Memories of corps cherished, criticized
(Wryan Castleberry / The Advocate)
There was no defining moment in my life that caused me to decide that, two weeks after graduating high school, I would be on a bus heading to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) in San Diego.
Joining the military was something that I had always wanted to do, but not as a profession.
Knowing I would only complete the initial four years of active duty, there would come a time of transition back to civilian life where I could apply behaviors and skills learned in the military to the pursuit of higher education or professional development.
The four years spent in the Marine Corps provided an even mix of some good and not so good memories.
I saw more of the world than I ever would have imagined - from the tropical beaches of Okinawa, Japan, to the blistering heat of Thailand, to the freezing winter desert temperatures of Afghanistan.
Undergoing Marine Corps training taught me many things, from weapons handling and combat techniques of a basic rifleman, to how to conduct myself out of uniform in a professional manner.
Specializing as an automotive diesel mechanic, I maintained fleets of Humvees as well as other Marine Corps specific troop and cargo transports.
Throughout the years I learned the ins and outs of every aspect of their operational requirements and eventually held a chief position, with Marines under my command.
Having been enlisted and starting at the bottom, I often had little to no say about anything that happened.
Any suggestions fell on the deaf ears of superiors based on my rank, not merit.
It wasn't until I reached the rank of corporal after two years that my opinion was even considered among my chain of command.
I learned to remain flexible in any situation and never accept defeat, it simply wasn't an option.
I grew accustomed to being aware of my surroundings and to adapt to fit the current mission requirements.
Transitioning this to day-to-day life is simple - identify the goal and utilize anything and everything at my disposal to get it done.
I embraced the obvious hurdles of physical and emotional exhaustion but struggled with the loss of individuality.
The regulations stretched beyond the camouflage and "jarhead" hair cuts into speech, thoughts and actions.
Every aspect of life had an order defining what you could or could not do, how to do it and when to do it.
Then came the time to return to the real world where my opinion meant something again.
I'm now able to make my own choices and can learn from any mistakes through communication and being receptive of criticism, instead of getting screamed at by a staff sergeant and brushing it off.
The bonds I made while in the Marine Corps are ones that will stick with me for life, regardless of how much time passes without communication.
They will forever be my brothers and sisters.
I have no regrets putting on a uniform for four years and while I don't miss the Marine Corps, I do miss the Marines.
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