Lead The Way, Marine
Thomas Calabrese –John Lupo was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, the son of an Italian father and a Mexican mother. His family legally immigrated to Oceanside, California in 1992 when he was a young boy. After graduating from high school he got a job working for Waste Management washing garbage trucks. After three years at this position, John became a driver and four years after that he was promoted to supervisor because of his perfect attendance record and hard work. John had been seeing Anne Shepard for three years and when he was sure that he had a stable career and could support her, he asked Ann to marry him and she said yes.
They had three children, Joe, Maria and Selena. John was a good provider who took his responsibilities at home even more seriously than he did at work. When the children became old enough to attend school, Ann began taking courses at Mira Costa Junior College and developed an interests in the culinary arts. They bought a four bedroom house in a quiet middle-class neighborhood that was located two blocks from the Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside in a quiet middle-class neighbor. After getting an Associates Degree in Culinary Arts, Ann obtained a part-time position as a chef at the Tri-City cafeteria. The Lupo children would sometimes stop off at the cafeteria when their mother was working and she would use her employee discount to feed them.
Even though John Lupo only had a high school education, it was hard to find a person who had a greater grasp of common sense and logic than this simple hard-working man. He saw things with a clarity that eluded most people and implemented his code of conduct into his everyday life. To put it simply; he talked the talk, but he also walked the walk. He didn’t impose his beliefs on his children, but chose to influence them by his example rather than by mere words.
Joey Lupo was playing halfback for El Camino High School in a crucial game for the league championship across crosstown rival Oceanside High. It was the fourth quarter with only ten seconds left in the game and El Camino was on the five yard line of Oceanside. There was only time for one more play so Coach O’Reilly called 53 Tango, which was a screen pass to the left side. Joey caught the ball on the four-yard line and could have taken a straight path to the goal line and elude the linebacker who was out of position, but instead chose to get fancy and run for the corner. He prematurely celebrated scoring by loosely extending the ball in front of him for all to see, and a defender knocked it from his grasp and it went out of bounds on the one foot line. El Camino lost the game and Joey was so angry and embarrassed that he could hardly speak.
John gave his son some space and waited for him to speak on the ride home. Finally Joe mumbled. “I screwed up big time, didn’t I?”
John smiled, “When you had the ball in your hand, it became about you and not the team. You lost focus and your ego wrote a check that your body couldn’t cash.”
Joey vowed. “You have my word, dad that I won’t make that mistake again.” From that point on he worked and played harder than anyone else on the team.
After high school, Joey joined the Marine Corps and qualified to become a Reconnaissance Marine. He had a distinguished career with several combat deployments and commendations. Joey was up for re-enlistment after serving four years during his first enlistment and six years during his second. He had just been promoted to Staff Sergeant and was stationed at Camp Pendleton.
His father and mother had both retired by now and moved to Rainbow, California. John Lupo bought a five acre hillside parcel of land and built a small home that had a panoramic view of the valley below. John sold the family home at a price far below market value to his older daughter Maria, who was now working as an Oceanside Police Officer. Selena had moved to Las Vegas and was working in the accounting department of the Bellagio Casino. Joey worked out a deal with his parents to build a home on the property.
John Lupo offered, “I could loan you some money and oversee the construction if you wanted to get started now”
“I appreciate the offer, you do way too much for us, but I’m in a business where I could be killed at any time” Joey said.
“Don’t talk like that!” John protested.
Joey smiled. “I’m not planning on it and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that it doesn’t happen, but right now the best thing I can do is save as much money as I can and then when I get closer to retirement, I’ll start thinking about building at that time. What do you think?”
“Sounds like a good plan to me. I’ve got a good investment guy who can help you put a strategy together.”
Joey replied, “I’m coming up for re-enlistment and that means a pretty good bonus. I’ll take that and some of my savings and get started. You know what you always tell me?”
“I tell you a lot of things, refresh my memory.” John said.
Joey said, “It not always how much you save …it’s how soon you start saving. If I make it to my full twenty, I should have enough money to begin complete construction unless inflation is as bad as it is now. In that case, I’ll just pitch a tent.”
“Sounds like a good plan to me.”
Six months later, the COVID-19 virus escaped the Wuhan Laboratory in China and the pandemic sent the world into a tailspin. John and Ann Lupo were some of the first people in the United States to contract the virus. Not exactly knowing what it was at the time, they got very sick and thought it was just a bad case of the flu. Luckily the couple had no pre-existing medical conditions and weren’t immune compromised. It was not a pleasant experience and the symptoms included headaches, body aches and overwhelming fatigue.
Their return to good health was quickly expedited by the fact Ann got pro-active in a hurry. She contacted Doctor Melissa Christopher, a naturopathic doctor from Vista, California who recommended a non-invasive regimen that included high doses of Vitamin C and D, Zinc, Elderberry, Ginger, Thyme, Echinacea, Curcumin and Melatonin. John and Ann took the vitamins and herbs three times a day and made sure not to get dehydrated. In eight days, they had completely recovered.
When Joey experienced mild symptoms, Ann made a maternal observation of her son as she touched his forehead, “You feel a little warm, I’ve heard that the virus spreads easily so you might have caught it from your father or me.”
Joey dismissed the notion. “I’ll be fine.”
“Don’t argue with your mother. I’m going to give you some vitamins and herbs to take and you’re going to take them…understood?” Ann said sternly.
John said. “You better listen to her.”
“Yes sir…yes ma’am.”
Joey kept his word and followed his mother’s instructions and was back to normal in three days. As time passed, the current administration instituted regulations requiring that all military personnel get the vaccine. Joey went to his command and told them that he had already had COVID and therefore natural immunity. He requested a medical exemption and that was denied and then Joey requested a religious exemption and that was denied also. At least 12,000 service members have asked for religious exemptions, none of which have been granted.
Admiral Hilton Kirkland made a public announcement, “This has absolutely nothing to do with trampling with religious liberties of our men and women in uniform. It’s about a military medical requirement to keep them safe, to keep their families safe and their units safe.”
After careful deliberation and discussion with his family, Staff Sergeant Joe Lupo decided not to get the vaccine. As time passed, the Marine Corps began discharging non-compliant Marines. Joey received a general discharge under honorable conditions and left the military.
When a class action lawsuit was filed against the federal government, it dragged through the courts for several months until it reached the Supreme Court. The Justices found in favor of military personnel who felt that they had been illegally punished for not receiving a vaccine. Some chose not to return, but Joey Lupo still wanted to finish to his 20 years so he came back to the Marines.
Fourteen months later, Staff Sergeant Lupo was deployed to Djibouti, a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Somaliland to the south, Ethiopia in the southwest and the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden in the east and Eritrea in the north.
While on a mission with his team to capture an Al-Shabad terrorist leader, the Marines were surrounded and came under fire from small arms and light anti-tank weapons. Staff Sergeant Lupo organized his Marines while exposing himself to extreme danger and led a counter attack against the terrorists. He personally killed 16 enemy combatants. After a fierce battle that could have gone either way the Marines eventually prevailed, thanks to Staff Sergeant Lupo’s unwavering courage. Wounded twice during the battle Joey was medically evacuated. Once he was stabilized Joey was sent to Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany where surgery was performed on his leg wound.
Thanks to the expertise of the military doctors, Joey made a full recovery and returned to full duty. While back at Camp Pendleton, Staff Sergeant Lupo received word that he had been nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor.
He was informed of this news by Colonel Clint Bodie, Battalion Commander. “There is one restriction before you go to the White House.”
“What is that, sir?” Joey asked.
Colonel Bodie replied, “You have to get vaccinated to attend the award ceremony.”
Joey hesitated for a moment then asked, “Permission to speak freely?”
“Mail it to me or give it to someone else…I’m not getting vaccinated.”
It took a change of political administration before the restrictions were lifted. Staff Sergeant Joe Lupo eventually received his medal at a White House ceremony in the rose garden.
President Ron DeSanto complimented the Marine. “You are a brave man in more ways than one. I’m honored to meet you.”
“Thank you very much, Mr. President.”
President DeSanto continued. “It reminds me of something that my father once told me, fools follow liars and it is obvious that you are no fool.”
Joey smiled, “Sounds like your dad know my father. Mine told me; beware ofintellectual morons, they always believe that their opinions are more truthful than the facts.
President DeSanto said, “I’d like to meet your father someday.”
“No time like the present, he’s standing next to the Thomas Jefferson statute with my mother.” Joey said.
“Lead the way, Marine,”
– Work of fiction. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance
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