Marvin O’Brien’s Life of Service

Fan of Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things

Service has always been second nature for Marvin O’Brien

Marvin O’Brien spent his entire career in public service, and now even in retirement finds the time to help other in whatever way he can.

“Service just seemed like the best choice to me, its honest work and you make a good steady wage,” he says.

O’Brien began his mission in life after signing up for the army in 1948 and being sent to Japan. It was a world away from his native Branson, which was then just a small town with no theaters or Table Rock Lake. O’Brien was with the army when war broke out in Korea and later transferred to the Air Force and served in Thailand during the Vietnam War. One of his humblest days when he was stationed at Andrews Airforce Base in 1963 when Airforce One arrived with the casket of President John F. Kennedy, who’d just been assassinated.

“I remember Jackie and Johnson being there, watching it you knew you were witnessing history unfold,” he says.

After retiring from the military, O’Brien went into the Civil Service and worked quality control for the navy where he circled the globe visiting different military bases.

“The furthest from home I was ever sent was to Diego Garcia, it’s just a little island in the middle of the Indian Ocean the British own and where we have a navy base,” he says. “Getting there was a 13 hour flight from the Philippines.”

After traveling the world, O’Brien settled down in Rolla with his wife Patricia to be near their daughter, four grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. He met Patricia off base while serving in Japan. He was, in fact, the first American north of Tokyo authorized to marry a Japanese woman, but had to personally write a letter to President Harry Truman for permission.

“My commander was not too happy that I went over his head and wrote to President Truman. He said I had to be punished so I was restricted to the base for a week and couldn’t leave. I think it was worth it, one week of restriction in exchange for a lifetime of marriage.”

Despite more than a half century of toil in service to his country, O’Brien still devotes what time he can to volunteering at the St. James Veteran Home. His mission now is to serve his fellow service members by helping them go fishing and make rounds around Rolla. Among the regular duties are casting lines at Meramec Springs and pushing wheelchairs around Walmart.

“I help them do whatever it is they want,” O’Brien says. “I feel a commradery with them, we all served our country and have done the same things.”

In addition to volunteering, O’Brien also exercises leadership as part of fraternal organizations.
“I’ve been a Mason for more than 50 years and a Shriner for almost that same amount of time,” O’Brien says.

With the Shriners, he serves as the local hospital chairmen and helps make sure children are receiving the medical attention they need to pursue happiness. His project right now is helping one patient get a plane ticket to see a specialist in Philadelphia.

“I identify with the Shriners mission to help children, I plan to keep on working with them as long as I can make the phone calls and fill out the paperwork,” O’Brien says.