The challenge of becoming a Marine caught Hoquiam High School graduate Roy Calica at a young age. As soon as he graduated in 2000, he signed on and has been in the service ever since.
“They were represented as the best of the best when I was in high school,” he said. “And one of the most hardest and most challenging branches you could enter. I wanted to see if I could be one of the best of the best.”
He has reached the rank of gunnery sergeant and earlier this year was awarded a Purple Heart medal for wounds he received while serving in Afghanistan in 2012.
It was March 14, 2012, when Calica and his fellow Marines were lining up to provide security for a visit from then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. Panetta had just landed at Bastion Air Base when Calica heard people yelling commands to stop. A male driver piloted an SUV dangerously close to Calica’s Commanding General and Sergeant Major and appeared to be targeting Panetta’s aircraft.
Calica took off in pursuit, following the SUV and trying to catch up to cut the SUV off before it hit any aircraft.
Calica then saw a large ball of flame come from the SUV and the driver, fully engulfed in flames, exited the vehicle and took off toward the camp. The now unmanned vehicle drifted away from the flight line and into an unoccupied area.
The man, still running and still ablaze, reacted to Calica’s commands to stop, drop and roll by rushing to Calica’s vehicle and jumping aboard the driver’s side running board in an attempt to get into Calica’s vehicle. The man got about half of his body inside Calica’s vehicle, with Calica trying to push him out with his left hand. His vehicle stalled, with Calica sitting on the center console punching the man and ordering him to get off the vehicle. The punches didn’t seem to phase the man in the slightest.
Calica was able to unholster his service pistol and pointed it center mass on the man. The man, still on fire, was dragged off the vehicle by a K9 officer. About six other Marines surrounded the burning man, who eventually fell to the ground, at which point the flames were extinguished. The man later died of his injuries.
After securing the scene, Calica discovered he had suffered seconddegree burns on his left thumb, wrist and hand. He was treated and released and spent the next two weeks on “light duty.”
“The scars remain,” said Calica.
He hadn’t considered the possibility of making the Marines a career at first, but once he became a part of the Corps he was hooked.
“I figured I’d go through the first four years and see what happens. Then I have just been taking it one enlistment at a time,” said Calica. “I love being a Marine.”
Calica is currently stationed at Marine Air Station Beaufort on Parris Island, S.C., where he serves as an assistant operations chief.
“I couldn’t ask for a better mate for my daughter,” said mother-in-law Sheila Johnson of Montesano. “They met in high school and got married in Rochester right after Jillian graduated high school. He is a great young man, a good Marine, a good son-in-law and a good father.” The couple has three boys, ages 5 to 12.