AT-TAQADDUM, Iraq --
Search the web for a skateboard move called the “Butterflip,” and it will give technical, step-by-step directions on how to execute the move, assuming one is already experienced with a skateboard.
Or ask 1st. Sgt. Butterfield for help. After all, he invented it.
Keith S. Butterfield, first sergeant, Headquarters and Support Company, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 22nd Naval Construction Regiment, is a professional freestyle skater who has recently picked up his skateboard after a 24-year hiatus.
Since then his signature move has been redone over and over again by kids around the world and is part of Butterfield’s legacy as a freestyle professional skater from the early 80’s.
During his skateboarding career he won all of the 16 international amateur freestyle skateboarding contests and was sponsored by several businesses such as Bucci Sunglasses, Tracker Trucks and OJ Wheels. He also appeared in a few films, most notably his cameo in the vampire movie, “The Lost Boys.”
“I wanted to raise a family and back in the 80’s there wasn’t a lot of money in skateboarding,” said Butterfield, a 42-year-old from Santa Cruz, Calif. “So I skated until 1985.”
After skateboarding, Butterfield worked various jobs before enlisting in 1990, following in the footsteps of his father who served as a Marine during Vietnam.
“I knew the Marine Corps would be there for me and my family as well,” said Butterfield. He has been married for 17 years, had three children and has made a successful career in the Marine Corps.
Butterfield, described as one of the unknown innovators in Jocko Weyland’s book “The Answer is Never: A Skateboarder’s History of the World,” didn’t skate again until his 6-year-old son asked him to.
“After a 24-year hiatus my kids were telling their friends about the Butterflip, so all these little kids were kind of daring me to do the trick in July 2007,” said Butterfield. “They were all smiles and said ‘I wish my dad could do that.’”
Butterfield explained it was that incident which motivated him to start skateboarding again. The endeavor has been successful; a freestyle skateboarding company now sells his skateboard decks.
“In the past nine months I have done more with skateboarding than I did as a professional in the 80’s,” said Butterfield. “I have been picked up by a couple of sponsors, and have two skateboards that are sold out.”
“Where I make the most impact is mentoring the youth of today all over the world,” he said. “As a father of three and a Marine first sergeant, I see how my skateboarding allows me an opportunity to do something very positive.”
Butterfield also writes for a skateboarding magazine and answers emails from young fans and their parents. He feels that his career in the Marine Corps is an example to kids and their parents that skateboarding isn’t just a hobby for troublemakers but can be used as a vehicle to learn self discipline, the values of hard work and dedication.
“The thing about free-style skateboarding is that it takes an extreme amount of discipline and I took that into the Marine Corps,” Butterfield said. His message is simple: “You get out of something what you put into it.”
He started his Marine Corps career in the avionics field, later becoming a drill instructor and senior drill instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. He followed that with a three-year tour at the Staff-Non-commissioned Officer’s Academy in Okinawa, Japan, serving as an instructor.
He was selected to the rank of first sergeant in 2005 and is now serving his first tour in Iraq with 7th ESB.
Butterfield added he is proud to be serving in Iraq with a great group of Marines.
“The Marines are disciplined, trained and motivated,” Butterfield said. “The engineers out here are doing great things.”
Behind his desk are photos of his family, from this deployment and of course of his skateboard. Skateboarding will remain in the back of his mind until he returns from his deployment.
“Even though I am skateboarding for fun and for health there is a world of competition out there,” said Butterfield who plans on competing in early 2009. “My wife says I’m going through my mid-life crises.”