Kyle T. Gourlie was born in Edmonds, Washington, a suburb of Seattle, and grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, with his father owning a cleaning company. His mother’s side of the family had an extensive military history, and the young Gourlie joined the Marine Corps in 2004.
After basic training, Gourlie completed the School of Infantry at Camp Pendleton near San Diego, California. He chose machine gunner as his military occupational specialty (MOS) and was assigned to nearby 1st Battalion, 5th Marines – known as “1/5.” He joined the unit’s weapons company, operating machine guns on Humvees.
In 2005, Gourlie deployed to Ramadi, Iraq. His unit was tasked with protecting the regional government within the city, displaying a presence for the surrounding area. On his first day on patrol, a sniper shot at Gourlie. The shot missed him and left a bullet hole in his Humvee. Later, Gourlie’s unit encountered an improvised explosive device (IED) and machine gunfire. In an interview in 2019, he joked, “I remember getting back and being like, ‘This is going to be a long seven months.’ That was not every day by any means.”
Gourlie’s unit encountered IEDs and mortar fire often, but it had a strong relationship with the people of Ramadi, as the American presence provided a sense of safety. He later reflected on his time in Iraq, saying “I know for a fact we made a difference.”
While on patrol one day, an IED detonated as Gourlie was peering over the side of his Humvee. The explosion threw him back, broke his neck in three places, his back in four places and he suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Physical activities became extremely difficult and he suffered severe headaches and memory loss.
In 2006, Gourlie was transferred to Okinawa, Japan, and then to Camp Pendleton, where his problems intensified and he started to receive medical treatment. He was transferred to Balboa Naval Hospital and eventually to a civilian hospital. There, he spent a year and a half in rehabilitation.
In 2008, Gourlie medically retired from the Marine Corps as a lance corporal. He later attended culinary school at the Art Institute of Seattle. In 2015, he started his own food truck business called “The Vet Chef,” and operates in the Seattle area. The menu is reflective of Gourlie’s time in the military, serving San Diego-style burritos and carne asada fries. He wants to employ Veterans transitioning to civilian life and make a difference in Veterans’ lives.
For his service, Gourlie received a Certificate of Appreciation from the Commandant of the Marine Corps in 2008.
We honor his service.
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Writer: Nathaniel Scott
Editors: Nicolas Nunnally, Theresa Lyon
Researcher: Patrick E. Woods
Graphic artist: Philip Levine