I grew up in Michigan and enlisted with the Marines right after high school.
For as long as I can remember, I had always wanted to be in the military.
I also wanted to do something to challenge myself.
In high school, everyone said that I was too small to play football, but I did it anyway.
I talked to recruiters and decided that the Marines would be another good challenge for me.
I went to boot camp in San Diego.
It was hard work, but it was worth it and I developed a sense of pride from my accomplishments.
I also learned a lot about the history of the Marines.
I then went to the School of Infantry at Camp Pendleton where I learned basic infantry skills like patrolling and land navigation.
I was transferred to Camp Lejeune and participated in cold weather training.
This training is designed to help Marines acclimate to mountain temperatures and oxygen levels.
We also learned how to ski and snowshoe.
I started my first overseas assignment in June 2001 in Okinawa.
It was really fun being in a different country and experiencing a different culture.
We did some sightseeing to World War II battlefields, but spent most of the time doing jungle training, which is very intense.
It involves crossing water sources, maneuvering around large obstacles such as cliffs, and going through terrain so thick that you cannot see ahead of you.
You’re exposed to new insects and animals, and it’s almost pitch dark because the canopy does not let in much light.
After September 11, my battalion was sent to Guam to provide security there.
At that point, I was promoted to Lance Corporal and became the radio operator for our platoon. I was then sent for a year of training at Camp Lejeune to prepare, as it turned out, for operations in Iraq.
I was deployed to Iraq in January 2003 with Charlie Company, Second Platoon.
We were at the forefront of the attack.
When we arrived in An Nasiriyah, we were ambushed because we had been forced to take a route through the city.
Our vehicle was hit by rocket-propelled grenades.
Four of us had shrapnel and burn wounds.
We had to work quickly to offload the vehicle and set up security in a nearby ditch to protect the Medivac helicopter coming in to evacuate us.
I had physical therapy and rehabilitation, then reenlisted with my unit and deployed again to Iraq.
I felt that I owed it to the friends I had lost to continue to do my part.
On this tour, I helped Iraqis build their own defense.
We taught them how to patrol and become tactically proficient. By the time we left, the Iraqis were able to conduct their own patrols and raids.
Now, I’m working as a recruiting monitor, but I plan to rejoin my unit at Camp Lejeune and continue infantry duty.
It’s hard to compare infantry duty to civilian skills, but I do know that I have developed strong leadership and management skills.
As a Marine, I need to be able to deal with large groups of people, assign them tasks, and make sure that jobs get done properly.