipe in College and he asked me 'Hey, didn't you used to smoke a green pipe,' and I said 'yeah.' That's how he remembered me" said O'Brien.

Another interesting fact and proof of the tight knit community of Herkimer, a town with a population of less than 10,000, is the church O'Brien went to while he was in college and where he was an altar boy and lector, is the same church where Maida's mother-in-law still sings in the choir. "While I may not have met his wife I certainly know his wife's parents," O'Brien said.

"I've been away from home for 19 years and I never met anyone from home that I could talk to. It's really nice to be able to talk to someone, who is from where you're from, about home," Maida Said. 

Chaplain O'Brien summed it by saying, "It just gives you a feeling of what a small world we live in to see a guy you were acquainted with (19) years later."