Sophomore William Patrick joined the Marines at 18 years old in 2011. Growing up in Ohio, he always wanted to serve in the military, specifically the Marines. He had grown up around service members his whole life. His father was in the Air Force, his uncle was in the Navy, and much of his family served in the Army. Patrick was stationed in California for 10 years and went overseas twice. As a Marine, Patrick said, you typically serve overseas for seven-month bouts where you “tough it out” before returning home.
While overseas, Patrick served in Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, Thailand, Guam, UAE, Jordan, South Korea, North Korea, Gibudi (a small country in Africa), and many other places. While in combat, Patrick was a forward observer which basically means he blew stuff up and was responsible for directing artillery and close air support onto a target. When he went to South Korea his platoon trained with South Korean special forces and taught them how the US’s special forces worked and trained with them. After serving, he was a recruiter for three years or so.
Serving as a Marine and experiencing everything that he did overseas really changed his view of the world. “Careers in the military are much more than what people assume. It’s not so much black and white as the movies make it, its much more colorful,” Patrick says..
He has fond memories of serving overseas, even though much of seven months was spent sweating. One specific memory Patrick has is when they would go into towns. As a turret gunner, he would be standing at the top of the vehicle and could be seen by anyone who came to see them. Kids especially were excited to see the Marines and Patrick would throw candy to the kids and interact with them. He would play a form of Simon Says where he would hold up a rock sign, and the kids would follow, he would wave, and they would wave back, he would perform the Macarena and the kids would do the same. At one point he had a whole crowd of kids doing the Macarena with him.
One thing he does not remember fondly was the “blast panties” they had to wear while out on combat outposts. While stationed in the outposts, they only had a few pairs of this special protective underwear so they had to sparingly cycle through. Add the limited underwear supply to the extreme heat day and night, and you’re going to have a bad time.
A common misconception about the military is that you are in combat 24/7. This is not the case. Much of their time was spent sitting and waiting with aggressive sensory overload for a second before going back to sitting and waiting. Their time was not wasted, though. They would spend their time going to the gym then back to the “hooch” where they managed to watch “Pitch Perfect” at least 20 times and memorized most of the movie. They also watched “Vampire Diaries,” played cards, and “smoked and joked” to pass the time.
There was a big trading system among the Marines. The good MRE’s (Meal, Ready-to-Eat) were very valuable and if you were lucky enough to get a pack of Skittles, you had power. Skittles were “the holy grail of happiness” according to Patrick and a pack could get you a couple more hours of sleep instead of standing guard.
After deciding that he had enough, Patrick decided to go to school. Thanks to the Post 9/11 GI bill, any school he wanted to go to was covered, no matter the cost, so Patrick chose Rocky; “because of the cool buildings”. Serving in the military gave him not only the tools to learn but also the tools to succeed in life. He learned how to be disciplined, how to “embrace the suck” and most importantly how to clean your room. He came to Rocky with the intention of studying exercise science but as he is exposed to more classes and learns more that could change.
Thursday, Nov 11, marks the 83rd annual Veteran’s Day after it became a national holiday in 1938. Patrick remembers as they boarded the plane for Afghanistan a group of older vets that came up to them and thanked them for their service. He didn’t understand why they were thanking him when they gave him the freedom to choose to join the military and to not suffer the terrible wars in the way the older vets did. To Patrick, Veterans Day means respecting the ones who came before and who gave us the freedom and opportunity to choose to fight for our country and live our lives.
Patrick’s final remarks for anyone who wants to join the military are this: he rates it a 10/10 experience “but would never do it again.”