In Memoriam: Tamatea Teai

Tamatea Teai – “T” to anyone who knew him – was literally a legend in his own time. If you were around 2nd Recon Battalion or Force Reconnaissance Company back in the early 2000s and you didn’t know T, you certainly knew of him.

T was from Tahiti and had spent some time in the French Navy but his dream was to be a U.S. Navy SEAL. So, he immigrated to the U.S. to join the Navy. Unfortunately, he quickly learned that to be a SEAL you had to first be a citizen. Undeterred and unwilling to wait, he joined the Marine Corps. Teai eventually became a Reconnaissance Marine, combatant diver, freefall jumpmaster, sniper, breacher, and decorated combat veteran. He spent several years at 2nd Recon Battalion, and then moved to 2nd Force Recon Co., which is where I met him.

T’s reputation was larger than life. Early in my tour there I remember being really impressed that he knew my name when we passed in the halls in A-66 (to be honest, I’d have been happy if he acknowledged me at all). When we were assigned to the same platoon (though in different teams), he was a Marine and leader whose reputation I immediately wanted to live up to. Words can’t convey how much I looked up to him.

T ended up being one of my closest friends. One of my first memories with him was being invited to his house to help wrap a paddle for an outgoing member of the platoon. It was a huge honor to be to be asked to help with that sacred task. Through training deployments, platoon barbecues and drunken nights, dozens of patrols, hundreds of hours on the flat range, and countless runs through the CQB house, and one Afghanistan deployment – there were few people I’d have rather follow into the fray.

Me and my friend T, Afghanistan, 2007.

Years later Teai was one of the groomsmen at my wedding. Teai and I maintained a friendship for a few years after I left the military. As is common in our community the next job and the next team pulled us away from each other. Teai stayed on active duty but moved on to other organizations before retiring.

When he retired he could have, in good conscience, hung up his gun belt for good. With multiple combat deployments and a Purple Heart, he’d done far more than his share. He didn’t though, and May 2019 still saw him living up to his catchphrase: “Push the fight!” The best man at my wedding – my former team leader and a very close friend still – was the last person to talk to T before a PKM round found him. Another former teammate and very close friend called me on the evening of Memorial Day to give me the news.

This is literally one of the hardest things I’ve ever written. I write it not for sympathy, but so others can see what a hero Tamatea Teai was, and so that his life is not forgotten. As I opened this brief story, T was a living legend, and he will remain legendary in my mind. I could tell stories – sad stories, funny stories, war stories – about him and about our platoon for thousands of words.

But words can’t begin to express my appreciation for him – as an example to live up to, a mentor whose advice to follow, and a warrior in the truest sense of the word. Nor can words begin to express how much he will be missed by those who knew and loved him. I was truly fortunate to be one of those people.

One of the great honors of my life was having T sign my paddle when I left the military. In the past couple weeks I’ve pulled that paddle off the wall more than once to re-read his Sharpie inscription.  If I could give any words to T now, they would be almost exactly what he wrote to me. His inscription read, in part: “To a good operator, best of luck! Thanks for your dedication in every[thing] you did and will do, but mostly thank you for your friendship.” will remain silent for the following week to honor T’s memory. We’ll be back after that.

Author: Justin

Justin Carroll is a former MARSOC Marine and veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan. Leaving service after eight years in the U.S. Marines, Justin continues his involvement with a variety of government agencies to this day. Justin began in late 2016 with an simple idea: provide an source of high-quality information for revolver enthusiasts.

16 thoughts on “In Memoriam: Tamatea Teai”

  1. Beautifully written article Brother. This does honor to his sacrifice. Thanks for sharing the life of this warrior with those of us that never had the honor of meeting him.

  2. Justin, I never knew this man, but I’m one of the millions of Americans who have reaped the benefit of his sacrifice. We owe him and his fellow warriors everything, and that is exactly what he gave us. It’s a debt we cannot repay, but we can remember and honor him, as you did so eloquently here.

    Thank you for sharing your friend and teammate with us here. May God bless him, his family, and the friends and fellow Marines he left behind.

  3. Deepest condolences, Justin. But thanks for sharing T’s story of service and sacrifice with the rest of us.

    Most men walk this earth for however long they’re graced to be here, leaving little. A rare few, though, leave behind something special, words and deeds for those of us still here to hang on to.

    Sounds like T was like that.

  4. Very sorry about losing your friend and brother-in-arms. Thank you for telling us about him. We civilians are lucky to have warriors like T out there, protecting our nation.

  5. Thank you for sharing this beautifully written piece. I’m sorry for your loss.

  6. What a tribute to honor an American hero. A real hero and leader, where it counts. Thank you for sharing the story of your friend.
    My sincere Condolences to you, his friends and your Corps.

    CPT Taggart

  7. Sorry for your loss! Strong leaders are hard to come by these days. I’ll pray for his family as well.

  8. Justin, I had the honor of serving with Teai when we were with 2/2 Echo before he went Recon. A group of guys and I are starting up college funds for the children of guys we served with. Please contact me if you see this.

    Kevin Schneck

  9. Fair winds an following seas. I went to Boot and to E 2/2 with T, appreciate your post on his behalf, he was legend.

    SFC Rogers
    Semper Fi/De oppresso liber

  10. Edwin Vasquezgaitan. With. 2/2 echo company I knew him close friend . We maintained contact after he went into recon then marsoc. I just find out today that he was killed in Memorial Day in the secret war. Good dude and the most professional operator and dedicated. I could not believe it. Rest In Peace my brother and we will regroup again in another place and drink beers.

  11. I lifted with T the day he was hit by the PKM at close range. He was a joy to be around. He lived and breathed family, country, and brotherhood. So much more to say but not really supposed to. Until Valhalla, brother.

  12. I knew T. I can truly say that he was a friend. So sad to find out he passed after all of these months. He was a warrior – God Bless him and his family. Catch that wave brother! Salud!

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