HADITHA, AL ANBAR, Iraq -- The Marine Corps’ spirit of brotherhood draws people together who would have otherwise never met. For two Marines with 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment their love of sports has forged a friendship that has survived the field of battle many times.
Lance Cpl. Jeremy T. Dunlap, of Wheatland, Penn., and Lance Cpl. Antone M. Uzonyi, of Pittsburgh, Pa., are both infantrymen with 1st platoon, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, and have been inseparable since their first meeting at Security and Stability Operations training in January.
“I heard about him and his motivation so I had to meet him,” said the 18-year-old Dunlap. “After speaking with him, I found we had a lot in common and have basically been best friends after that.”
“We were at different platoons at the time,” the 20-year-old Uzonyi said. “But that changed when we got to Iraq and I’m happy to have him around.”
They’re common interests span from their love of sports, to the reasons why they joined the Marine Corps.
“My brother was a Marine and I wanted to serve my country as well, but I also wanted to play football,” said Uzonyi who attends Waynesburg College and plays tight end and defensive end for their football team on a full scholarship.
“I have a lot of military history in my family, but none were in the Marines. I decided to serve my country with the best as well continue my football career,” said Dunlap who attends Kansas State University on a full scholarship and plays tail back on their football team.
They were both in the midst of beginning their football seasons at their respected colleges when the call of duty came.
“I was very proud to hear that I was deploying,” said Uzonyi a 2002 graduate of North Hills High School. “I was very motivated about getting my chance to help fight the war on terrorism.”
“I had only graduated from SOI (School of Infantry) two months prior when I received orders that I was going to be activated,” said Dunlap, a 2004 Hickory High School graduate. “I was a little surprised, but I was happy to get my chance to do my part.”
As their friendship bloomed, it was tested as Dunlap was hurt in a mortar attack on the base, Camp Hit, and later when both were hurt in an RPG attack on their position during Operation New Market.
“I was real upset when he got hurt the first time and I joked about his football career being in jeopardy,” Uzonyi said. “The next time I got hurt also, and I wanted to do anything I could do to help him even though he was in good hands.”
“I knew he was hurt because he was in the same area I was in when I got hurt,” Dunlap said. “I didn’t know what had happened to him until I saw him at the hospital later on. That was the biggest relief to know he was alright.”
Through injuries and a lengthy deployment, the two friends remain confident about their return trip home.
“We’re definitely going to get our significant others together and go on some type of vacation,” Dunlap said with a smile. “We may even play against each other in some playground football.”
“The trip is something we have discussed recently, but the football argument has been an ongoing topic since we first met,” Uzonyi said laughing. “I mean we’re best friends but if we were on the field I would take him out. No doubt about it.”
“I would like to see him at the same college as me, but as far tackling me there’s no way he could catch me,” Dunlap said with a big grin.