In the service: Joe Crowley, 45, wanted to join the Marines right out of high school. The first Gulf War was just beginning, and the North Carolina native, who has a family history of service, said he was hoping to join the effort. However, he was put on a waiting list and couldn’t be sent out to boot camp until the following year. “As an 18-year-old kid, I was a little disappointed,” he said. “I wasn’t what you would call an achiever in high school and I didn’t have any plan. I just wanted to get out of Gastonia, North Carolina. And my recruiter said, ‘Yeah, we can get you out of here.'” He signed up in 1991 and didn’t go to boot camp until January 1992. Crowley ended up working as a member on the Marine Corps Security Force Battalion. “They protect anything that is vital to national security. They go to Camp David and protect the president, or protect nuclear weapons. I went to Naples, Italy, where we protected the highest-ranking military officer, Adm. [Jeremy Michael] Boorda.” Crowley said he moved throughout Europe during his time in the Marines. He served from 1992 to 1996 and exited as a corporal.
After the service: After working in the Department of Correction in his home state of North Carolina, Crowley moved to Norwich in 2000. He worked surveillance at Mohegan Sun for a few years before joining the Norwich Fire Department in 2007. “I feel lucky that I have been surrounded by a lot of veterans throughout my career,” he said. “There is a similar sense of camraderie in the department that you have in the service. You know people have your back.” Nine years ago, Crowley was injured while responding to a structure fire on Central Avenue. He had fallen from the third floor and onto the sidewalk below. He lost 40 percent of the use of his left hand in the incident. “It took a lot of physical therapy to get the use of my fingers back, but I still have the scar,” he said. Crowley was recently promoted to the Office of the Fire Marshal.
Quotable: “The Marine Corps taught me how to stand up for myself and how to accomplish what I need to accomplish. It teaches how to, no matter how bad things may be, get up off the ground and keep going and stay strong,” he said, “I think every male member of my family has served in the military since we emigrated to this country. These are stories I grew up hearing from my father, who served in the Marines in Vietnam, and my grandfather, who served in World War II.”
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