This is part 3 of a series of articles, detailing the last several years of my life. This journey will include my experience as a Marine Corps infantryman, my transition to civilian life, becoming a first-time college student, a seeker-sensitive pastor, and a personal conviction to not stop at the Doctrines of Grace and to keep Reforming my faith. I hope this can be a form of encouragement for people going through a similar transition in their lives, and for those unsatisfied with the ambiguousness of the term Reformed.
Before I discuss my first day in a college classroom, I would like to clarify a few things I didn’t mention in my previous article, found here.
While in the Marine Corps I had risen to the rank of Staff Sergeant and had held that rank for about 4 years before I left the service in 2012. Since I was considered a career Marine at that point, my responsibilities at that time were different than they had been in my previous years in service. My last job before leaving the Corps was as a Platoon Sergeant, and I was a part of an infantry Battalion setting to deploy within a year from the time they returned from their most recent deployment. That is not a typo either, they really were leaving again that soon. When your country is at war you can be sure that Marine infantry units are rotating out at a significant pace. As I checked into my unit I was immediately given my platoon which consisted of about 50 Marines, ranging in ranks from Private – Sergeant. It was here where I was able to continue a fast-paced life, training my Marines for what would soon become another sea-service deployment, and yet another opportunity for them to defend their country.
But things were different now. I had experienced a change of heart at this point, and I was preparing to jump at the opportunity to leave the Corps. I mention all of this because one of the things that really scared me about leaving the service was the thought of slowing down. Looking back over my career, I can now see that the pace of life in the Corps really contributed to how I dealt with my emotions. Whether it was training Marine Corps Recruits, making future infantrymen, or preparing them for a specific combat operation, I was always dealing with my Marines in the same manner and in the only way I really knew how.
I was hard on them, very hard.
This would be obvious when on occasion I would bump into my former Marines out in town. It was almost as if they were afraid of me. They were very careful with me, not entirely knowing what to expect. I don’t mean that I was physically abusive towards them, because I wasn’t. I was hard on them in a sense that if I seen them having any kind of fun in my presence it was viewed as a negative thing. If they were smiling, relaxing, or joking around, I took it personally. It seemed in my mind at least, that if they had time to fool around while in a training environment, then I was not doing my job. I think I was a good leader, and was always treated as such. But this kind of leadership could only take place in an environment like the Marine Corps. So what does this have to do with my life today? Everything. This kind of leadership and daily lifestyle I now feel helped masked things that were going through my mind for years. Thing’s I did, thing’s I seen, and thing’s that I could not erase from my mind. I never really dealt with them, or even attempted to work through them properly. I never discussed them with another person, not even my wife. This pace of life allowed me to push through my problems by covering these issues with a blanket and pretending they weren’t really there. When we arrived to Hawaii, I was eager to continue this lifestyle and get back to what I knew best, training Marines.
Upon receiving orders to Hawaii, I needed to extend my contract so that I would have at least 3 years left on my contract once I arrived in Hawaii. I could only imagine the cost of sending a Marine, his family, his belongings, which inlcuded a personal vehicle overseas. So with my contract extension pending, I was allowed to execute my orders anyway and fly my family to Hawaii. When we arrived we had to live in temporary housing until a permanent home for us became available. I recieved a call one day saying that a home had became available for us but that there was just one problem, I didnt have enough time left on my contract. Turned out, that since I was a senior enlisted Marine I was required to have a Secret Security Clearance in order to be granted an extension. I didnt have one, so they denied it. What did that mean? Well, first thing was to apply for a security clearance. That came and went rather quickly, and I would receive my clearance in just one a months time. But when the Marine Corps decided to deny my extension, it gave me options as I was already in Hawaii, and only had a year left on my current contract. As I mentioned in my previous article I had been struggling daily up to this point on whether I would leave the Corps after my 3 years were up. Now I could exit the military in just over a years time.
That call to my First Sergeant is something that I would never forget. Staff Non-Commisioned Officers don’t grow on trees in the Marine Corps, especially when it comes to the infantry side of the house. When I told him I had been accepted to a Univeristy and that I was going to be ending my enlistement he lost his mind. My wife was in the room with me as I pulled the phone away from my from my face to protect my ear drums. It was a profanity laced rant that was very disheartening. A couple of minutes later when he was finished, I was finally able to tell him what I was leaving for. I explained to him that I was a Cristian and that I felt God was leading me in a different direction. It could be to pastoral minsitry, or maybe even a return to the military as a Chaplain once I receieved my education. I did not know completely what I was going to do, but I wanted to prepare myself for whatever God had planned for us by earning my education. From then on it felt as if I was speaking with a different person. He congratualted me and began speaking about his brother in law who just happened to be a minister of the Gospel. He said it was an honorable thing to do, but finshed our conversation with a warming. He said how he couldn’t let me go without reminding me of the huge leap of faith I was talking my leaving the Marine Corps. I was so close to retiring, with only 8 more years of service until retirement would be an option. In his 19 years of service he knew the chance I was taking by leaving the comfort of the Corps. I thanked him and would begin the check-out process to becoming a civilian again. The Marine Corps life was very tough at times, but thing’s would get plenty tougher for me in the near future, and in a different way all together. The fast-paced life of the Marine Corps would soon be replaced by the slow-paced life of a 32 year-old college student.
To be continued…