CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti -- Nearly three decades ago, the Marine Corps was a different place, where a private earned less than a quarter of what he or she would earn in today’s military and everyone wore olive drab utilities.
Many of those now serving in the military were not even alive 29 years ago. However, for two Marines, 29 years ago marked their first encounter, and after not seeing each other for more than a 25 years, they stumbled upon one another in an unlikely place, Djibouti, Africa.
In mid-July, while Gunnery Sgt. Craig Dacus, a section chief, with the 1st Provisional Security Company, was standing outside the Camp Lemonier post exchange, he noticed a familiar face standing several feet away. Twenty-nine years is a long time – Dacus couldn’t be certain.
Dacus was on his way to duty, and upon arriving to his post, he checked a personnel roster to see if the recognizable face matched a memorable name. To his surprise, it did.
“I thought that it couldn’t be him… and he wasn’t in uniform,” Dacus said. “I looked in the directory just out of curiosity, and there it was: Col. David A. Donohue.”
Marine Col. David A. Donohue is serving aboard Camp Lemonier as the director of personnel for Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa. However, almost three decades ago, while Dacus was a private first class, Lt. David A. Donohue was his platoon commander for India Battery, 3rd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, an artillery unit out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.
“I remember he had a big bushy mustache and jump wings,” Dacus recalled. “He was the first officer I reported to.”
From 1975 until 1977, Donohue and Dacus worked relatively close with one another, according to Dacus. Donohue was a forward observer, while Dacus was a scout observer.
Over the next year and a half, the two of them deployed twice to Twentynine Palms, Calif., on two combined armed exercises (in the days before they were called CAXs), said Donohue, an Accokeek, Md., native. Following the pre-deployment training, their unit went on a Mediterranean deployment.
While Dacus was on the USS Coronado and Donohue was on the USS Iwo Jima, in late July 1976, they helped participate in the evacuation of more than 450 people from the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, Donohue said.
After about 25 months of serving together, the two parted. Donohue left the unit bound for Okinawa, Japan, and Dacus transferred to Golf Battery to go on another deployment.
“We haven’t seen or heard from each other since then,” Dacus said. “I have often wondered what had happened to some of the guys. This was in the days before computers where you could just plug in a name and hit ‘find.’”
It wasn’t until nearly a quarter of a century later the two would cross paths again. After looking up his name in the directory, Dacus stepped into Donohue’s office.
“I walked up to his desk, snapped to attention and said, ‘Pfc. Dacus reporting to Lt. Donohue as ordered, sir,’” said Dacus. “He looked up, and it took him just a moment. He stood up and walked around his desk smiling.”
Although 25 years can change a lot, Donohue recognized Dacus right away, Donohue said. The two talked for about an hour, discussing where some of the people they served with went.
Despite the passage of time and two distinctly different careers, Donohue and Dacus ran into each other, proving once again how small the world is, and how much smaller the Corps is.