Jonathan R. Kehr is serving as a United States Marine Corps captain in Okinawa, Japan. Kehr’s interest in things international began as a young adult. “While serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Guatemala (1991–93), I became enamored with learning about other cultures, languages, and religions throughout the world,” he explained.
Kehr soon found his niche at the Kennedy Center. “International relations at BYU seemed very fitting for me because I enjoyed every class required. The international political science courses, anthropology, geography, world religions, language, economics, and international business courses all impressed me. When I first selected international relations as a major, I did not have a career picked out, but I knew that I wanted to be global,” he said. He also took advantage of a travel opportunity with Study Abroad London that whetted his appetite for additional international experiences.
“When I attended BYU, I remember getting some pretty crazy looks from folks when they heard my future plans with the Corps. I cannot think of a profession more rewarding for my family and me than service in the Marines,” he remembered. Kehr is the Landing Support Detachment Commander in the Marine Expeditionary Unit Service Support Group 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. In this assignment, he has served and trained in Hong Kong, Australia, Korea, mainland Japan, and Iwo Jima.
“One of my favorite operations was working and living on the sands of Iwo Jima, while supporting the 56th Commemoration of the Battle of Iwo Jima. During four days, I explored the caves where the defenders spent their last days prior to the Marines conquering the island. I stood on Mt. Sirubachi, where the infamous flag raising occurred,” Kehr recalled. “I met veterans of that battle and accompanied the now-grown children of Medal of Honor recipients. Although a horrible battle was fought on Iwo Jima, there was a peaceful feeling on the island. I felt grateful for those young Marines and sailors that sacrificed their lives for our freedom—I walked on hallowed ground.”
Kehr has led the Motor Transportation Operator Marines and, in his current assignment, he is a logistics officer for the Heavy Equipment Operators and Landing Support Specialists Marines. “My responsibilities include commanding service support Marines on beaches during amphibious assaults. We ensure the equipment, personnel, and supplies are delivered from the beach forward,” Kehr explained. “These Marines also externally load supplies and equipment onto hovering helicopters, receive and send personnel from airfields, and are responsible for loading and offloading Navy ships that we use for deployment. In addition to their specialty, every Marine must train to fight as riflemen.”
In October, Kehr’s unit deployed aboard the USS Ft. McHenry for a humanitarian assistance mission in East Timor. “I recently taught a geography/international relations lesson to my Marines about current world events—the men were curious about a few things. The curriculum that I taught was mainly from memory from BYU international relations courses and information from current events that I continue to track to this day. I taught out of the atlas I used during my geography courses that I took while at BYU,” he said. Kehr has since been transferred to a larger ship, the aircraft carrier USS Essex, which also has amphibious assault capability.
“The U.S. Marine Corps has provided me with leadership and management opportunities that would be impossible to find elsewhere. I am entrusted not only with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of military equipment, but with the lives of our country’s sons and daughters,” Kehr expressed. “Being a Marine Corps officer daily challenges the mind, spirit, and body.”
The Marine Corps has also allowed Kehr and his wife, Summer (Kelly), to travel in twenty countries. “The Corps has been outstanding for my family. We enjoy the adventure. I love having a job that requires intellect and fortitude, and, besides, who wouldn’t want to get paid to shoot guns, spend time outdoors, travel the world, and ride in helicopters?” Kehr asked.
Kehr received a double major BA in international relations and geography from BYU in December 1997. He and Summer are the proud parents of two girls, Penelope and Anna Persephone, who are waiting in Okinawa for his return.