Walter O'Keefe

Walter O'Keefe's uniform


Walter O'Keefe began his 25 years in the Marine Corps during World War II, the first of three wars for him. For his portrait, he showed up in his entire suit of Marine Corps dress blues, from his spotless hat to his crisp white gloves:

Hat - To be removed promptly upon entering a building and stashed under the left arm with the Marine Corps emblem facing forward.

Medals - Over left side of chest. The bottom row and a half are from WWII battles. O'Keefe has one from the Cuban missile crisis, four or five from the Korean War, and the rest are from Vietnam.

Pants - "Blood" stripes honor the memory of fallen comrades. Rank determines the stripes' width.

Shoulder patch - Three stripes up and three down indicate O'Keefe's a First Sergeant.

White web belt - Worn by everyone. Buckle denotes rank.

White gloves - Tucked properly into belt when not being worn. Put on only during formal events.

O'Keefe enlisted in the Marines in 1943, after his brother was drafted into the Army, and served with the 2nd Division. He made a landing in Saipan and was heading to Okinawa when the ship he was on was hit by a kamikaze. He had to abandon ship and was picked up by another.

After Okinawa, O'Keefe trained for a landing on Japan during the planned ground invasion. The atomic bomb halted those plans, turning Marines such as O'Keefe into occupying forces in Japan rather than invaders.