For the first time in more than a decade, the McMahon men of Sag Harbor were all safe and at home together last week.It was a short-lived reunion, but a reunion nonetheless.
The McMahons have a relatively brief but extensive history of serving in the armed forces, specifically as Marines. Seven of the 11 children have served, are currently serving or have enlisted to serve. Six of them are Marines, while their sister, Kimberleigh, a Southampton Village Police officer, recently finished serving with the Air National Guard.
Currently, five of the McMahon men, ranging in age from 20 to 37, are active-duty U.S. Marines, while the youngest—18-year-old Benjamin, who just graduated from Pierson High School—has enlisted and will soon head to boot camp.
Over the past decade, when one would come home on leave or for a holiday, others would remain overseas or be headed out for deployment.
“We would be like ships passing in the night,” said Staff Sergeant David McMahon, the eldest son in the family. “We would talk to each other, we knew where each other was, but we would never all see each other.”
But the brothers were all able to come home this past week for a long-overdue reunion following Benjamin’s graduation from high school, before Lance Corporal Daniel McMahon and Lance Corporal Patrick McMahon had to return to North Carolina to ready themselves for deployment.
Despite their passion for serving their country, they all serve very different roles. David is a weapons platoon sergeant. “I control and train the machine guns, the mortars and the assaultmen who fire anti-tank and bunker-buster missiles. If it’s locked, they’ll open it,” he said.
Stating he was inspired by the service of his uncle, Robert MacNichol, in the Marines in 1966 during the Vietnam War, David joined the Marines in 1995, served four years and got out in 1999. It wasn’t until five years later that he reenlisted and got a taste of combat. “Once you’ve been a Marine, especially an infantryman, everything else is kind of boring,” he said.
David is eligible to retire from the Marines in 2015 and plans to do so.
John McMahon, who is also a lance corporal, said he always wanted to join the Army when he was a child. “But you grow up, your big brother goes into the Marines, you see his pretty uniform, and that got me hooked,” he explained.
John, 29, ended up being a transport operator—clearing paths for foot soldiers, towing vehicles, picking up supply packages and driving around prisoners of war—and enlisted with the Marines while David was in between stints. He ended up being the first in his family to see combat.
Corporal William McMahon, 23, said he always wanted to join the Fire Department of New York. “Then 9/11 happened,” he said. “I had two Marine brothers. It just made sense.” William became a radio operator for his unit, but has yet to see combat—an experience he says he wants.
“I’ve done two non-combat deployments. My unit went in 2008 to Afghanistan and got pretty beat up, so it’s kind of been a relief tour in southeast Asia,” he said. “I really want to go to combat, though. I’ve volunteered to go to Afghanistan so many times. I’ve always wanted to be placed under David.”
The brothers understand the likelihood of being placed in the same unit is slim to none. They tell the story of the five Sullivan brothers, who all died on the USS Juneau during World War II. The Marines have since adopted a policy against such placements.
Daniel, 21, had already left home for North Carolina after last week’s brief reunion and therefore wasn’t around to defend himself during a recent interview. But his brothers offered that he joined the Marines because “he was too dumb to go to college.”
“Danny’s a great kid. He’s wanted to be in the Marines since—since before he was born, really,” David said. “We always joke that a recruiter visited my mom before he was born.”
Patrick, 20, who is a combat photographer based in Okinawa, Japan, also left early and was not part of the conversation. John likewise joked that his brother joined “because he was too smart to go to college. We always say, ‘What the hell are you doing, Pat? You’re too talented to be a Marine.’”
Benjamin they simply call “The Egg. He hasn’t hatched into a Marine yet, but he will,” explained David.
Claiming that they currently are the most Marines from a single family—a fact that could not be immediately confirmed—the brothers laughed as they yelled out, “We’re the McMahons. We don’t die, we multiply!”