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Face of Defense: Principal, Graduates Serve Together

By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Meghan J. Canlas
Special to American Forces Press Service

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., April 9, 2009 – The Marine Corps is relatively small compared to the other branches of service. But for a former high school principal here, it couldn’t get any smaller.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Left to right, 2nd Lt. Michael J. Bradley, Pfc. William M. Chester, and Col. Brian T. Oliver show off the emblem of Freedom High School in Morganton, N.C., at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., April 7, 2009. Oliver was the principal at Freedom from July 2004 until he was activated from the reserves in January 2009. Bradley and Chester are both Freedom graduates, and all three Marines serve in 2nd Marine Logistics Group. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Meghan J. Canla

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Marine Corps Col. Brian T. Oliver, chief of staff for the 2nd Marine Logistics Group, has left his impact on Marines for the past 26 years, and on high school students for the past 13.

After joining the Marine Corps Reserve in 1996, the Drexel, N.C., native began a career as a high school teacher. He soon became an assistant principal, as well as wrestling and football coach, at Watauga High School in Boone, N.C.

In July 2004, Oliver became the principal of Freedom High School in Morganton, N.C., and there he made an impression on a student who is now Marine Corps Pfc. William M. Chester, a vehicle operator for the 2nd MLG.

“He did a lot to help me out,” the 19-year old Marine said. “I don’t think he realizes how much he did for me. I was kind of a troubled kid in high school, but was able to turn my life around.”

Oliver has met at least two other Freedom High School students since he reactivated in January.

“It’s kind of strange when I’m walking through the gymnasium and I hear someone say, ‘Mr. Oliver? What are you doing here?’” he said.

Oliver also has met Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Michael J. Bradley, a platoon commander with the logistics group’s landing support company, who graduated from Freedom High before Oliver’s tenure there.

“You know, it’s always nice to see someone who’s from the same area,” Bradley said.

Oliver said that being an educator is similar to being a Marine, and serving in both capacities gives him a greater appreciation for young Americans who choose to serve their country.

“Whether you’re taking care of your teachers and students or your Marines and sailors, your primary mission is to take care of the people you serve with,” he said. “It’s really encouraging as a Marine, an educator and an officer to see the patriotism in the youth of America.”

(Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Meghan J. Canlas serves with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force.)

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