AL QA’IM, Iraq --
It was an average night in the administration office at Camp Al Qa’im, Iraq. A lone Marine tidying up the office was about to stumble across an unexpected fortune.
Lance Cpl. Aaron Kelley, an administrative clerk with Task Force 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, moved a desk to clean behind it, not expecting his following actions to earn him the respect and admiration of his battalion.
Two stacks of money, amounting to nearly $12,000, lay on the floor before him.
Two months ago, a worker in charge of paying government contractors had misplaced the money and suspected someone of stealing it. With the money never turning up and the investigation closed, an average person may have had conflicting thoughts in the given scenario, but for Kelley, there was only one thing to do.
“I have always done the right thing,” said Kelley. “Back in middle school, I found three dollars on the floor and turned it into the teacher.”
Kelley grabbed his camera and took a picture of where the money lay. Without hesitation, he grabbed the money and immediately reported the find through his chain of command.
“Lance Corporal Kelley has always displayed very strong values,” said Sgt. John Curry, the administration chief for Task Force 3rd Bn., 2nd Marines. “Though what he did was extremely admirable, the Marine Corps expects all Marines to have the same type of integrity.”
Alone in an office with a forgotten $11,610, Kelley could have chosen a different course, but his integrity never swaggered.
“I’d rather feel good about doing the right thing, than feel guilty about doing the wrong,” said Kelley. “I was brought up in a family deeply rooted in Marine Corps tradition, so I was pretty much raised like a Marine. It’s tough from me not to do the right thing.”
At the end of the day, Kelley was presented with a coin from the battalion commander, Lt. Col Peter B. Baumgarten, in front of his fellow Marines, but the true reward was knowing that his integrity is not for sale.