Friday, April 20, 2007

Shaun M. Blue killed 'while conducting combat operations'

A brilliant mind. A true friend. A National Merit scholar. The most promising individual.

Those were the words Shaun Blue's friends and teachers used to describe the 25-year-old Munster man who could have achieved anything, but chose to serve with the Marine Corps in Iraq, where he was killed Monday.

Blue was never one to make rash decisions, and he chose his career path the way he decided to do everything in his life, his college roommate said. Blue was a philosophy major at the University of Southern California, and everything he did was thoughtful and carefully planned, said Mike Bell, who lived with Blue for several years when they were in college.

Originally, Blue wanted to join the Navy, but he switched to the Marine Corps because he wanted to lead Marines in combat, Bell said.

"He wouldn't have had it any other way," Bell said. "He was absolutely brilliant, probably the smartest person I've ever known."

And while he wanted to be in combat, Blue was a quiet, calm, thoughtful person who loved to fish and to camp, and relished his time alone in nature. Whenever he had some free time, Blue drove to a national forest, and went hunting and fishing. He would call his friends to let them know they'd be having trout for dinner.

On rainy days, Blue could be found in the college library, reading books about architecture or history. Not because he needed to for an assignment, but because he was interested in the world and wanted to learn everything he could.

In order to lead the troops, Blue knew he'd have to have a college degree, so he worked hard and patiently, and when he graduated from USC, he became an officer for the Marine Corps, someone leaders said they were thrilled to have join them.

"He was smart, hard as nails, in great shape," said Lt. Brian Donnelly. Blue served in Donnelly's platoon when he joined the Marine Corps three years ago. "It's a common thing to find smart, in-shape Marines, but he took that to a different level. He served as an example to everyone else."

Blue was sent to Iraq twice, and he never showed any signs of being scared or worried something might happen to him. Ironically, Blue was the last person anyone thought would be killed. He was always so careful, so steady, so "super human," said Bell, Blue's best friend.

"You always kind of felt like he was going to survive," Bell said. "You never really thought that he was in any real danger."

Whenever Blue would call Bell from Iraq, he brushed aside questions about combat zones and his life in Iraq. He wanted to find out what his friends were doing in his absence, how nature was looking, how hunting was going.

Blue may have defied the stereotype of a military man, but Maj. West Hayes, Marine Corps recruiting spokesman, said Blue simply reflected another aspect of the Marines.

Hayes screens new recruits for their moral, physical, mental and educational strengths, and he said the military embraces recruits with exceptional educational and moral character such as Blue.

From the Post Tribune