Meet 1 Marine

If there are two things Mark McQuate knows, it’s that hitting bottom once is easy, and hitting bottom multiple times is an opportunity. He continuously digs his way back from the depths with help from signs from above.

Graduating from the predominately upper middle class Parkway South High School in Manchester, Missouri, in 1981, Mark had little knowledge of historical events that he would have contact with. Nor did he have any knowledge that life outside suburban St. Louis could be so ugly and cruel to other human beings. He also had little knowledge that as each decade passed, it would draw him closer to his destiny and ultimately, his faith in God.  
Less than 24 hours after high school graduation, Mark voluntarily found himself on the yellow footprints of U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina. As he puts it, “I joined the Marines because they were the best.” In 1983 Mark became a member of the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit in Beirut, Lebanon. Hitting the runway shortly after a bomb had destroyed the U.S Embassy in Beirut in April, 1983, he proceeded through the Beirut conflict without so much as a scratch until October 23, 1983, when a suicide bomber drove 10,000 pounds of TNT into the Marine barracks at the airport. This would be the first of many incidents in which his life was shaped towards compassion for those whose lives are destroyed by the hatred of others.

After returning from Beirut, Mark was deployed to Central America. Having thought he had seen the worst of conditions the world had to offer, he came to realize that human suffering came in all forms. His experiences in Beirut and Central America led him to realize people were suffering in epidemic proportions and the United States of America was a beacon of hope for all who were oppressed.

After his enlistment, Mark attended Western Illinois University where he decided to become a firefighter and EMT. His first tour started in Muscatine, Iowa, in 1988, followed in 1992 by a position in Green Bay, Wisconsin, partly due to his love of the Green Bay Packers. From 1992 to 2001, he became active in union affairs and subsequently, politics. From his humble beginnings putting out signs for school board elections, he quickly decided politics was a calling through which he could help those less fortunate. By 1998, he ran for the 4th Assembly District Seat in the Wisconsin Legislature. After losing a close race, he was elected to Chair the Brown County Democratic Party. This led him to work within the Gore 2000 Campaign. The result was a defeat not only for the Vice-President but also Mark.

The following five years were one long downward spiral. His health took a turn for the worse, and he turned to alcohol and motorcycles to try to satisfy his need for excitement. But once again Mark was given two new chances at life. In 2002, he had a daughter, Savannah and in 2006, he met his second wife, Kelly. On March 17, 2009, they were married on the beaches of Key West. Seven days later they were hit by a drunk driver in Nashville, Tennessee. Kelly was instantly killed, and Mark was severely injured. Thinking God was punishing him for past sins, Mark sought out the help of The Reverend Becky David. With her support, Mark put his talents to work in establishing the Ride With Kelly Foundation, which helps grieving children with the loss of a parent or sibling.

But Mark was not done. In November, 2015, he started the 1 Marine 1 Life Foundation with his current wife and third new chance at life, Melissa, whom he married in May of 2016.

At age 53, it is impossible to know the future. But one thing has become abundantly clear to Mark as he moves forward trying to do right by God: he knows he can use his life experience to help others by doing small things and nurturing them to grow. Mark is particularly interested in the phenomenon of millennials and the power of social media. He also has a fascination with TV Evangelists, why they cap their teeth, and dye their hair.

Mark lives with his wife, Melissa, his daughter, Savannah, and step-children, Landyn and Rhylee, in Rock Island, Illinois. He looks forward to riding his Harley Davidson to breakfast each day and hopes you will entertain the idea of having him come meet your group and pass on his inspiring message of community service to others.


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