Marine veteran shares his experience with trauma

Roanoke Marine veteran shares how he turned his trials into success
Published: Aug. 26, 2021 at 4:59 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - We pass veterans every day, but each one has a different story. For Ben Obaugh, it’s a unique tale of constant motion. No matter what he’s doing, he shuts the door on the past, starts a new chapter and quickly moves forward.

Obaugh is from Roanoke and as a kid had a passion for wrestling. After practicing his skill in school, Obaugh was ready to transfer his fighting skills from the mat to the United States Marine Corps. “My friend told me about the Corps and the recruiter visited me that next weekend. He was at my house! That evening I’m signing papers. I planned it out and it was a very quick response,” said Obaugh.

After serving as a military police officer, and completing one year overseas in Okinawa, Japan, Obaugh decided to change his job and join the 2nd Marine Division.

It was not a wartime operation until September 11. “We didn’t know what was going on. We all had our immediate packing list and we had to have it together in 20 minutes. You could have pulled up and put us on a plane. We were pretty pumped up that we were going to get the opportunity to really apply our training. We were excited about it,” explained Obaugh.

But back at home was the love of Ben’s life, his childhood friend and now his girlfriend, Jill. You’d usually find her writing letters to Ben, but when 9-11 happened, she received a call. “He told me he was leaving. I was devastated because I thought this could be it. I was glued to the television, I couldn’t function. I’d watch the TV for a glimpse,” remembered Jill.

Obaugh says his unit was dispersed all around the globe, and despite his eagerness to deploy, his company did not go to Afghanistan. “It was difficult, but looking back it was God all along. He was helping me with my life. He’s known my life, He’s known what I was going to do with my life, He laid out the footprints of my life, but it’s only been through God.”

Ben was meritoriously promoted to corporal. He was the Marine of the quarter on the entire east coast, runner up for the Marine of the year, became a non-lethal weapons instructor, and eventually was honorably discharged from the Corps.

Eventually, he married Jill and they now have three children. He was a firefighter with the Roanoke City Fire Department. He was an adjunct instructor at Virginia Western, and now he and his wife run a successful heating and air business. “I’m not a combat veteran, I don’t have a Purple Heart, I haven’t experienced that, but I’ve experienced a lot of traumatic things in my life, I truly have.”

In the words of a Marine, “I will continue to take a 30-inch step!” Obaugh explains his victory, “I lost this one, but I’m not going to let that one hold me back. I’m going to win the next one, and then some, and I feel sorry for the next guy I got to go up against!”

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