View Full Version : Salem Marine given special task - guarding the president

06-11-07, 03:26 PM
Published: June 11, 2007 12:00 am

Salem Marine given special task - guarding the president
By Rebecca Correa , Staff writer

SALEM - Two days after President Bush declared war on Iraq, Joshua Asselin drove to a recruiting office on Main Street and signed up to serve his country.

One month later, he was taking a series of intelligence tests at boot camp in South Carolina.

But when his training was complete, Asselin wasn't sent to the battlefield - he was sent to take more psychological and intelligence tests.

Asselin, 23, later found out he had been chosen to provide security for the president, an honor that only 1 percent of the Marine Corps achieves.

The Salem resident, who grew up in North Andover, Mass., and moved here with his family when he was in high school, finished a four-year tour of duty this month.

During that time, he provided security at the White House communications building and protected both the commander in chief and the vice president as they traveled the world.

As recently as two weeks ago, Asselin was in Baghdad with Vice President Dick Cheney. Prior to that, he took three separate trips with President Bush to Hungary, Latvia and Germany.

Because he was not in "high hostile" areas, Asselin said he never felt as though protecting the nation's leaders was any more dangerous than fighting in the war.

As the low drone of Fox News could be heard in the family's Salem home, Asselin's father, Ron, said he was surprised when his only son enlisted in the Marines. He said he always thought Joshua would follow in his footsteps and work in the Middlesex Sheriff's Department in Massachusetts.

"I think (he and his wife) just thought, 'We need to pray for the best and see what happens,'" Ron said.

Asselin admits that the elite title he ended up earning even surprised him, but it was an opportunity that allowed him to see the world - and to see firsthand what the world thought of the United States.

"In Hungary, the job site was gorgeous and the people were great to work with because they were American-friendly," he said.

But in Latvia, Asselin said, people's attitudes were much different.

As soon as he uttered a few words of English, he said, residents would turn their backs to him.

One evening, he went to eat in a restaurant but as soon as he and his colleagues spoke English, the menus were taken from his table and they were never served.

Several years and dozens of memories later, Asselin said he does not regret joining the presidential support duty, but he also does not feel like his desire to serve the country was fulfilled.

"It felt like an empty check in the box," he said. "The program does not allow the opportunity to fight for the country."

So together with his new wife Emily, 22, who he met and married in Washington D.C., Asselin decided to enlist for another year.

He has one more week of free time before he heads to Kuwait, where he will get a chance to fight.

Already, he said, the thing he is looking forward to the most is "coming home." He's prepared to see a war that isn't pretty.

"You never know what to expect until you see it with your own eyes," he said. "I know lots who have served there, some who have come back and some who haven't, and I've talked with most about their experiences, but really I still don't know what to expect."