June 1, 2023 - Stories
James R. Sinnott, Sr. joined the United States Marine Corps fresh out of a New Jersey high school in 1953. Jim was born and raised during a time when societal and cultural values reflected hard work, patriotism, and loyalty. His upbringing was impacted by the years following WW II and the Great Depression, times reflecting a heightened sense of community and allegiance to country. These values and experiences comprised the ‘Silent Generation,’ yet my Dad was not known for his silence.
Jim was in the Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division. He left Camp Pendleton, CA for Korea during the summer of 1953, serving his country as a Sergeant until 1956. He spent much of his time in Korea on Hill 495. He wore his experiences from the Marine Corps like a badge of honor. He valued his sense of patriotism, commitment, and respect for others. Anyone who knew my Dad, knew about his reverence for ‘the Corps.’
Jim wanted to re-enlist, but as an only child, family obligations prevented him from pursuing this desire. He found employment at the Elizabethtown Gas Company in New Jersey. Jim was unable to seek further education, yet climbed the corporate ladder in his 30+ years of service. Jim was respected by nearly all who came in contact with him. He was known for being quick with a joke, willing to lend an ear, and dedicated to his family and friends.
Dad was able to talk to anyone about anything. Folks were quickly attracted to his personality.
He was genuinely interested in others’ perspectives and experiences. People felt his sense of caring, loyalty, and integrity. Many folks often sought his ear for counsel as they navigated their personal difficulties. Jim was the person you wanted to run into on the street. As a result, he cultivated many friendships and was a mentor to others.
Dad raised his three children with the ‘flare’ of the Marine Corps. We were taught how to make a bed so a quarter would bounce. We were taught the importance of showing up “15 minutes early” – what we came to know as “hurry up and wait.” We tasted ‘C-rats’ as kids and we knew how to sing the Marine Corps Hymn by age 5! Dad’s love of the Corps and sense of honor, duty, and respect were a constant. He practiced what he preached, never asking more from others than he could give of himself.
As a young boy spending weekends at a local theater with friends, John Wayne movies peaked Dad’s interest in the Southwest. Jim relocated to Oro Valley in 2005 to be closer to his children and retire in an area offering a vastly different lifestyle from New Jersey. He loved the natural beauty and sprawling skies. Dad spent much time exploring various trails and enjoying spectacular views. Spending time at the gym was also of great importance. He always found others who served their country, striking up conversations and developing lasting camaraderie. No matter where Dad was, he could be found talking with someone…even on a secluded hiking trail!
Dad passed away during the latter portion of 2022. In the two years prior to his passing, I was fortunate to spend an enormous amount of time with him. I sat beside him as he watched videos and kept to the beat of the Marine Corps Band performances on 8th and I, a show which he often attended. I saw him smile and laugh through his discomfort as he watched videos of boot camp recruits at Camp Pendleton, reminiscent of his training. I was present as he spoke with his last living friend from his unit. I watched him tear with love for their life-long friendship and saw his pride as they reminisced about the Corps.
I wouldn’t give up any of this time with Dad. In his final year especially, we talked more than ever before. Dad shared his thoughts and feelings about his most precious moments and the experiences that taught him life’s largest lessons. A common theme throughout was what he learned from being in the Marines. Dad took the message of ‘Semper Fi’ beyond the Corps, translating it to his daily life. He lived his life as a man with great character. His allegiance to family, friends, and country was part of his fabric. Dad’s steadfast behavior and penchant for speaking with candor, while not always popular, were what drew people to him, forged friendships, and garnered respect. Dad was remarkable, indeed. He is sorely missed by many, yet will never ever be forgotten!