Semper Fidelis: Becoming a Marine- Part 2 of ? The Why

Part 1

No Caption Provided


This probably seems a bit... out of place for this particular community, but I'm not really "part of" another community, and I kind of felt like sharing my experience so far and try to reach out to anyone who might be thinking of a military career, especially with how easy it can be to do for the wrong reasons or with the wrong expectations. While I have immense respect and admiration for the Marine Corps, and it was the branch that I picked to go for, I am by no means looking to sway towards any one branch of the military, nor the military at all. The Marine Corps, I believe, was the right choice for me, but the men and women serving the United States are all service-members, and that is all that matters to me. I know people in pretty much every military branch out there, and they are all people I greatly respect both as individuals who have made sacrifices for my country, and just as people who have been good to me and those that I care about. I'll probably poke a few jabs here and there at various bits and pieces of the wonderful military culture, but that doesn't mean I actually think that the Army's basic training is anything to scoff at, that airmen are glorified couch potatoes, or that the Coast Guard- well, chances are I mean just about anything I say about them, but I also probably won't say anything about them so, we'll just leave it at that.

Again, I am not a member of any branch of the military, I am simply making an effort to achieve that, and documenting and hopefully conversing about the experience as I go. I am not speaking for any branch, particularly the Marine Corps. I am not an official source of information, and you should ALWAYS confirm anything I say with a recruiter or other reputable source should you feel the desire to go that far.

Why Did I Want to Join the Military?

Truth be told, I never would have expected to be so much as pretending to make an effort to join any branch of the military. I was raised by an extremely liberal, anti-war family. The war in Iraq was always spoken of with disappointed or disgusted tones. And to be honest, I tended to agree. I was pretty young when the war started in March of 2003, and even younger obviously when the Twin Towers fell. So it made sense that, despite not quite having reached the age of 10 by the time the war began, that I was still fairly in line with my family's beliefs. I was interested enough in politics to care, but not yet really independent enough to form my own opinions.

That said, I never quite did agree completely. Despite all the talk of war being awful, despite my father speaking out against war as a concept, I had my irking doubts. The first example I can give of this was when I saw some kid being bullied in the schoolyard. I was pretty big for my age, and luckily everyone was young enough that no one else really had any bulk either, so I felt that I should stick up for those who maybe couldn't or wouldn't do so for themselves. I'm sure to the hardcore liberals, this just means I'm "controlling" and they'd just say I need to stay out of their business. If they had been nations, it's what my father would have said. Not our place. But I always got involved. One day, some kid had been knocked around a bit by some bonehead. By the time I reached the two, the prick was standing over this kid, who was huddled up on the ground, just taking the kicks that the other kid was dishing out. So I shoved the bully away, and stared him down until he scampered away from the incoming adults. I helped the other boy up, and it occurred to me that this was oddly similar to a lot of situations in history. At the beginning of World War II, I knew that the Axis had applied significant pressure across eastern Europe, bullying many other nations. I knew that people in the middle east were often brutally punished for things that no person should be punished for. I knew that even America had been in such a situation, with a bigger bully standing over desiring something from us, tried to force us into submission. And had we not had help, it's likely that the Revolutionary War would not have gone the way it did.

After this incident, I started to wonder if it really was "wrong" to go into some other nation, filled with "bullies", men with guns and money and influence, and to take the fight to them. I had always hated bullies throughout school, I had always felt the need to stop them whenever I caught them in the act. By the time I had reached high school, I was pretty confident that it wasn't right to say "well if they wanted our help they'd have asked!" Because so many didn't ask for help. So often, it was the silent, quiet ones that were targeted, and so often they said nothing, and never asked for help. It didn't seem right that people should have to suffer and die just because some asshole with a gun had that power over them, any more than it seemed fair that those kids in school have to suffer because they don't ask for help.

I'd like to share a quote with you. One that many of you have likely heard from one place or another. "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." It's a quote that I had heard a number of times growing up, but never really understood until a couple years ago. But it is something that has come to be a very large part of my philosophy on life. I believe myself to be a good man, generally speaking. I have my vices, but I at least attempt to do what is right to the best of my ability. I've seen a lot of good people "do nothing" in my life, and I've seen a lot of terrible things happen because of it. You can argue that getting involved in a war that isn't ours leads to casualties that shouldn't have happened, make life difficult in the places that war is waged. It's hard to disagree. American and opposition forces alike have killed innocents in both Iraq and Afghanistan in the last decade. Many places have been destroyed, or ruined, or damaged because of the war. But the thing I feel is so often left out is what was happening before the war. People were killed in the Middle East by the same people that claim to be the saviors of their people, even before American forces rolled in. Women were executed needlessly, families were extorted, sons were killed. And in the advancement of what? Heroin production? A ruthless dictatorship? Racial or religious Intolerance? To do nothing would be to allow these to continue, and to oppose those forces that wish it to continue means to bring new hardships to those people. But in that war, is a goal. A goal to bring stability, to enhance day to day life. The same men that have killed and been killed by insurgents have also built bridges, repaired structures, helped with irrigation. Even fought through what was once considered the deadliest place on the face of the planet in an attempt to drive out the enemy and create a road through the Korengal Valley which would have brought trade and resources to the region and enhanced the lives of locals. Forty-two American service members were killed. Hundreds were injured.

As I became a little more independent, and a little more interested in the trouble in the middle east, it became harder and harder to see much of what the service members on the ground were doing as terrible. In fact, I was starting to wonder why so many people were so opposed to it. Certainly there are valid reasons, valid criticisms of the war. There always are. Iraq in particular was a bit of a shitstorm in places. Key members of our military have said as much. But just because you occasionally burn your toast doesn't mean it won't be healthy for you in the end.

I don't want to try and convince anyone of any of our wars being right or wrong. It's up to you what you believe, and there are perfectly good reasons for both sides. I just want to give an idea of how my feelings on the subject changed, and why they did, and how that influenced my decision to join the millitary.

Only Question is, Which Branch?

After finally deciding I wanted to join the military, I had to pick a service that was right for me. I'd always toyed with the notion of flying for a living, so the Air Force seemed like it could be pretty awesome. The Army was certainly an option, and I lived very close to a pretty big Army base. Navy probably wouldn't work for me, and I'm not really sure if the Coast Guard really counts, but it was also out for me. Ultimately I realized that the Air Force wouldn't likely end up with me flying a jet, and the Army sounded, to be honest, a bit soft. At the time I believe there were talks of making Boot Camp even easier for Army, which was already thought to be a bit too easy, and it always seemed like the Marine Corps was where you went if you needed to be the toughest, baddest mother fucker around. I wanted a challenge, I wanted somewhere to release a bit, and I didn't want to only go part way. If I was going to join the military, I wanted to go balls out. From what I had heard and read and seen, the Marine Corps was the best option if I wanted a challenging and rewarding military career.

Again, I just want to be crystal clear: I respect and admire anyone tough enough to join any branch of the military. Despite all the bullshit, it's pretty fuckin tough to get through any of the things you have to do for any branch. Training is hard. Assignments are often harder. There is no reason to think that the Army is worse than the Corps, nor any branch worse than any other branch. But the Corps was my decision and I believe it was the correct decision for me. My girlfriend at the time was the daughter of a Special Forces soldier. I knew that that son of a bitch was tough and there was no way he had gotten where he had without putting in an incredible amount of effort. I had the utmost respect for what he did, and his branch didn't mean a goddamn thing to me.

So then it was time to contact a recruiter. Actually surprisingly, I said I was interested in information on the Corps through the official site, and within maybe a week and a half of giving my information, a recruiter from the office about 5 minutes away called to talk to me, and within maybe two weeks I had started the process.

Consequences of my decision

I won't dwell too much on this stuff, but it's important that you understand exactly what you are getting yourself into. Don't kid yourself and think "nah, nothing'll change, it'll just be like a really long vacation!" It won't be. You won't just come home and everything'll be the same. It's different for everyone, but one things always stays the same: change. Change is the way of life for most of the military. My girlfriend at the end of highschool had two military parents. Her father stayed in while her mother got out pretty early. Because of her father, she spent her childhood moving from place to place, from country to country. Her dad was often gone for extended periods of her life. There were days that things had happened and she didn't know if he was ok, and she was a total wreck. Fortunately he's still going strong, but it was a hell of a lot to take for everyone involved. While he was away, he missed things. And when he came back, things were different. I can't imagine what it's like to leave with your daughter engaged to one guy then come back with her dating someone else. Or to come back and see the new massive WinCo that had opened up, or the little store he frequented that had been replaced by a barber shop. Things change. It's something you have to deal with.

Because of my decision, eventually my girlfriend left me, partially because of other things stressing our relationship, but mostly because of my decision to join the Corps. She didn't think she could stand to go through me away just like her father. Which is perfectly fair. I'd be lying if I said I didn't ask her to reconsider, but at the same time there was no way I'd pressure her into doing that unless she was absolutely certain it was something she was completely willing to go through. It's hard to deal with. Her father was SF, he ended up in some pretty bad places and as a result her family had a few scares just in the years that I knew them. You can't expect someone, even if you've been together for a long time, to be able to cope with your decision. You can't expect to come home and pick up where things left off. There will likely be times when you have next to no communication with the outside world, and certainly be times when you are very far away from home. And you can only take so much with you.

My family, as I had said, was very much against war in any form, for any reason. As a result, a lot of them were unhappy with my decision to join the Marines. They supported me, to an extent, but many of them lost at least some of their respect for me. Which is fine, and completely up to them, but it's still something to deal with. Luckily, I'm not terribly close to anyone but my mother and siblings, who continue to support me as much as they can, but I know that there are people who have to go through a lot more stress because of their family's feelings concerning a decision so big. They may be scared, they may be upset, they may be angry, they may disagree, but they will probably find something to take issue with.

Honestly, my advice would be to not try and force those connections to remain. Some people can handle it better than others. Your significant other may not be that kind of person. There's nothing wrong with that. You'd be asking them to go through some incredibly difficult times, it'd be unfair to blame them for their trepidation. Don't start a family while you're in the service, and don't spark up a new relationship the month before you ship out. It'll just make things harder for everyone involved. You'll know who you'll keep and who you'll lose. Don't try and force it beyond that.