U.S. Marine Corps
0369 - Infantry Unit Leader
Length of Service
Did you deploy? If yes, where and in support of which operation.
Deployed 4 times. Guantanamo Bay, OEF Yokosuka, Japan: Operation Tomodachi 26th MEU UDP East
A word from Joseph
Packing up my house in preparation for yet another move. This one however, is the one that I am most nervous about. It's not PCS'ing and checking into a new unit. Its throwing everything I own into boxes and leaving the main gate one last time. As my time on Active Duty comes to an end, and I begin to piece my life together for what it will become without the Marine Corps, a lot comes to mind.
I sit here in reflection of the last nine years and how I started off in this gun club and where this journey has brought me today. It's funny though, looking through massive footlockers worth of pubs, old squad leader notebooks, and the 47,000 protractors (though I could never find them when I needed them) really bring back some memories.
I happened to stumble upon a binder from one of my previous units and inside contained 13 sheets of paper. Each one hand written by one of the Marines in my squad. They contained my expectations for them as a member of the squad and in turn I asked them to write out what their expectations were for me. This was something that I did for every squad that I "raised" during my time as a squad leader. Imagine that, 13 Privates and Lance Corporals telling a Corporal/Sergeant what they expected out of them as their leader. Interesting concept yea? I used this as a tool to see where their mindset was and in turn it taught me a lesson.
I made it a point to never forget where I came from. As I would grow through the ranks it would become increasingly more difficult and yet more important to make sure that I reminded myself of exactly that and as I read what they wrote to me it has me wondering about the kind of Marine and leader I became. Did I ever meet their expectations and did I prepare them enough for the years to come?
I'll tell you what though... No matter how many certificates you get to hang on the wall or the number of medals you mount on your chest, the most rewarding thing for me has been seeing junior Marines grow into senior leaders and progress into successful civilians. That to me is the hallmark of success, it speaks to me and reminds me that maybe there’s a chance that I was somehow a part of that. I know the answers now.
The proof is when you get asked to pin Sergeant and Staff Sergeant chevrons on their collars, and in the forms of phone calls from former Marines in my squad to say thank you for the times in the tree line, thank you for the guidance, the mentorship, that time you had to pick me up at 0200 from jail.... it’s all worth it. It really is. The only thing I look forward to hanging on my wall is the iconic mandatory squad pictures that I've collected over the years.
For all of you reading this that still have some time on contract, don't waste it. Make the most of it and do something positive. Be the leader you would want to have, and just when you think you've broken through, do it again. You owe it to the ones under your charge and you truly are molding the future and your legacy. I'll leave you with a quote that has always driven the way to interact with and train my Marines. "Never let a Marines ghost say that you failed to train him or his leader." Semper Fi.
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On the screen I saw memories of my old life, of my current life, and inspiration for a future life. Images of time in the service, images of the early days of Combat Flags and images of my family shone brightly on large, rectangular screens. A booming voice narrated, offering the story of Combat Flags, my story, to a charmed audience.
I’ve had a gnawing, grating feeling since I graduated college. This feeling I couldn’t shake. This feeling I kept pushing deep, deep down. This feeling that, to this day, creeps up on me and stops me in my tracks. This feeling is that I’ve lost my purpose.