Navy, Marine Corps team unites father and son aboard ship

15 Jun 2007 | Sgt. Eric McLeroy

Fourteen years of planning paid off for 56-year-old Navy Reserve Petty Officer 1st Class Don Dinsmore when he stepped into the Squadron Ready Room aboard the USS Boxer Jan. 9 and saw his son 1stLt. Jeff Dinsmore. The middle-aged Dinsmore decided to join the Navy Reserve ranks in 1986 after his oldest son, Jeff, enlisted in the Marine Corps. Dinsmore, a Navy Vietnam veteran, began his second career in the Navy as a photographer with hopes of one day working alongside his son. ?When I left the Navy as an intelligence photographer in 1966, I thought I?d never go back,? Don Dinsmore said. ?After my son enlisted in the Marine Corps on his 18th birthday in 1986, I couldn?t afford to visit him after boot camp. That?s when I went to the reserve recruiter at the age of 42 and purposely joined with hopes of seeing my son in the future.? While stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Don fulfilled his reservist requirements each month by working at military installations near his son. Whenever he wasn?t working at his business in Kent, Wash., he donned his military uniform and traveled to several of his son?s reenlistments and promotions. Occasionally he even arrived unannounced at his son?s barracks. ?Nothing my father does surprises me anymore,? 1stLt. Jeff Dinsmore, Intelligence Officer, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 268 (Rein), said. ?He?s always been able to work for a command that allowed him to visit me.? After learning that Jeff would be aboard the USS Boxer Jan. 9-18 as part of HMM-268?s pre-deployment training with 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Don requested that his two-week annual training occur aboard the USS Boxer. Receiving authorization from his reserve unit, Don knew this visit would be different, because this time he would be working alongside his son for the first time. ?I?ve caught hops (military flights) to almost every place he?s been. Whenever the opportunity arose, I was there. But I?ve watched and waited for a time to serve with him,? the older, rosy-cheeked Dinsmore softly explained. ?When I arrived, I took a look at the ship and asked myself, what part of climbing in and out of a bunk for two weeks would be enjoyable. I?m 56 and getting up and down ladder wells was a chore,? he chuckled. ?But if I had an opportunity to see him for an hour and have a cup of coffee, I knew it would be worth the two weeks.? During his 10 days at sea, Don and his son shared more than a cup of coffee. The two worked together preparing input for intelligence briefs, and Don was able to take photographs for his son?s command. Although the father and son team worked together during the 11th MEU exercise, it wasn?t the only time they?ve relied on each other, according to Don. Jeff, the oldest of four children, was 14-years-old when his father and mother divorced. After deciding to live with his dad, their father and son relationship grew and so did their friendship. As a self-described drill instructor, Don considered himself tougher than most fathers, but was dedicated to balancing strict rules with compassion and love for his son, according to Don. Don spent as much time with his son as he could and recalls a time when rising gas prices during the 70?s made owning a car too costly. Instead, he bought a motor scooter and the two rode the bike together to Jeff?s school each morning. ?I?m a father now,? Jeff said, gazing with watery blue eyes, a characteristic they both share. ?Looking back I see how hard he was, and it was with genuine concern. Sometimes I fear that being a strict disciplinarian with my children and being deployed won?t be a healthy balance. ?Back then, the little things like riding the bike together helped create that balance.? Throughout the younger Dinsmore?s career, he and his father have continued their unique and close relationship. At times, the two heartily competed to see which would make rank first. Jeff, a former enlisted Marine, advanced through the ranks along with his dad. But after the younger Dinsmore was promoted to staff sergeant, the race was over. ?I was there to pin on his chevrons when he was promoted to E-6,? the father said, looking back with watery blue eyes. ?I spoke to his commanding officer and he said, ?that?s an officer in enlisted clothing.? I told the CO, if the command pushed him to get his degree and I pushed him, we?d make it happen.? With a young wife and child, Jeff pursued his education with vigor. He completed as many college level examination programs as he could, attended classes at night in his spare time, and eventually earned his degree. ?I told my dad and mom when I was commissioned that the older I?ve become, I?ve realized that children are a product of what parents have taught them,? the younger blond-haired and crew-cut Dinsmore said. ?I?m saying the same corny things to my Marines that my father told me.? One phrase Don quipped repeatedly to his son was to work long and hard, strive for a goal, and never stop until you complete the task. ?I?m a guaranteed lifer,? Jeff said. ?It?s a combination of seeing young Marines work together, being in a close-knit unit, and putting aside comforts and differences to work together for something bigger than yourself.? The father and son team is dedicated to each other as well as the military they both serve. Don?s ongoing personal mission of being there to witness his son serve won?t likely stop when he retires from the reserves, he said.

Marine Corps News

Colonel Jim W. Lively
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Colonel Lively is a native of Dallas, Texas. He received his commission in 1996 through the Platoon Leaders Course program after graduating from Texas A&M University with a BA in Psychology.

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Lieutenant Col. Le E. Nolan
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Lieutenant Colonel Nolan is a 2001 graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology and received his commission through Officer Candidate Class 180. After completing flight training as a CH-53E pilot, he reported to HMH-361 in MCAS Miramar.

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Sergeant Major Travis L. DeBarr
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Sergeant Major DeBarrĀ enlisted in the Marine Corps and reported to MCRD San Diego, CA, for recruit training in October 1994.

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11th Marine Expeditionary Unit