Lots of high school grads want similar
attend college and then travel the world. Not Benjamin Feibleman; he
wanted to do things in reverse.
And his idea of
seeing the world also differed from most. Feibelman wasn't content to
visit or maybe live for a while in countries like France, Italy or
Feibleman wanted to live in Liberia,
Algeria, Pakistan or Haiti.
highly and specially trained Marine Security Guard, Feibleman, then 18,
recalls telling his higher-ups, "Send me to the biggest dump on the
The Sprague High School graduate got his
first choice: violent Liberia, a small West African country of more
than 3 million people then in the midst of a bloody, 14-year civil war.
"Liberia itself was a post-Apocalyptic,
world where there were no rules," Feibleman said of the country he
lived in from October 2003 to September 2004.
Feibleman recently spent three weeks at
home in Salem, his first time stateside in two-and-half years.
his Thanksgiving holiday respite, Feibleman, now 22, shared some of his
experiences as a foreign-based security guard and his desire to return
to civilian life next spring.
Feibleman said he knew at age 17 the
traditional post-high school path wasn't for him.
been convinced I wanted to be a Marine," the sergeant said in a recent
telephone interview from his childhood home, in which his bedroom now
is "a nice, healthy pink."
"I looked toward the
military as an outlet because I didn't think I'd have the discipline to
succeed in the college environment." He said he found homework
Given his young age, he
needed parental permission to join the military. His mom, Ellen, 56,
recalls willingly "signing off" for her only child, but with a touch of
"We had mixed feelings," she said of
herself and husband, Gil, a lawyer. "We're really not a military
the family had always been very active in Salem's Jewish community and
long-time members of its Reconstructionist synagogue, Temple Beth
Sholom, where Ben became a bar mitzvah at 13.
now part of the U.S. Embassy's five-person U.S. Marine Corps Security
Guard Detachment in Valletta, Malta, first trained and served in 29
Palms, Calif., and, in early spring 2003 at the start of the war with
Iraq, in Okinawa, Japan.
"We watched the war on
TV; we had nothing to do with it," he said of himself and his Marine
colleagues who'd hoped instead to be fighting on the front lines. "We
were champing at the bit."
So he became a
rifleman in the Marine Corps Infantry and then enrolled at and
graduated later that year from the Marine Security Guard School in
Colin Powell, then secretary of
state during President George W. Bush's first term, presented a very
surprised Feibleman with his diploma. (It was the first time a
secretary of state had visited the school in 20 years, according to
A Marine Security Guard's mission is
to protect classified information and equipment and U.S. personnel.
These specialized security guards serve at 130 embassies and consulates
around the globe, according to a Web site about the U.S. military.
During his first Marine Security Guard
assignment, in Liberia, Feibleman learned to his dismay he still
wouldn't be fighting.
he soon realized his decision to switch jobs was a good one: His job
affords a lot of travel; he enjoys camaraderie with the other,
relatively few Marine Security Guards at each U.S. Embassy post; and he
believes it's a good transition to civilian life.
spent six months this year at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, ensuring the
internal security of the U.S. Department of State, among other duties,
most of which are confidential, he said.
this month Feibleman returns to his post in Malta's capital, where in
September Portlander Molly Bordonaro became U.S. Ambassador to the
small, yet militarily strategic island nation in the Mediterranean Sea.
"Sgt. Feibleman and all of our Marines
in Malta do an outstanding job," Bordonaro said in an e-mail from her
a security guard, Feibleman says he "looks very professional on post"
in a short-sleeve dress uniform. As such, he's been photographed with
President Bush himself, current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and
Senators Joe Lieberman and John Kerry.
"From time to time, they just walk right
on by," Feibleman said of top U.S. officials.
He now looks forward to returning to
Oregon this spring, enrolling in college next fall and finding a place
of his own.
also plans to get his small film company, Testing Fate Entertainment,
off the ground with a fellow U.S. Marine, and the pair want to complete
a documentary about the USMC.
Salem today looks like "the entire town had a face lift," but
re-acclimating to his family took no effort. While abroad, he gets
frequent access to phones and e-mail, and his folks visit him once a
"People think we must have been scared
death, but we weren't," Ellen said of Ben's military work. "I didn't
worry about him, particularly when he got into embassy work."
Feibleman doesn't practice Judaism while
abroad; it's tough to do in
Malta, where 98 percent of the island's nearly 400,000 people are Roman
Catholic, he said, adding perhaps his religion will take on more import
once back in the U.S.
"It's the community aspect that I
appreciate so much," he said.