Captain Thomas A. “Tom” O’Neiljpg-oneil-enhancedleo-bridgewater_airborne Spc. Marcel “Leo” Bridgewater 


Stars & Stripes Magazine interview with Tom O’Neil

Military Service – The Iraq War

As a Fire Support Team Leader, he led the direction and management of supporting arms such as close air support, artillery and Battalion heavy mortars supporting the Company’s maneuver against the enemy. He was called into action on the first day of the Iraq War, leading the suppression of enemy forces on the border town of Safwan, Iraq, as the 1st Marine Division breached the international border.

As his unit plunged into Baghdad as the lead Marine force, he employed heavy artillery against a suicidal enemy as they moved into downtown Baghdad. The Fire Support Team became known as the most lethal FIST in the 1st Marine Division after employing 29 Hellfire Missiles against enemy forces, and also employing a large artillery mission dangerously close to friendly units, a total of $2.2M worth of ordinance fired against the enemy over a three week period.

After capturing Baghdad, his unit occupied the holy city of Karbala, where he led human intelligence and security operations in the historic city, in essence becoming the de-facto Mayor of Karbala. He then returned back to the United States in September 2003 after 9 months of deployment, back to Twentynine Palms to rest, refit and be trained for the next deployment, where he was then promoted to Weapons Company Executive Officer. Captain O’Neil was then deployed to Al Qaeda infested Al Anbar Province to assume an international blocking position against the flow of insurgents from Syria in January 2004.

He led discussions with governing tribal leaders, worked closely with Special Forces units, and survived a failed assassination attempt by Al Qaeda in March 2004, where he was wounded by a roadside bomb while conducting tribal negotiations in an area now held by ISIS. During this time fellow, Marine Corporal Jason Dunham received the Medal of Honor, posthumously, after throwing himself on a grenade during a security patrol that tour. Captain O’Neil left active duty in March 2005 and was honorably discharged out of the reserves in 2010.

Post MilitaryCivilian Projects in Afghanistan

Captain O’Neil was immediately hired by public American telecommunications company, Globecomm Systems, to lead the implementation and management of two national wireless telecom networks for the new Afghan Telecom created by World Bank and USAID in Kabul, Afghanistan. After successfully completing this project in 2006, he became a subject matter expert on Afghanistan and started his own international consulting business in 2009. During this time, he was involved in major logistics initiatives in support of the Department of Defense, including the commissioning of two new supply routes from Central Asia, “The Northern Distribution Network”, in 2009-2011.

He developed a close friendship with the most powerful warlord in southern Afghanistan, the number one partner for the US and Australian Special Forces in Afghanistan, before the warlord’s demise. Captain O’Neil became a top informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, and Defense Intelligence Agency, DIA, in Central Asia, 2009 – 2015, supporting counterintelligence operations.


He then left Afghanistan in September 2015 for good and is now writing about his experiences while acting as the primary caregiver for his elderly mother in Florida. He is currently single with no children.

Recent Ancestor Discoveries

Captain O’Neil was recently in Princeton, NJ, to conduct research on his ancestry, who were discovered to be pivotal in supporting General George Washington in Trenton and Hunterdon County during the War of Independence, 1776, as members of the New Jersey Militia, the Militiamen.

In documented research, it was recently discovered that his Dutch ancestors, the Andersons, were one of the first settlers of Hunterdon and Mercer Counties, and large landowners along the Delaware River just north of Trenton as well as in Hopewell, Lawrence Township, formerly known as Maidenhead, and parts of Middlesex County. “The Continental Trail”, and also roughly 30% of Washington Crossing State Park in New Jersey, sits on his ancestors’ land, c. 1776.

Ancestors Captain John Anderson and son Ezekiel Anderson

Shortly after the first Battle of Trenton, one particular ancestor, Ezekiel Anderson, a Private in the 2d Continental Army and lifelong resident of Maidenhead, son of Captain John Anderson, one of the original settlers of Maidenhead, now Lawrenceville, was interviewed by General Washington about the British positions

at Princeton. He was then asked about the back roads of Maidenhead that he was so familiar with, much of which was on his property in Penns Neck, now West Windsor, in order to outflank the British positions along the King’s Road, now Route 206.

He was then asked if he could lead the Continental Army through that area for a surprise attack against the British. Ezekiel Anderson did just that, and the five thousand Continental Army troops and New Jersey Militiamen attacked and defeated the British forces in Princeton on January 3, 1777. Historians have all agreed that if Washington did not win at Trenton and Princeton, there would be no United States of America today.

Ezekiel Anderson was one of three local men that guided General Washington during the great Delaware River crossing and attack on Trenton, and finally personally leading General Washington into the fight at Princeton Battlefield through Captain O’Neill’s hometown of Maidenhead, now Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Ezekiel Anderson was also with General Washington and watched the surrender of General Cornwallis at Yorktown.

Honoring the Past

Captain O’Neil plans on honoring not only his ancestor, Ezekiel Anderson, who played such a prominent role in defeating the British in New Jersey, pivotal in winning the United States War of Independence, but also plans on honoring Captain William Shippen, the first US Marine Officer killed in combat during a land engagement. He intends to walk the same route as Ezekiel in January 2017.


Marcel “Leo” Bridgewaterleo-bridgewater_airborne

Specialist Leo Bridgewater is a decorated African American Iraq-Afghanistan War veteran who served for six tours.  Leo was OIF/OEF as a microwave maintenance engineer.  He supervised uplinking and downlinking critical information and had to make sure all systems in his domain in Iraq and Afghanistan were working correctly and maintained properly in this harsh environment.  Leo aspires one day to be the mayor of Trenton and hopes that this walk will encourage children to learn more about the Revolutionary War and to actively work together to make their community one a better one each and every day.  Specialist Bridgewater wants all eligible Trenton citizens to vote and become active members to help solve the problems that exist.