Home for the holidays while serving in the U.S. Marine Cpl., Julian McBride spent much of the past few weeks volunteering at Number Four School.
Returning to his hometown of Lawrence the same day as the tragic shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, the mild-mannered 21-year-old has walked the halls and visited the classrooms of Number Four School — where his grandmother worked — in uniform to provide the children with a sense of safety. McBride said humbly that he has always been inspired to help people, which led him to enlist in the Marines after graduating Lawrence High School in 2009.
“Someone has to do the job,” he said. “If not, then this country isn’t safe.”
McBride will return to Twentynine Palms, Calif., on Sunday for his final months as an active member of the U.S. Marine Corp. During his service, he’s fought in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan — he had recently been stationed in Helmand Province — and was deployed to Japan, Singapore, China and South Korea. He doesn’t know where he will be called to next.
“I’ve watched him grow into a superior man,” said Number Four School Principal Dr. Ann Pedersen, who taught McBride in kindergarten. “We think of Julian as a treasure to us. There’s a maturity about his actions and a gentle awareness.”
Military service runs in McBridge’s family. His grandfather was a Marine, his mother served in the Army and his father fought in the Army Special Forces and Navy SEALs. Julian McBride grew up wanting to be a Marine, and he eventually became the youngest member of his unit.
“Actually experiencing what happens in the world really opens your eyes and shows you that in order to actually survive in this world, you have to put others before yourself,” McBride said. “If every single person makes a difference, this world would be a better place.”
McBride said he has seen the good the armed services has done in Afghanistan, from helping women and children escape abuse and trying to put a stop to the country’s drug trade, which has led to the deaths of friends back home.
“At the end of the day, we’re saving lives,” he said.
But McBride has also seen the war take the lives of many young people, including a friend and fellow Marine this past year, which taught him to not “take life for granted.”
Later this year, McBride will take the next step in his life and attend SUNY Albany, where he plans to pursue a degree in criminal justice. It might be a tough transition returning to school, he said, but he anticipates having laser focus on his studies. McBride eventually hopes to work counter-terrorism for the FBI or CIA.
Although McBride will no longer be an active Marine, for the next four years, he can still be called upon to serve again.
“I will be there if my country needs me,” he said.