Although Jamaican music icon, Orville Richard Burrell, better known in entertainment circles as Shaggy is famous thanks to his musical gift, few know he served as a U.S. marine prior to becoming a notable reggae voice.
The 52-year-old is a seven-time Grammy nominee and a two-time winner including Reggae Album for ‘Boombastic’ in 1996.
The Jamaican national who grew up in Brooklyn and is known for songs “It Wasn’t Me”, “Boombastic”, “In The Summertime”, “Oh Carolina”, and “Angel” is also a DJ and actor.
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“The Kingston born enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1988 and obtained the MOS of 0811 (Field Artillery Cannon Crewman). He served with a Field Artillery Battery in the 10th Marine Regiment during the Persian Gulf War. Rising to become a lance corporal, although he was reduced in rank twice.” Shaggy perfected his signature singing voice while he was in the Marine Corps.
Of his military experience, Shaggy told the bostonglobe.com, “The military saved me from the street.”
“I grew up in Brooklyn and was into everything I shouldn’t,” he said, adding: “I saw my friends getting locked up for stuff I was doing. I needed to get out. So I went down to Flatbush Junction and signed up.”
He continued: “The street taught me how to fire a gun. The military taught me how to balance a check book, the military prepared me for life. I remember being bitten by sand fleas and I couldn’t move. The military taught me how to be comfortable outside my comfort zone.”
Shaggy nonetheless recognizes just as any facet of society, the military also has some work to do regarding race relations. He, however, appreciates the diversity of the military which he reckons was ahead of the rest of society when it came to integration.
“The military has issues, just like the rest of society,” he said. “But it has real deep brotherhood, and sisterhood, too.”
On veterans care, the entertainer who volunteers for Massachusetts General Hospital, supported by the Red Sox which treats active duty military and veterans and their families of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress warned that while there is a tendency to shift focus from soldiers once a war is over, the impact on the soldiers lingers on.
“The first Gulf War was a cake walk compared to what these guys are going through,” he said. “That said, I saw some traumatic stuff. I can’t forget that. We can’t forget our obligation to help the vets who need help. I want to be part of getting that conversation started and ongoing.”
It is fitting then that Shaggy was among those recognized for their service to the US Marines at a special Veterans Day Dinner and fundraiser in Boston on November 7.
Shaggy enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1988 at 20 years old. He served with a Field Artillery Battery in the 10th Marine Regiment during the Persian Gulf War.
In 2007, he was awarded the Jamaican Order of Distinction with the rank of Commander.