OAKLAND — Chris Duffy, Josh Carrier and Ryan Doucette have a lot in common.

They are U.S. Marine Corps veterans who served in combat overseas. They are enrolled in college on the GI bill, studying business, and all have family members who served in the military.

Each carries the name or names of friends who died in Iraq or Afghanistan — either tattooed on his body or imprinted on a bracelet on his wrist.

But unlike some veterans who return home from war feeling lost and disconnected, these three veterans had a lot of support from family and friends, which helped them readjust.

Most importantly, the three have each other to lean on when things get tough.

Duffy, 28, Doucette, 26, and Carrier, 25, formed and play on Barley Bombers, a softball team, go bird hunting and get together on holidays such as Memorial Day, July 4 and Veterans Day.

On Monday, the birthday of the U.S. Marines Corps and a day before Veterans Day, the three were at Duffy’s house on Belgrade Road, where they built an outdoor fire, cooked food on a grill and reminisced.

“Veterans Day, to me, is a day to get together with my friends that are still alive and just kind of hang out and celebrate,” said Duffy, 28.

The three spoke of what it was like to transition to home life after several years in the Marines. They talked about how critical it was to have support during that transition. At times finishing each other’s sentences, they spoke of comrades who did not return from war.

“You can’t get a bunch of Marines together and not talk about the friends you lost,” Doucette said.

“It’s always a memorial setting,” said Carrier.

“It’s always a topic of conversation,” Duffy added.

The men know how lucky they are to have each others’ support — and say so.

Duffy, a Marine corporal who served seven months in Iraq in 2007 while serving from 2006 to 2010, said he felt lost when he returned home. But he was fortunate to have his wife, Hannah, his parents and the Fabian and Marston families, who are great friends, to help him get on track, he said.

“They were a huge, huge support for me. They just forced me to be motivated and become a good person and make something of myself. They gave me direction to become successful.”

Duffy sells boats for his grandfather’s business, Hamlin’s Marine. A Messalonskee High School graduate, he also attends Thomas College where he is working to earn a bachelor’s degree in business. He and his wife have a son, Finnegan, 1, who was named the New Year’s Baby for the state.

Carrier, of Augusta, also was a corporal in the U.S. Marines, serving from 2007 to 2011. In 2010, he served seven months in Afghanistan. He met Duffy in North Carolina in 2007 when he was assigned to Duffy’s company. Carrier now works installing drywall and owns a lawn mowing business, Carrier’s Quality Lawn Care. He also attends University of Maine at Augusta, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business.

Doucette played football with Duffy at Messalonskee High, graduating in 2007, two years after Duffy. Currently a defensive line coach at Messalonskee, Doucette served in the Marines from 2007 to 2012, serving in Afghanistan from May to late November in 2009. He also attends Thomas College and is pursuing a bachelor’s in business administration.

The three veterans have another friend who would have been with them Monday, had he not been working — Mike Jacques, 26, of Waterville, a Marine Corps veteran who works at Sappi, they said. Like Doucette, Jacques also graduated from Messalonskee in 2007.

Being the first of the group to complete his military service, Duffy is the link that brought the four together. Doucette said when he got out of the Marines, it took time to be ready for civilian life, and his friends and family were a great support.

“You just got to take a little bit of time to remember yourself,” he said. “We’re so fortunate to have each other.”

Carrier added: “A lot of people don’t have anybody and that’s really hard.”

On Doucette’s wrist is a bracelet bearing the name Lance Corporal Shawn P. Hefner, who died in November 2009.

“This is my good friend,” Carrier said. “He stepped on an IED in Afghanistan. I was there. Once a year, I go to Texas where he lived. I visit his family and some of my friends get to go with me from my platoon.”

Duffy’s bracelet bears the name of Justus Bartett, who died in 2010 in Afghanistan after stepping on an IED.

“I was in a platoon with Justus for almost three years,” said Duffy, whose chest also bears a tattoo with the name “Adam Loggins,” who was killed by a sniper in Iraq.

“We came into the Marine Corps together,” Duffy said. “We were in boot camp together, we were in infantry together and we stayed friends throughout because our barracks were just across the way from each other.”

Carrier’s battalion lost 16 men, and their names are tattooed on his arm and back.

“I knew a good 14 of them,” he said.

Duffy, Doucette and Carrier said they knew when they entered the Marines that they had to be mentally tough, want to be the best and had to push themselves. They also knew that they would experience war and death.

Carrier’s younger brother, Logan DeMerchant, 20, just joined the Marines.

“He is an infantryman — a machine gunner — so I’m proud of him for that,” Carrier said.

While the men pay dues to veterans’ organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion, they say their lives are so busy, they can not be actively involved at this point. But they want to assure older veterans, with whom they feel a camaraderie, that they ultimately will get involved.

“You tell them I said not to worry — we’ll be there,” Doucette said, with Duffy adding, “We’ll be there as soon as we get our time. There’s just no time now between school, work and family.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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