As a senior in high school, Scott E. Dickinson liked to daydream about owning a shiny red Ferrari and real estate with sweeping views of the Southern California coastline.
But his dreams did not include a college education.
“He was just floating through life,” recalled his mother, Pauline Dickinson. “He didn’t even want to get up in the morning, let alone get dirty or sweat or suffer under any circumstances.”
Dickinson got lots of tough love at home. But his parents were so concerned that they prayed he would find a direction in life.
Their answer came in early 2001, when Dickinson enlisted in the Marines shortly before he graduated from Horizon High School in San Diego.
“We were shocked, but wished him well — then we held our breath that he would pass basic training,” recalled his sister, Tami Mould.
What followed was a stunning transformation.
“Being in the Marines tore away all the negative things about him and polished the good things,” she said. “My little brother became a mature and responsible man. His head was no longer in the clouds.”
Staff Sgt. Dickinson, 29, was among three Marines ambushed Aug. 10 by an Afghan working on a jointly run U.S. and Afghan installation in Helmand province, a Taliban stronghold. The shootings came less than 24 hours after three other U.S. troops were gunned down by allies in the same area of southern Afghanistan.
The incidents are under investigation, said Marine Corps Base Hawaii spokeswoman Staff Sgt. Kristin Bagley.
Dickinson was killed 10 days before the end of his second tour of duty in Afghanistan, his family said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the incidents. But NATO says that most “green-on-blue” attacks are triggered by arguments and antagonism, sometimes magnified by cultural differences.
Dickinson was assigned to Headquarters Company, 3rd Marine Regiment, Marine Corps Base, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. However, in theater he was attached to 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. In Afghanistan, he served as a logistics adviser to the Afghan police, military officials said.
He was born and spent his childhood in San Diego, playing baseball and speeding along neighborhood streets on skateboards and bicycles.
Those closest to Dickinson remember him as a tall, trim and athletic young man with a bright smile and a passion for helping others.
“If you needed something like lunch money, Scott would give you all the change in his pocket,” said Scott Savage, his best friend in high school.
“My son had a servant’s heart,” agreed Dickinson’s father, John Dickinson. “While working as a clerk at a local supermarket, he always gave money to a homeless woman he crossed paths with on the way into the job.”
Family and friends were surprised to hear about his decision to join the military. When asked why the Marines, Dickinson responded: “Because they are the toughest.”
“We had no idea he was even interested in the Marines,” his father said. “But I thought it was the perfect thing for him to do. It took off the rough edges and turned him into a fine young man.”
During the 11 years he served in the Marines, he was deployed aboard Navy vessels that called at ports in the Mediterranean, East Africa and Kuwait. In 2009, he married Alicia Barnes Dickinson, then transferred to Hawaii.
In the weeks before he died, “Scott said he hoped to serve next as an embassy guard, possibly in Europe,” his mother said. “His ultimate goal was to spend 20 years in the Marines, then start a new career in real estate.”
Dickinson was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. He was awarded a Purple Heart.
In addition to his father, mother and sister Tami, Dickinson is survived by his sister Amanda McAfee and his brother, Gregory Dickinson.