|Veteran Spotlight: Marine Corps Reserve Lance Cpl. Timothy Whelan
|By Wayne Soares, Special to iBerkshires
04:52PM / Sunday, October 29, 2023
BREWSTER, Mass. — Former state Rep. Timothy Whelan served his country in the Marine Corps Reserve from 1989 to 1994 as a lance corporal.
He grew up in Worcester and was the youngest of three children. His father was a public school teacher and his mother was a registered nurse. In 1989, he took a leave of absence as a corrections officer with the Worcester Country Sheriff's Office to enlist in the Marine Reserve and attended boot camp at Parris Island, S.C.
A memorable event during boot camp was when Hurricane Hugo made landfall north of Parris Island two weeks before he graduated. He remembered it as "one strong storm."
Whelan was assigned to Headquarters Company 25th Marines in Worcester as part of motor transportation.
"We were activated during Operation Desert Storm but we never deployed out of the country because the war ended in four days," he said. "I spent four months based at Camp LeJeune before we were released from active duty and returned home."
As a reservist, his experience with holidays was limited but he did share this story.
"I was in MOS [Military Occupational Specialty] School at Camp Geiger, Thanksgiving of '89. Most Marines on base went home -- I didn't have the money to go home so I stayed on a mostly empty base," he recalled. "I went to the chow hall to eat my turkey dinner by myself. The hall was decorated nicely but I sat all by myself and ate my turkey dinner, wishing I was home with my family.
"Feeling lonely and alone, I walked back toward the squad bays and found a few other Marines who found a television. So we sat around and watched 'A Christmas Story.' It was my first time seeing the movie and we laughed and laughed and my spirits were instantly lifted, having great laughs with my brother Marines. I still have a special place in my heart for this movie to this very day."
Whelan also shared an important issue that he wants civilians to be aware of.
"The issue of food insecurity for lower-ranking enlisted service members is quite important. I was at Camp LeJeune and was an E-3 (lance corporal). I was a lieutenant in the Sheriff's Office at the time I was activated and my pay dropped nearly 60 percent," he said. "There were no programs in place at the time to make up the difference so I was on my own. I'd been married less than a year and was sending every penny home that I could as we couldn't afford our apartment with the pay cut from being activated.
"We didn't have meal cards and instead received a per diem. I took a job as a bouncer at an off-base club for $4 an hour a couple nights a week but still found myself sometimes, going a day or two without eating.
"What I remember most about my deployment was that I was hungry."
His thoughts on service and being a Marine?
"I remain forever proud of my service and earning the title of U.S. Marine. I received much more from having the honor to serve that I can ever repay," Whelan said. "My service taught me more about myself and my potential, as well as teaching me so much about honor, duty, responsibility and making me a better man.
"I'll spend my life thanking God and the people of this great nation for giving me the honor to serve."
Lance Corp. Tim Whelan, thank you for your service to our great country.
Wayne Soares is the host of the popular new veterans cooking show, "The Mess Hall" that airs Saturdays on NBC's NECN at 9:30 a.m. He also entertains our troops around the globe and is the host and producer of the Vietnam veterans documentary "Silent Dignity – The Chapter That Never Ends." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.