How a St. Charles veteran uses rugby to help fellow Marines

When St. Charles resident Marc Okicich gathers with other retired Marines to play rugby, it's more than just a fun day on the field.

Okicich is a member of the nationwide Old Breed Rugby Club, which since 2005 has honored the memories of fallen Marines while offering a support network to veterans in need.

Part of Old Breed Rugby's mission is to raise money for the permanent endowment of a memorial fund named for Marine Lt. Col. Kevin Shea, who was killed in Iraq in September 2004. The fund is administered by the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation.

Okicich is among five Old Breed Rugby members who are available 24 hours a day for veterans suffering from depression or who just need to talk. Contact information is on the home page of Old Breed Rugby's website,

"We've found we've become a support network for some of the guys that came back that were struggling with some post-traumatic stress issues," said Okicich, who played rugby with Shea at Camp Pendleton in California in the early 1990s.

Okicich, 49, remembers one instance when he woke from a nightmare at 2:30 a.m. and noticed a missed call from a few minutes earlier. He returned the call and reached a veteran who "was struggling with some demons."

"I talked to him for two hours on the phone and kept him from putting a gun in his mouth," Okicich said. "At the same time, I'm on my computer messaging people, 'Hey, we need to get somebody over to him who's close. Who in the (Old Breed Rugby) network is close and can get him to a hospital to get the help he needs?'"

Club members arrived at the veteran's home within four hours, he said.

Okicich, a sales and marketing executive who served in the Marines from 1987 to 1993, set up Old Breed Rugby's nonprofit status with the Internal Revenue Service and made its official headquarters in St. Charles in 2014. Old Breed Rugby, which also has some civilians and those from other armed forces among its 850 members, will be in action this weekend in a tournament in Saranac Lake, New York.

Along with his Old Breed Rugby involvement, Okicich started the nonprofit Chicago Marines Foundation in 2014. The foundation, which has an annual celebration of the Marine Corps' birthday, raises money to support veteran initiatives in the Chicago area and elsewhere.

This year's fundraiser is scheduled Nov. 8 at Old Crow Smokehouse, 3506 N. Clark St. in Chicago, near Wrigley Field. Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter will be the special guest.

Early-bird tickets, available through, are $60 and include food, beverages and a commemorative gift. All ticket proceeds will be donated to the Semper Fi Fund and other charities helping veterans, Okicich said.

"I don't want people to forget these guys," he said. "A lot of these guys are my friends. We've lost nearly a generation of guys to war, and I want to make sure that they're honored and remembered and taken care of."

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Retired Marine Marc Okicich of St. Charles, running with ball, helps other veterans through the Old Breed Rugby Club and Chicago Marines Foundation. Okicich is among five Old Breed Rugby members who are available 24 hours a day for veterans who need help. Courtesy of Old Breed Rugby Club
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