I served in the United States Marine Corps from February, 2005 to February 2009, and was honorably discharged at the end of my enlistment. I enlisted mostly because 9/11 happened when I was in high school, and I wanted to fight whomever was responsible. I got a chance to do that, deploying in a line infantry unit, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, to Ramadi, Iraq, in 2006-07 and Helmand Provence, Afghanistan in 2008. Those deployments provided me with experiences I will remember for the rest of my life, mostly positive, but being in, and reflecting on my time in since, I came to realize that I got a lot more out of being a Marine than a chance to go overseas.
The Marine Corps stresses a culture of mission accomplishment, regardless of obstacles, and without excuses. I came away from being a Marine with a tenacity I couldn’t have matched before enlisting, especially in the face of problems. I also learned how to complete tasks in the midst of a chaotic situation, and to function well under stress, which has helped me both professionally and personally in the years since. I thought, before enlisting, that mostly what I would be doing was following instructions, and I was partly right. As a junior Marine, though, and later, a Fire-team Leader, I was encouraged to think for myself, to adapt to changing circumstances, and to take initiative. This trained me to avoid being passive, and react to situations, but to anticipate and deal with them before they happen.
I made friends in the Marine Corps who are close to me in a way I haven’t experienced before or since. Some of them I don’t see for years at a time, since we live all over the country, but when I do, we pick right back up where we left off, without growing apart the way I have with other acquaintances I don’t often see. Being a former Marine is something I take pride in, and I am glad I had the opportunity to serve my country.