CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait --
Marines do a double take the first time they hear Lance Cpl. Jason Connelly talk.
“I’m the token English guy,” Connelly jokes.
The 24-year-old rifleman hails from Bournemouth, Dorset County, England, and serves with 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
Connelly has served in the Marines just over 18 months, but his relationship with the Marine Corps stretches back generations.
“I have a family history with the United States Marine Corps,” he said. “My great uncle fought in the first World War as a Marine. I have another uncle in the Marines as well, currently serving in Germany.”
He dreamed of joining the Marine Corps when he was about six or seven years old because of his uncle’s influence.
“I always grew up with him, looking up to him,” he said. “He was really cool, he gave me his old cammies and stuff, ‘mot’ t-shirts and canteens and web belts and when you’re a kid all that stuff is awesome,” he added. “He would go for runs in the mornings and take me and go really slow so I could keep up.”
After high school, Connelly said he lost direction in his life.
“I went from job to job and drifted because I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life,” he said.
But Connelly said he had never completely lost his dream of becoming a Marine. He traveled to America and, at 17, ended up in San Antonio, Texas, working to rescue and shelter exotic animals.
“In Texas, you can buy a license to have a lion and tiger chained outside your house,” he said. “As you can imagine, that causes problems.
“When the hurricanes came in New Orleans in 2005 we went in and helped with the animals too, it was a strange and random part of my life,” he said.
He began looking into joining the Marine Corps, but happenstance landed him back in England.
“Every time I was going to do it, something happened,” he said. “It was a dream, but it was a pipe dream for a long time. In the back of my mind I always hoped to do it.”
It took three years for an opportunity to arrive that would return Connelly to America.
“I got a chance to come over to America when my mom moved to Florida,” he said. “I had been talking about joining for so long, I wanted to prove that I could do it.”
After waiting 18 months in the Delayed Entry Program, a program in which potential Marines wait for a space to become available at boot camp, he shipped off to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.
“They gave me a good time at Parris Island,” he said. “The first two weeks I couldn’t understand anything they were saying and they definitely couldn’t understand me. I think they thought I was trying to be smart.”
Connelly is currently training in Camp Buehring, Kuwait, as part of the 24th MEU. This is his first deployment, which so far has taken him to five different countries. The 24th MEU is deployed with the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group as a U.S. Central Command theater reserve force providing support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.