Branch of Service
Where did you serve? Where were you stationed?
Three shipboard deployments through the Middle East, Horn of Africa, Europe, North Africa, twice to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan. I was stationed primarily in Camp Lejeune NC and Camp Pendleton CA
Why did you join?
Love of country, I felt it was my patriotic duty.
Why did you pick the service branch you joined?
I felt the Marine Corps was full of winners and champions, and being a part of it would be the epitome of what is just and right.
Do you recall your first days in service?
I do! Believe it or not I had a full head of hair… which was quickly gone! Then it was shaving and showering with people yelling at us, learning that whatever used to take 5 or 10 minutes was now done in 30 seconds to a minute, including showers. I was very fit going to boot camp, so it was the lack of social contact that I found most difficult.
What was your job/assignment?
I was a Infantry Marine (0311,0369) , and a Drill Instructor (8511)
Were you awarded any medals? How did you get them?
I have been recognized on many occasions, both in combat and at home. We trained hard and I pushed my Marines harder. My Marines are the reason for any recognition I have ever received. They fought and in many cases died for their fellow Marines and never once did we lose- never.
Were you deployed? If so, where did you go? How Long?
The total time deployed over multiple deployments was probably 4 years. We were typically gone between six to eight months. I went on three shipboard deployments, and twice to both Iraq and Afghanistan in combat.
Which war(s), if any, did you serve in (WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Second Congo War, Iraq War, Afghanistan War, Desert Storm, Operation Freedom etc.)?
I served in both Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq) and OEF ( Operation Enduring Freedom) in Afghanistan
Do you remember arriving overseas and what it was like?
I remember being excited. At times being overseas meant traveling the world on a Naval vessel and seeing sites which others would only dream of seeing. Other times going overseas was in response to the horrible tragedy of 9/11, and the continued fight on terror. Going into a war zone is exciting, intense, and very real.
How did you stay in touch with your family/friends?
Letters, and later on emails and more letters. Getting letters from friends and loved ones is a joy that is hard to explain to a younger generation of service members, nothing like a letter from my beautiful wife, with a spray of perfume! There were times in which my wife would send care packages but being in the very remote locations I was in during combat, I wouldn’t get them until I just before I left! A few times my wife and I were able to Skype. We didn’t have audio, but just seeing my wife and our 2 children was everything.
Was there something special you did for “good luck”?
I carried a ziplock in my back pocket and in it was a coin my grandfather carried in WWII and a Ranger tab one of my best friends (a Ranger) gave me. On my dog tag chain I had a finger print in silver of my wife’s index finger. Most importantly I said a lot of prayers.
Do you recall the day your service ended?
I do! I had an amazing retirement ceremony. My friends and family were there and my Grandfather, who is my hero, was there. The day was truly amazing, my wife and Marines really knocked it out of the park!
What did you do in the days and weeks afterward, did you have any support?
I maximized time with my family. I knew I was about to start a new career and the opportunity to have a few months to enjoy afternoons at the park with my kids, morning coffee with my wife- that was a wonderful time. My support network is w/out equal. My wife is an all star, my parents are amazing, my in-laws are rock solid! I was surrounded by love and understanding.
Did you make any close friendships while in the service? Did you continue any of those friendships?
There are too many to list! I have many brothers- we fought together, won together, grieved together and it’s a bond that is unique to us! A Marine Rifle Platoon/Company is a special group. you kind of have to be there to understand it. Although I have many friends I am hard pressed to believe that anyone outside our circle will ever fully understand us.
What support helps you? What support do you want to see more of to help veterans or those returning from service?
I think having a professional to speak with is incredibly important- the benefits of that interaction can go a long way. The most important support for me, however, is family. Sometimes my wife, my parents and my in-laws stepped in to keep me on the straight and narrow. I also relied and continue to rely on my faith to keep me on a positive path.
What can we do to spread awareness so others are not forgotten?
Patriots of our country are going to support veterans and their causes no matter what. You cannot force people to support them if they don’t feel it. However it is important to remember the sacrifices of our veterans past and present. Memorial Day, Veterans Day,-know what they are and who they honor. I feel it is important to go up and thank a veteran for their service and that is what I teach my children as well.
What stigma have you experienced or seen others experience of being a veteran?
I think that many expect us to be angry or violent, and most of us are not. Most experiences in the civilian world do not require this. I can yell louder than anyone I know. I love aggression and mixing it up, however this is seldom necessary in the civilian world, and not what I or most veterans are all about. Sure, I was a Marine Drill Instructor, yes a combat veteran. I celebrated chaos and fighting because it was part of our ethos and what made us successful in combat and kept us alive. We are overwhelmingly dynamic thinkers and we love a challenge and yes, if a situation starts to go south, move out of the way -we got it! But the majority of veterans are assertive, not aggressive!
Has this stigma stopped you from receiving services?
No, a true “Alpha” loves a challenge, sometimes it’s a mountain to climb, and sometimes it’s getting out of the way of yourself.