A Marine, a veteran advocate, and a man of service. Joshua is this week’s #YOUAREGOVX member. Let’s find out what service means to this Marine:
What was your inspiration for joining the Marine Corps?
I wanted to be the best. I knew if I joined any other branch, I would leave myself wondering if I was good enough for the Marine Corps. The recruiter promised nothing but a challenge and an opportunity, no enticements, no incentives. I was immediately drawn to the intangibles offered by the recruiter. When looking at the "benefit tags" used to tailor their recruiting pitch, I selected those revolving around self-confidence, reliance, discipline, and challenge—I was an easy sell! I was looking for the ultimate personal development opportunity rather than travel and adventure, and I could think of no better way than to get a couple thousand miles away from home. I saw the Marine Corps as the prime opportunity to leave my comfort zone (and the comforts and complacency of home) and truly begin to challenge myself to learn who I am, what I'm made of, and how far I can push myself. While the Army recruiter got to me first, I couldn't pass up the challenge presented by the Marine Corps recruiter. On top of that, I wanted to be different: most family members (up until I joined) had been Army, Air Force, or Navy...only one Marine that I know of. I guess in a way, I was my own inspiration?
Service to me, particularly in the national context, is really about making your neighborhood, community, and world around you a safer, better place for your fellow citizens.
What does the concept of service mean to you?
I've never really thought that much about that statement, but I also joined prior to 9/11/2001 so the "serve my country" thing wasn't the first thing I thought of when I enlisted. That being said, I am still proud of my service and don't see it as a selfish act as part of my intent was to be a part of something bigger than myself. I think many of our first responders (police, fire, EMT, etc.) have a similar desire, albeit in a different setting. It seems that this desire (for the vast majority, save those who don't have the best of intentions) is perhaps born of a personality trait that is concentrated in an overall desire to provide protective service in one form or another. Nearly 10 years after I left I finally realized that service is something I truly enjoy, particularly on an individual level. I enjoy working with people to help them achieve their goals whether it's academic, professional, financial, etc.
I also tend to think that many people only see service to country as being military service in some form, and I think that can be somewhat misguided. Service to me, particularly in the national context, is really about making your neighborhood, community, and world around you a safer, better place for your fellow citizens. There are several ways of serving in this regard with military service being just one. As mentioned above, first responders seem to be often forgotten in the discussion of service to country as they tend to operate on a smaller scale that can often be taken for granted. Service to country doesn't always have to be top down; bottom up can be just as beneficial (sometimes more so) in creating positive change—similar to the "think globally, act locally" mantra. It really boils down to an individual's "Why?" Why do you do what you do? What are you doing to make your neighborhood, your community, and the world around you better than it is? Service doesn't necessarily mean you have to sacrifice your own financial well-being to ensure the well-being of others.
Volunteer service is an excellent way to give back in any number of ways with a variety of populations (e.g. children, homeless, veterans, etc.), but citizens can still be of service in their communities while making a profit. After all, if you can't take care of yourself, you won't be able to take care of anyone else.
Any memorable moments during your time in the service?
The entire experience of deploying in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom was pretty memorable. As an Engineer Equipment Operator, I was initially deployed as part of the advance party (January 2003) that was tasked with offloading heavy equipment assets (e.g. cranes, bulldozers, forklifts, graders, etc.) from the Marine Corps' MPF ships in Port Ash Shuaiba, Kuwait. However, upon arrival, we were re-tasked with delivering those assets to predetermined locations in country via motor transport convoys prior to the invasion in March 2003. At just 20 years old, it was an amazing experience getting to work with a multinational force (British, Australian, etc.) along with the Kuwaiti military and civilian truck drivers (along with my own USMC and Army counterparts) to accomplish such a formidable goal.
Another fond memory was leveling out a soccer "field" in the dirt/sand for some of the locals and third country nationals (TCNs) on Camp Commando. A friend of mine, Robert Jackson, and I used a grader and a compactor to level and smooth out the area and compact it to help keep some of the dust down while also trying to keep as much of the playing flied in place as possible.
While there was plenty of "hurry up and wait" time, it all came together in March 2003. I remember crossing the border at night as part of the first wave of the invasion in the back of a 7-ton truck wearing a MOPP suit and NVGs, rifle at the ready. The roads were deserted—no cars, no people, nothing. The landscape was pretty barren where I was at so there wasn't much to see; houses and buildings looked abandoned like something out of a movie. The experience of being caught in sandstorms, traveling through the desert, watching SCUD missiles fly overhead at night ... I wouldn't trade it for anything. Although I served just a single four year enlistment and was only deployed once, it was a truly transformative experience that has had a continual influence on my life.
The sense of pride and accomplishment after completing the Crucible is also something I'll never forget. I think everyone in my platoon had the "What did I get myself into?" thought at some point, but we all pushed forward and carried on. The Crucible was that single event that truly brought us all together to work as a collective team to accomplish a greater mission—none of the individual obstacles can be completed by an individual acting alone. That event was pivotal for me in that it instilled the confidence to confront life's challenges, large and small, knowing that I would ultimately be successful. Earning the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor device was a transforming experience and the ceremony atop the Grim Reaper was a fitting honor. The graduation ceremony at MCRD San Diego and earning the right to be called a US Marine were far more important and more impressive to me than earning my bachelor's degree at SDSU.
What are you up to these days?
I completed a double major undergrad degree at SDSU (Business Administration w/Concentration in Financial Services), summa cum laude, and I’m a semester away from completing an MSBA in Financial & Tax Planning. I also work at SDSU as the Troops To Engineers Program Coordinator where I provide career assistance to student veterans pursuing engineering and computer science degrees. I focus on working with current students to obtain paid internships and post-graduation employment, but also help with resume development, cover letter writing, etc. and connecting students with campus-based resources to further assist them with their academic and professional goals. Beyond current students, I also do outreach at local base education fairs and other events where talk with prospective students to help them understand what it takes to successfully transfer in to the university and I connect them with resources and contacts on campus who can provide further assistance. I'm also President of the Student Veteran Organization and a current board member of the Veteran Alumni Organization, both at SDSU. Life outside active duty looks great!
What drives you support veterans and their families? Why do you believe this mission is so important?
I serve as the Veteran Liaison for the Travis Manion Foundation, and my goal is to help fellow veterans realize their potential and understand their value. Veterans bring a great deal of knowledge, skills, talents, and abilities—we are a great resource—but don't always have the tools to understand our potential or articulate our value. Any branch of service is highly team-oriented and individual accomplishments are not always applauded or recognized. However, competition in the job market requires job seekers, veteran or not, to promote their accomplishments and demonstrate their value. In other cases, veterans tend to overestimate their value, so part of the drive is also to help veterans understand their strengths and challenges, and how they can leverage those strengths (e.g. articulate value), mitigate/eliminate the challenges (e.g. use educational benefits to earn certifications, degrees, etc.), and position themselves as valuable assets that provide high value to organizations that hire them.