It was inevitable that Master Police Officer Matt Lamarr of the Franklin Police Department would enlist in the Marine Corps. His grandfather, a World War II Marine veteran who fought on Okinawa, wouldn’t have it any other way, Lamarr said. Two great uncles were also Marines in World War II.
Within 24 hours of Lamarr mentioning he was thinking about joining the Army National Guard, a Marine recruiter was knocking at his door — thanks to Grandpa’s visit to the recruiting office.
“He told them they’d better talk to my grandson before he joins the Army,” Lamarr said.
On June 23, 1999, just a month after his high school graduation, Lamarr was getting off the bus at Paris Island — the Marine Corps Boot Camp.
“I ended up in the infantry,” he said.
After eight weeks he was drilling at Camp Lejeune with the former 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine India Company, a Marine Reserve Infantry unit. Years later the 3rd Battalion was absorbed by the 25th Marines.
In the fall of 2003, orders for deployment interrupted his final year at the University of Tennessee. Lamarr’s orders were sending him to Fallujah in Al Anbar province Iraq as part of Operation Iraq Freedom II. He reported for training in January 2004 and served in Iraq from February through October 2004. At that time Fallujah had become unstable. Insurgents were ambushing convoys and increasing the use of incendiary explosive devices (IEDs) and attacks on the US military while guerrilla forces were bent on taking over the city.
“Our mission was to protect, by force, Camp Fallujah,” Lamarr said. “We were not responsible for the city but we did patrol some of the outskirts and small villages where the enemy could conduct operations.”
The Marines also controlled gate access to the camp and security in and out of the base.
“We wore a lot of hats,” he said. “Safety, security, combat patrols to disrupt enemy activity, policing to make [the area] safer and collecting intelligence.”
It got worse soon after Lamarr arrived in Iraq. Insurgents ambushed a convoy with two high ranking Army officials and authority of Al Anbar province was transferred from the Army 82nd Airborne to the Marine Expeditionary Force.
At the end of March another convoy ambush resulted in the deaths of four American private contractors. Their bodies were set on fire and dragged through the streets to be hung over a bridge.
By April the entire city was under siege from the insurgents and tens of thousands were evacuating.
Lamarr returned home in October, completed his education and in 2005 separated from the Marines.
He had a decision to make about what to do next.
“I wanted to go into the Coast Guard but it meant more disruption of normal life,” he said.
Lamarr and his wife, Casey, agreed on law enforcement.
“I knew I still had a calling for service. Unless you have a calling [for the military or law enforcement], it’s not a good place.”
He chose law enforcement as a compromise with Casey and joined the Franklin Police Department.
“I’m glad I went in (to the Marines),” he said. “The military instills discipline, it always stays with you. Being a police officer is not the first time I’ve accepted danger so I don’t get riled up”
Lamarr found the camaraderie and trust he knew in the Marines and realized the Marines had taught him patience — an important part of his current job on the Franklin Police SWAT team.
“There was a lot of trying times working with an indigenous culture to establish democracy while fighting insurgents,” he said. “I had a lot of frustration. When I returned home, I had learned patience.”
Lamarr also finds the traits he learned in the Marines come in handy on the home front. He and Casey have three children. Their oldest is already talking military.