Friday, January 23, 2004


Marine Corps presence in Panama fosters teen to join
Submitted by: MCRD San Diego
Story Identification Number: 200412313163
Story by Sgt. L. F. Langston

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif.(January 23, 2004) -- On Dec. 15, 1989, the National Assembly of Panama declared a state of war against the United States. Two days later, President George H. W. Bush gave the order to execute "Blue Spoon" as Operation Just Cause.

The mission was to protect American lives, ensure implementation of the Panama Canal Treaties and remove Gen. Manuel Noriega, Commander of the Panama Defense Force, from power and bring him to justice.

During the insertion of the 6th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Eduardo A. James Jr. and a Marine had a brief encounter that would inspire James to become a Marine himself.

Born and raised in Panama, James, senior drill instructor, Platoon 1129, Company B, was 18 years old when Marines patrolled the streets of his homeland.

"There were Marines patrolling, and I went up to one of the them to let him know there were civilians with guns in one of the buildings," said James. "The next day, I happened to see that Marine and this time he approached me. He thanked me and said I would be a good Marine.

"I didn't think much about that until I started walking by that building and saw it was leveled to the ground," James said.

The chaos that erupted and declaration of war against the U.S. led to the Panamanian government to order all citizens to bear arms and fight against the Americans.

James decided not to support his government and bear arms, as did his parents, resulting in threats against his parents into custody.

The chaos and dangers that mounted gave reason for James' father to take him and his brother to live in Atlanta.

A safer life and opportunities were a blessing. Now James' attention focused on joining the Marine Corps. James' stepmother discouraged it and convinced him to choose the Navy, according to James.

A broken collarbone in an automobile accident would alter the course of events and reject him from all branches of service except the Marine Corps.

James entered the Corps Mar. 21, 1993. His career would take him back to Panama where he served with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, Company G as a linguist.

Sgt. Maj. Sidney M. Thomas, one of James' mentors, recalled the invaluable part James played.

"As a sergeant, he took on responsibilities that most sergeants don't take on," said Thomas. "It's amazing how he has progressed as a Marine and has taken on his leadership skills to do fantastic things. It's a testament of his hard work."

The 6-foot-4-inch slender Marine has stepped right into leading from the front and has completed his eighth training cycle on the drill field.

"I can honestly say he is consistent in his leadership and teaching after working alongside him for a fourth cycle," said drill instructor, Staff Sgt. Restituto Paz, Platoon 1129.

Photos included with story:
Staff Sgt. Eduardo A. James Jr., senior drill instructor, Platoon 1129, Company B, left his native country of Panama to emulate the men who inspired him to become a Marine. Photo by: Sgt. L. F. Langston

Text version of story is attached below:

R.W. "Dick" Gaines
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By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
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