In February 1986, I swore an oath that would lead to my enlistment in the Marine Corps. On September 23rd, 1986, I left on a Southwest Airlines flight bound for San Diego, CA for my final destination: Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) San Diego. It would be my home for the next 13 weeks with two stints at Camp Pendleton for rifle training and field training.
When I left, I was a soft civilian who weighed around 145 lbs. I could barely run three miles or do more than 5 pull ups. When I graduated from boot camp, I could run the three miles in 19 minutes, I could easily do 20 pull ups, and 80 sit ups within two minutes. I weighed around 138 lbs. I was in the best shape of my life up to that point.
While in the Marines, I kept up with my physical fitness until a surgery about a year prior to my discharge. That surgery had lasting complications that kept me on convalescent leave for half a year, and that led to me getting over the official height/weight standards. I left the Marines at the end of my term of enlistment with one month shy of 11 years of total active duty.
After my discharge, I continued to gain weight and become unfit. I didn’t do any exercise at all, and my weight ballooned, topping out at a whopping 312 lbs. That’s morbidly obese for someone of my short stature: I’m 5’7″ tall.
Fast forward 20 years. I decided that enough was enough. I took control of my life, my health, and my fitness. I changed my lifestyle through Whole30 and adopted the Paleo Diet. I began walking, then jogging, and finally, running. Three years later, I am still a healthy 51 year-old within the DoD height and weight regulations, and I easily pass the Army APFT.
Today, I look back at that day 32 years ago and I’m humbled by the memories of the great Marines and Soldiers I’ve had the honor of serving with. I am the man I am today in large part due to their guidance, motivation, and mentorship (and sure, maybe a few butt-chewings here and there).
People often ask me if I had to do it all over again, would I still join the Marines out of high school instead of going to college? If everything I’ve lived through, experienced, seen, and done led me to where I am today, and to who I have in my life today, then the answer is clear: I would not change a thing. It may not have been the easiest road, but it is one that got me here, and I am happy with who I am and where I am. That wouldn’t be possible without the ups and downs that got me here.