Sergeant Kenneth O'Donnell and his wife Bucky

Sergeant Kenneth O'Donnell, a gentleman and a warrior, with his wife Mary Jane

On the evening of October 8, 2009, Marine Raider, Sergeant Kenneth O’Donnell died as his home after a valiant struggle with brain cancer. Although his name might not mean much to most people, he was a member of a very special group of Marines who fought in World War II. They were the ground breakers for our modern day special forces. It was their job during the first weeks of the war to conduct surprise attacks behind enemy lines. The men who formed this unit were simply known as “The Raiders”.

“They were the first American combat forces to wear camouflage, to operate at night and to be trained in martial arts and knife fighting…Although the Raiders were in business for only two years as specialized units, their actions became the stuff of legend. A look at their decorations for individual acts of valor tells the tale.”[1]

In their brief existence, seven Marine Raiders earned our nations highest award for bravery, the Medal of Honor and another 138 were awarded the Navy Cross.

If the reader will take the time to watch the videos I have provided on the these unique group of Marines, you will see clips of Sergeant O’Donnell. What impressed me most about the man was that, although he was a true warrior, he possessed a refreshing unpretentiousness.

Lieutenant Colonel Joseph C. Shusko, Director of Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP)

Lieutenant Colonel Joseph C. Shusko, Director of Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP)

Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Shusko, USMC (Ret.), director of the Marine Corps Martial Arts program at Quantico, was with Sergeant O’Donnell before he died and took the took time to speak with me by phone. Shusko said he looked upon the late warrior as a grandfather, then went on to tell me how he would describe the man for those who did not have the pleasure to know him.

“I tell folks that if they look in the American dictionary for the definition of the word gentleman, they will find a picture of Ken O’Donnell.” On this day we should all remember Sergeant Kenneth O’Donnell, a proud member of the Marine Corps Raiders; a gentleman and a warrior.

Sergeant O’Donnell was 85 at the time of his death. Our sincere condolences to his wife Mary Jane.

May he rest in peace.

Marine Raiders Part 1

Marine Raiders Part 2


[1] Marine Raiders Honored at Quantico with Bricks, Museum   http://www.wjla.com/news/stories/0809/651685.html

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