Chris Duffy, a former Marine, coaching in the Messalonskee Youth Football League. Photo by Travis Lazarczyk

Chris Duffy held out his iPhone to show a video of Finn, his 9-year old son, sprinting around the edge of the offensive line for a long touchdown run.

“I had more fun watching this than playing football in my life,” Duffy said.

An Oakland native and 2005 graduate of Messalonskee High School, Duffy was an active duty Marine from 2006 to 2010. Now 36, he puts the leadership skills he learned in the Marines to use as a football coach, coaching a team of third- and fourth-graders in the Messalonskee Youth Football League.

When he came home after his service, Duffy became an assistant coach at Messalonskee High School, where he had been an all-conference running back. He started coaching youth football as a favor to a friend, who was involved in the league leadership.

“Nine years later, here we are,” Duffy said.

Coaching athletes ranging in age from 8 to 10 requires patience and discipline, two skills Duffy honed in the Marines. When he runs a practice, it is tightly structured, the focus kept on teaching the game while making it fun and keeping his players’ attention.


When conducting a drill with his team, Duffy not only explains what they’re doing but why they’re doing it. When a player makes a mistake, he goes over it in detail.

“I learned to listen (in the Marines),” Duffy said. “Why’d you do what you did? It’s not just you did that wrong. We want to know why, and we’ll fix it. When we practice, there’s no down time.”

In 2010, Duffy considered reenlisting and making the Marines a career. Instead, he returned to Maine. He now works in sales with James and Whitney Co. after seven years with Hamlin Marine, and lives in Oakland with his wife, Hannah, son Finn and daughter Elsie, 4. In the Marines, he traveled around the world, seeing Bahrain, Turkey and Greece. France, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, with a deployment in Iraq.

“I didn’t want to live the rest of my life out of a bag. I wanted to come home,” Duffy said.

Duffy left the Marines with the rank of corporal. He served seven months, from March through October 2007, in Iraq, where he saw combat in Fallujah.

“The first time you experience (combat), for me it didn’t click in until that night that somebody was shooting at me, and I was in in bed, playing it back in my head,” he said. “I was with the same 14 guys for seven months. … Not everybody in our battalion came home, but fortunately everybody in our group came home.”


Duffy said his time in the Marines comes up often. Not in everyday conversation, but if somebody asks about his service, or if a younger person considering joining the military has questions, he’s happy to discuss it.

“I’m lucky in the sense that in Maine there’s a very large population that offers strong support of the military,” he said. “Vietnam veterans, I can see how they might not want to talk about it because they were treated poorly.”

He pulled out his phone again, finding a photo of himself with Jeremy Brooking, a Marine he served with in Iraq. It was taken in September in Brooking’s hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, when Duffy traveled there for work.

“He was hit by a sniper and survived,” Duffy said of Brookings. He set the phone down and paused before speaking again.

“It was really great to see him,” Duffy said.

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