News: West Virginia Marine, family man fosters pride, humility
Story by Sgt. Earnest J. Barnes
FORWARD OPERATING BASE ZEEBRUGGE, Helmand province, Afghanistan — Separation from family members is arguably the hardest part of deployments for service members and their loved ones. A Moundsville, W.Va., native and his family know the strain of being apart all too well, yet they have found a way to balance their challenging lifestyle through resilience and understanding.
Second Lt. Daniel A. Ealy is the platoon commander for 3rd Platoon, Echo Battery, and is no stranger to being away from his family for extended periods of time, having seen multiple deployments in his more than 12 years of service.
Ealy is stationed at Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, but his battery is currently deployed to Afghanistan with 2nd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment. He coordinates, plans, and executes counterinsurgency operations in the Kajaki District, and his unit provides artillery support and serves a provincial infantry role. He leads his Marines through the area of operations while conducting security patrols and interacting with local citizens of the district, all while ensuring each Marine safely returns to friendly lines.
“He provides tactical control for his platoon based on the mission they are given for the week,” said Capt. Matt Ritchie, the commanding officer for Echo Battery, 2/12. “He is constantly out with his Marines. He spends a lot of time on patrols mentoring his squad leaders and helping them capture lessons learned. He is a very effective leader.”
Ealy, a 2005 graduate of West Liberty University located in Wheeling, W.Va., is not only responsible for the application of battlefield tactics on any given mission his Marines are assigned, but he also works to ensure his troops’ morale is high while they are away from their families. For this role, Ealy dawns his figurative fatherhood hat and, with the help of his wife, makes sure all of his Marines are getting care packages and letters and are able to communicate with those back home.
“When it comes to the Marines and their families, it is definitely something I pay attention to. I make sure they are calling home and getting packages. It is definitely important. I make sure the Marines know they’ve got people who love them and support them back home, even if it is not someone who is directly related to them,” said the loving husband. “My wife is an absolute blessing. She takes great care of me and my platoon. She’s a great platoon commander’s wife, I guess you could say. She definitely adopted a lot of us, making sure we are taken care of with packages.”
The father of two explained the military lifestyle is not an easy one for service members or their families. His wife and children, however, have fully supported him throughout his career, and their flexibility is a demonstration to their dedication to their country.
“Time away from the family is tough, but they understand — they have been through a few deployments. My daughter has been through two and my wife has been through three,” said the former enlisted Marine. “They are pretty seasoned at it. They have been quite the band of gypsies for the last year and a half. We’ve moved four times in the past year or so.”
Ealy keeps in contact with wife and children whenever he has time, but thinks of them even while at work. There is limited office space for the platoon commanders and platoon sergeants to work in the Echo Battery combat operations center, so he uses his living quarters as his back up office.
“This is my Plan B office,” said Ealy, with popsicle-stick dinosaurs, drawings and homemade greetings taped to the wall of his room alongside family photos. “Most of the drawings are from my [five-year-old] son. My daughter is a little older, so she normally does not send drawings. They are number one for me [in regards to] my spare time. That is where my attention goes.”
Others within the command have noticed Ealy’s family ties and they mentioned his role as a father comes out while working with his Marines.
“Second Lt. Ealy is very much a family man. I have seen him on a number of occasions interact with his wife and children. He maximizes his time at home, spending as much off time with his family as humanly possible,” said Ritchie, who is Ealy’s direct supervisor. “Ultimately, a father like Second Lt. Ealy makes an excellent leader. He understands Marines are not just Marines, but they are individuals who belong to a family. All [his] Marines are somebody's son, brother, husband, or father. He understands that well and leads accordingly.”
Ealy uses his experience as a father and a Marine to remind himself of the reason he joined the Corps.
“[When I joined in 1998], I was teenager and I needed a reality check. I had enough common sense to know I didn’t have any common sense,” Ealy said with a smile, as he reflected on his past.
“The thing I like most about being a Marine is you get to be selfless. You get a little dose of humility everyday. The Marine Corps is a place where you get to serve somebody else. That is what I enjoy the most.”
Ritchie said he has seen this selfless behavior first hand around the base, noting Ealy is frequently engaged in some kind of project to help his fellow Marines.
“We often refer to him as Bob Villa. Often times those projects are not directly for his benefit; he is always working, helping out any and everyone who has a need or a desire to complete a certain project,” said Ritchie. “He has been seen installing A/Cs and hot water heaters for other Marines on the [base]. In addition, he has taken great initiative on [one of the observation posts] to improve positions and the observation tower. In doing these actions, he encourages his Marines to work hard, no matter the task.”
Ealy works diligently in every aspect of his life, from displaying the basics of being a leader in the Corps to being a friend lending a helping hand to his fellow man. Ealy may not have much choice but to be all work and no play while in Afghanistan, considering the Marines work seven days a week, but he intends to squeeze in some fun, quality time with his wife and children upon his return to Hawaii later this year.
“I am going to go and get some family time -- lock the doors,” Ealy said jokingly. “I am going to get caught up on all the trouble the kids have been getting into, barbeque, and have a few beers out back … just good ol’ American stuff. You have to take advantage of water when you live in Hawaii, so we’ll go snorkeling or boating -- my son is a regular Jacques Cousteau.”
Though Ealy is known to for his adventurous hobbies such as water sports and rock-climbing, he is not noted for accepting recognition. He said would rather recognize the Marines’ families in Hawaii and all the patriots of America who continue to support the U.S. military.
“The parents of military personnel need credit. It is difficult for them not knowing the things we do everyday. I give credit to my father and my mom. The families need honor a lot more than they get,” said Ealy. “[Their support] is just a testament to the country. All the way from 2001 to 2011, there is still that pride and support of the military — that’s amazing to me. For the wives and families of Echo Battery, 2/12, thank you for the support. We love you and miss you. We’re trying to do a good job here and make ya’ll proud, and we’ll see you soon.”
Editor’s note: Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.