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Interview with 20 year old U.S. Marine Corps Reservist Lance Corporal KW.

KW knew upon graduation that in a few months he would be getting his high-fade and reporting for duty. Entering at 17 required parental consent, which he obtained from his mother but not his estranged Marine father whom refused to support KW’s decision to join. To circumvent this hurdle KW decided to postpone his basic training until the week after his 18th birthday.

KW completed his basic and career training in late 2010. KW was trained as an electrician; however he has not found a civilian electrician job to date. Every month, KW attends the mandated “Drill” training, in accordance with Reserve protocol He completed his first semester of his college education in Spring 2012, and plans on continuing next fall. KW currently lives with his mother in Orange County, California.

The Interview

OLT: Why did you decide to join the Marine Corps?

KW: I joined because I wanted to be a better person than my dad.

OLT: Wasn’t your father in the military as well?

KW: Yeah. I never knew him. My parents separated when I was too young to remember.

OLT: Some might see your decision to go into the military as “following in his footsteps” but I know you feel otherwise, can you explain a little about why that is?

KW: Well it was entirely my choice to join. Part of it was to be a better man like I said, and mostly because I didn’t want to have just any other job. I didn’t join because of him, being a better man than him is just a good motivation for me to work hard.

OLT: Why did you think that being in the military would make you a better person? And has it?

KW:  Well there’s a certain prestige that comes with it but I didn’t join for that really, not for other people. I guess the only way I could describe it was that I did it for myself. Because I wanted to feel like I was doing something worthwhile.

OLT: What is your favorite part of being in the military, also what is your least favorite?

KW:  I just like working. I have great friends at my job, good NCO’s. My job is pretty hands-on, plus I work with different sections. My least favorite is like any other job, because any other job will have people who annoy the hell out of you. Like with any job there’s the stupid little things that get to you.

OLT: I know you are very happy with your decision to join the Marines, but is there anything that was even slightly disenchanting for you?

KW:(He paused.) Sometimes I wish I picked another job, still in the Marines but I really wanted to be a crewman for a Light Armor Vehicle. I chose electrician instead, it’s still a good job. Sometimes I also want to work in the heavy equipment operator field.

OLT: What are your plans for the next year or so?

KW: Stay in the Marines, do my job, move near a college I want to go to.

OLT: Any ideas where you would like to go to college, or what you would like to major in?

KW: I want to get certification as an electrician first then go from there. As for college, preferably somewhere in San Diego. (Close to the base he reports too monthly.) Either UCSD or San Diego state probably.

OLT: Is there any chance that being a reservist could impact your schooling or plans for the future?

KW: Yeah, but I don’t mind. (He laughed.)

OLT: In what ways could things be impacted?

KW: Well I could have to miss a semester or two for a deployment, or put off plans for projects and home work for when I work weekends.

OLT: Did you have any fear or hesitation about joining in a time of conflict?

KW: No, I wanted to join pretty bad.

OLT: Did your financial situation have anything to do with your decision?

KW: No, but it’s always nice to have a paycheck. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with someone who joins for that reason either. I do help my family out where I can with the money I make though.

OLT: So for you the decision came down to feeling like it was the best place to be all around. It was a good source of income as well as avenue for personal growth?

KW: Yes, but I wouldn’t say I’m motivated by money. (He laughed.) Otherwise I would have worked somewhere else.

OLT: What is the most important thing you have learned in the military that you could not have learned anywhere else?

KW: You learn not to take things for granted.

OLT: How do you feel about Patriotism?

KW: I think it’s a good thing to a point, as long as people know their beliefs and even if they don’t support a war or conflict they should at least care about who’s there. If it’s something like peacekeeping it would still involve armed conflict against whoever would be instigating the conflict. Not everyone will understand either side of a war. I haven’t been to Afghanistan yet so I can’t necessarily speak on how I feel about being there.

OLT: Would you recommend that someone join the military? If so under what circumstances and why?

KW: Yes and no, someone wanting to join would really have to want it. The training isn’t easy and active duty is hard work. I didn’t choose the reserves to make it easy, I wanted to go to college as well as be a Marine.

OLT: Do you think there is a wrong reason to join?

KW: Well I think joining to try and escape your problems and responsibilities would be a wrong reason. It’s not a last resort, and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

To KW being a Marine is more than a job. It is a way of life. The personal gratification and growth offered through his military service was the most influential factor in his decision. In his eyes his military experience is the key to his success and happiness in life.

Perhaps joining the military is a good idea under the right circumstances, with clear ideas about the responsibilities and an understanding of the magnitude of the decision. For those like KW who make a plan and see the military as a part of their journey it is a lifestyle choice more than a means to an end.