Sipping a pint at Great Pacific Wine and Coffee Co., Jared Pennington cradled his son Liam as the 7-month-old gnawed on the collar of his dads leather jacket.
The 33-year-old spends his days caring for Liam and teaching guitar classes at the Pendleton Center for the Arts. He enjoys being a stay-at-home dad while Liams mother, Shaindel Beers, teaches English classes at Blue Mountain Community College. Hes passionate about liberal politics and worries about the control corporations have over America.
It surprises many to find out that this pierced, tattooed musician served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He entered in 1997 and left in 2001 as a sergeant.
People are like, Oh, youre a Marine? he said.
He considers himself cool and collected, rather than aggressive. Thats probably why I made rank so fast, he said.
When Pennington graduated from a small Indiana high school, he knew he wanted to get away, but felt like college wasnt possible.
Joining the Marines gave him a new family and a chance to travel most of the Pacific.
Its funny, my high school nickname was Jarhead, since my names Jared, and then I went into the Marine Corps and really became a jarhead, he said with a laugh.
Pennington has collected souvenirs from places including Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, the Philippines and North Korea. He also shipped guitars around the world so he could play in various impromptu bands.
His tastes tended toward hard rock bands Godsmack and Pantera then, though these days he plays softer acoustic and folk.
Leaving the military shook him up. You have to make your own home because youve been away for years, he said.
He worked construction jobs in Rhode Island and began to reinvent himself.
I wanted to do a 180, he said. Hed entered the military as a Bible-belt conservative, but flipped his viewpoints after experiencing East Coast diversity.
He landed in Oregon after reconnecting with Beers, his old high school sweetheart, on Facebook. Hed been working construction in North Carolina, and decided to move out to be with her when he lost his job.
I packed up my dogs in my truck and moved to Pendleton, he said.
We werent getting any younger, so we decided to have a kid, he said. Now, he manages a bustling household of five cats, three dogs and one baby. Hed like to go back to school and earn a degree in music education when his son is older.
The arrangements working out for Beers. As a tenured professor, she works in a field where its often difficult for women to have time for children. I could not be a stay-at-home mom, so Im just amazed that he is so good at it,?she said.
She said she never set out to date a Marine. I dont think I would normally have dated someone in the military,?she said. Ive just known him since he was 10.
Pennington says he has no regrets in life, and feels grateful for his time in the service.
It made me grow up, instilled responsibility, he said. Taught me to never quit.