James “J.D.” Fagan graduated from Leo in 2013 as class valedictorian. He was also a baseball standout and a member of the chess and bowling teams. 

On Thursday, Feb. 16 he returned to Leo as Staff Sergeant James Fagan, USMC, having chosen Leo as the site of the ceremony for his promotion from sergeant to staff sergeant.

“This is a significant step in a Marine’s career,” said Chief Warrant Officer Richard Whelan, USMC, who presided. “It’s like all the sergeants’ names are listed on a board, and the ones best suited to continue to serve and fulfill our mission are selected for promotion to staff sergeant. What it says is we want this individual to remain in the Marine Corps.” 

Sgt. Fagan joined an ROTC program while attending college at SIU-Edwardsville. The military lifestyle appealed to him, as did the opportunity to avoid accumulating thousands of dollars in college debt.

“The government is paying for my education,” he told an assembly of Leo students, “and I’m seeing the world.”

Since enlisting for active duty, Sgt. Fagan has deployed to South America, Spain, Germany and Israel. He is currently assigned to the Marine Recruiting Station at 51st and Pulaski in Chicago.

“It’s not a bad life, and there’s definitely a feeling of accomplishment in the work you do,” he said in urging his fellow Young Leo Men to consider the military as an option. “Ten years ago, I was sitting there just like you, wondering what was next for me. I’m grateful that the Marine Corps opportunity presented itself. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made.”