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Sergeant Paul Ehline (MCRDSD graduation photo

About Paul Ehline

Interesting Facts About Paul Ehline (USMC) The Civilian from Michael Ehline (USMC), his dedicated son.

Once some sub-contractor on a job site my dad supervised said, “ex-Marine” when referencing my dad while within earshot, and dad went sideways. “There is no such thing as an ex-Marine. Unless you’re dead, you’re not a former Marine. Square yourself away!” And he was deadly serious with a smile.

  • Lessons From a Real Man.

I learned most from Paul Ehline that when we promise a brother, we will do something; we are not joking. When we tell someone we will be there; we are there early. No excuses.

Here is a typical example of why we love each other so much:

“Jack [Jack Lucas] … used his body to shield three members of his squad from two grenades and was nearly killed when one exploded.” (Source).

That is what we do, part of what makes us the best. That is why we bear that title. That is why we alone bear that title. Jack Lucas (See above), 17 at the time, lied about his young age to join the Marines. He only served for a few months before earning his Medal of Honor.

Most of all, it’s the intangibles that make Marines different. One of my buddies, a combat grunt, “John,” who I represented in a motorcycle accident case, explained it best: 

“We were already alpha males before we went in.” 

Army, Air Force, and Navy have elite units like AFSOC, SEALS, Rangers, and Green Berets. But all Marines are elite, which is why the Marine Corps never wanted anything to do with SOCOM or JSOC until Donald Rumsfeld ordered them to create MARSOC.

I don’t consider Fleet Marine Force (FMF) Corpsmen or Chaplains to be anything but one of us, so let’s move on. (SEALS are fantastic, of course). We don’t walk around chewing gum with our hands in our pockets (“Army gloves”). We drill in such a way and have such military bearing that women marvel at us, and our foes fear us.

You can spot us a mile away by our bearing and discipline. One thing I will say and agree upon is that all non-combat Marines are ambivalent about never seeing combat. We join because we want to test our mettle. We don’t care about money for college or some civilian job training program. We are warriors. As a matter of fact, I will step over 50 college snowflakes with entitlement mentalities to hire one combat Marine. I got my law degree after I became a sworn practicing lawyer. Tell me it can’t be done; to me, that is simply a challenge. Marines are different.

Here is what one famous Marine said that sums it up very well:

“A Marine is a Marine. I set that policy two weeks ago – there’s no such thing as a former Marine. You’re a Marine, just in a different uniform and you’re in a different phase of your life. But you’ll always be a Marine because you went to Parris Island, San Diego, or the hills of Quantico. There’s no such thing as a former Marine.” (General James F. Amos, 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps). Besides dad, what attracted me most about the Corps is this one quote: “The Marine Corps makes no promises. It simply offers recruits and officer candidates the challenge to ‘be one of us.’”

Paul Ehline, the Man, The Myth, The Legend.

Newspaper article about Paul Ehline the Super Salesman.

Now, the foundation has been laid down. So let’s learn about who Paul Ehline was and why he was so exceptional compared to an average person. Paul Michael Ehline was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on July 1, 1946. He was the fourth child of Gunnar and Helen Ehline, the progeny of hard-working Swedish immigrants. His older siblings were David, Richard, and Judith.

The family moved to southern California when Paul was two, and he grew up in Temple City and Garden Grove. At an early age, Paul distinguished himself as a super salesman, winning awards and recognition for many newspaper subscriptions he could secure from his door-to-door sales pitches.

As the youngest of four children, Paul had to distinguish himself from his siblings. He chose to do so by having different interests and showing different abilities from his brothers and sister. Whereas they were compliant, studious, athletic, and musical, Paul chose cars, surfing, brawling, drag racing, art, and challenging family expectations and standards. Paul was a rebel! Paul paid cash for several muscle cars from the money he earned selling newspapers as a child.

  • A Desire to Serve?

Despite being a brawler, surfer, and all-around badass, Paul wanted to be a Christian missionary. Following graduation from high school, Paul enrolled in a local junior college. However, before he had completed the first semester, he was drafted into the military. In his own words, after reporting to the Army,

“I specifically asked to be sent to the Marine Corps because I wanted to be the best.”

After completing boot camp at MCRD San Diego, Paul was sent to Vietnam as a MOS 0848 (Field Artillery Operations Chief) private. But due to his proficiency in math and his honesty (he read his Bible daily and did not party with other Marines), the command promptly promoted Paul to the rank of sergeant of field artillery. According to his many meritorious masts, Paul demonstrated consistent intelligence, commitment, responsibility, and high standards.

  • Tours of Duty and Units.
Paul Ehline on patrol with USMC Force Reconnaissance Marines embedded as a Forward Observer at Mong Village, Circa 1968.

During his first tour, he saw almost non-stop combat in many of the Marine’s most forward and contested positions from 1967-1969. He was stationed at Camp Carroll, near the DMZ. He also battled at Da Nang, Gio Linh, Rock Pile, DMZ, Con Thien, and Camlo. Due to many losses, Paul was thrown into the line as a Forward Observer alongside Force Reconnaissance Marines and regular infantry units.

When he and the Recon Marines went into Mong villages along the DMZ, Paul witnessed to the villagers and handed out Bibles his mother had sent him in the mail in between calling in Napalm strikes on enemy VC positions.

According to his DD-214, Paul served in various units, including:

  • 3d Marines.
  • 13th MarDiv.
  • G Battery 3d Btn.
  • 5th Mardiv FMF.

After his first tour, he was sent home, reduced to marching new Marines into chow, and doing junk on the bunk inspections at Camp Lejeune. He promptly volunteered to go back, even though his tour of combat duty was over. He told me, “I felt guilty about leaving my unit and needed to get them home to their mothers.” That was MY DAD! Hence, he served in the Vietnam War for two years (‘67 – ‘69).

During those two years of being under constant enemy fire and exposed to Agent Orange regularly, he completed his tours of patriotic duty without knowing that he had developed a severe case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Of course, he had no clue about the latent and potentially lethal hidden form of cancer from Agent Orange that years later would be diagnosed and cause his death.

Jacket made in Saigon for Sgt. Paul Ehline by South Vietnamese tailor. Note the grammatical error, “Then,” instead of “Than.”

Paul lived a very challenging life that caused him much disappointment, pain, grief, and depression, along with joy, peace, faith, and hope. He had already endured expulsion from the family home when he was only 15 years old, the horrors of war, bankruptcy, divorces, significant losses, pain, and recurring bouts of depression. And when his battle buddies began killing themselves after being abandoned by our country, his feelings of being a failure grew.

Chemo treatments had terribly unpleasant side effects for his last 5-6 years of life. But he was tough. Despite these setbacks and challenges, Paul would have retired a very wealthy man if the financial crash of 2008 had not occurred. Before that disastrous depression, the highly successful home building company owned and operated by Paul and his brother Richard had been sold to a major construction company for several million dollars.

However, before the sale was completed and payment made, the buyer voided the signed contract. Richard and Paul had no option but to file bankruptcy. Through all of his times of self-doubt, illnesses, failures, disappointments, loneliness, and feelings of worthlessness, Paul maintained his Christian faith and hope. He continued his practice of communal worship, Bible studies, personal devotions, and prayer throughout his life. He often shared his faith with others in hopelessness and despair.

Always generous and willing to help, Paul financially supported several organizations that served those who were needy and most vulnerable. Despite his own suffering, Paul always had a genuine heart and checkbook for those who needed assistance and a helping hand. Paul loved family above all earthly things.

Paul always maintained a strong and loving relationship with his siblings, their spouses, and his nephews and nieces. Above all, he loved and was very proud of his son, Michael, and dearly loved his daughter-in-law, Zulma, and his two grandchildren.

When Michael was little, he begged his mother to let him live with Paul. Finally, even though bitter and divorced, she knew that Michael was just like his dad and that he needed the influence of a driven man. So Michael ended up moving in with Paul, who was rarely home, as he worked perhaps 15-20 hours per day and rarely slept. Paul was haunted by the war and took it personally when his Marine brothers he fought alongside began taking their own lives.

  • No one knew what PTSD was back then. To his son, Paul will be remembered for his self-sacrificing patriotic service to our country as a Marine and dedicated father who buried himself in work as a coping mechanism. Before the days of cell phones, Paul’s El Camino broke down on the way back from Mimi’s Cafe in Brea. Paul was bringing Michael food. Even though he was wearing a suit and tie, Paul brought Mike his meal after walking at least 5 miles to Anaheim Hills, where they lived.


Ultimately, Michael left Paul when he was 16, dropped out of traditional High School, and got a full-time job as a painter’s apprentice. Paul said school or work. Mike chose both.

PFC Michael Ehline and Drill Instructor, Staff Sgt. Williams. MCRDSD, Circa. 1989.

Michael went to school at night and worked full time in the day. Upon graduation with a USMC Staff Sergeant by his side, at age 18, Michael was soon on a bus to the MCRD San Diego.

Paul protested Michael’s choice to join the Corps. Paul was uneasy that Michael asked to be in the infantry. He said, “Why can’t you just join the Navy and be safe?” However, Paul wrote Michael EVERY DAY, when Michael was in boot camp. Paul’s love of God, his faith in Christ’s forgiving grace, his belief in eternal life in heaven, and his loving commitment to family were evident.

The PTSD that had probably started in his childhood due to him feeling rejected led to his incredible success in business, his endearing and enduring friendships, his remarkable generosity, and his ongoing example of persistence, perseverance, faith, and hope. Despite facing the most serious setbacks, disappointments, and losses, they all endured. Paul will be missed by all who knew him. But to his son Michael, who knew Paul as a comrade in arms and not just as a father, his life will always serve as an example of a well-lived life and a model for living a life of care, compassion, generosity, and service.

Michael knew relationships with women were no easy feat for dad. Even though mom and dad divorced when he was barely two, mom knew dad was legit.

One thing Michael took away from his relationship with Paul is that:

“….officers eat last and that any officer worries first about feeding their enlisted Marines and then lieutenants before he even picks up a knife or a fork.”

And that is how Michael runs his family. If they don’t eat, he doesn’t. Michael Ehline used those same USMC values and motivation to become a lawyer with no law degree in California. Michael suffered knee injuries during the School of Infantry (“SOI”). He was sent home awaiting orders and sent out for surgery at the V.A. After receiving an honorable discharge, Michael had difficulty adjusting to civilian life and maintaining friendships with fellow Marines.

Ultimately, Michael became number-one in sales, just like his father. But Michael had aspirations of something more. So Michael enrolled in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program. True to form, Paul promptly helped Michael find a room for rent in Redondo Beach, California, through a business contact.

Michael worked at a Home Depot and studied in a law office daily, paying $300 monthly for rent. It was not until after passing the Bar Exam that Michael learned that Paul had been subsidizing Michael’s rent and had not told him! Just like God was to Paul, Paul was Michael’s silent warrior behind the scenes helping Michael achieve his goals.

Paul also paid for Michael’s wedding ceremony after Michael’s wife refused to elope! Paul adored and admired Michael’s wife, who is not from this country. She, in turn, adored Paul and often traveled, even without Michael, to visit Paul, pray with him and give Paul the love that only a daughter could provide.

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