PROGRESS 2024: Veteran Spotlight – Mark Dunbar

The United States Marine Corps was the destination for 17-year-old Mark Dunbar back in 1959.

“My parents had to sign for me,” recalled Dunbar, of Russellville. “I signed up with three other fellas from my graduating class, and we went to Camp Pendleton in California for boot camp.” Of course, after boot camp, they all received different assignments. Dunbar found himself an infantryman in the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, Kilo Company. They soon deployed to Okinawa for a year.

“I was a gunner on a 3.5 inch rocket launcher – a bazooka,” Dunbar explained. “While we were in Okinawa, we were two months aboard ship. They always keep a battalion of Marines aboard ship in the South Pacific in case there was any trouble to break out.”

During his time in Okinawa, Dunbar took part in amphibious landings in the Philippines, Japan and Taiwan. Following Okinawa, he was transferred to Treasure Island, off the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge, posted to the naval and Coast Guard installation there as a brig guard. He spent about a year guarding Navy and Coast Guard prisoners before signing up to become a Marine Embassy Guard.

“We went to Quantico (Va.) for our training. We would go to the state department buildings after hours and go around and check all the offices to see if any classified materials had been left out or any of the safes had been left open,” Dunbar said. He and fellow guard trainees would go through desks and look under furniture to see if they could find any unsecured passwords or other classified items. If they did, they would write up security violations for the offenders.

After training, his first posting was at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India. “That’s a really pretty embassy,” he said. “There was a big pond with little birds and fish.”

Dunbar and his fellow guards “wore civilian clothing, because it’s a neutral country,” he explained. “Every embassy in the world has Marine security guards, usually in the capital of the country, and in India we had about 12 Marines … We would man the front desk and then after hours, before the cleaning company would come in, we would go through all the offices and make sure there was no classified material left out.”

Following a year in New Delhi – during which time he fondly remembers getting to visit the famed, “quite impressive” Taj Mahal – he was next sent to Amman, Jordan, for two and a half years. “That was a very small embassy. I think we only had five Marines, and we did a lot of sightseeing – Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Jericho,” Dunbar said. “I enjoyed the time in Amman. That would have been 1962-1964 or 65 … I got to travel a lot and see a lot of things. I kind of regret that I wasn’t a religious person then, and I regret not spending more time in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.” He said he remembers being there one of the first times it ever snowed on Christmas Eve in Bethlehem, and he remembers the Pope coming to visit the Jordan River.

Dunbar said his time in the military, which ended July 1965, was key in helping him organize his life. It taught him the discipline that was the foundation for life skills he has used ever since, like being on time and paying bills.

The 83-year-old is retired from being a plant manager and scrap buyer for U.S. Reduction. He and wife Karen have two daughters: Mindy and her husband Jamie Harris, with their three children, and Amy and husband Mark Muncey, with their two children.

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