I am who I want to become.
We continue to write the chapters of our life everyday. Unfortunately, we are all writing with pens instead of pencils. Without invisible ink or erasable pens, there are some chapters we all wish we could just leave out, but why leave out a piece of your life that has made you who you are today. These are the masterpieces that have influenced us the most and excluding certain chapters might hurt instead of help someone avoid making the mistake. Why feel ashamed of something you could feel proud. I like to think that your attitude could make any mistake an opportunity to succeed.
Raised on a small tobacco farm in southern Indiana, I grew up surrounded by the value of hard work and the importance of family. Born in the very same hospital as my mother and with grandparents named Charlie-Bill and Billy-Bob, towns couldn’t come any smaller. I believe that my small-town roots have had a positive influence on my life, but ultimately I decide who I am and want I want to become. You can choose and you do have a choice.
At a young age, my sister and I moved across the country with my mother after my parents divorced. I had the unique opportunity to consistently experience new places and meet new people, but I will always call the Ohio River Valley home. Moving everywhere from Pennsylvania to Texas, my mother worked hard to give us everything she could, sacrificing to give us a better life. Following years of moving around and returning home to settle down, my mother met the man that is now my step-father. Unlike most Cinderella-step-parent stories, my stepfather was an awesome influence in my life.
My stepfather encouraged me to get involved in sports and as a result, I spent most of my high-school days wrestling and chasing girls, life was pretty simple for a testosterone-filled teenager. It wasn’t until my junior year that I began to look farther into my future.
In February 2004, I enlisted in the Indiana Army Reserve in hopes to afford the opportunity to go to college. I finished off high school at nearly the top of my class and had more than one foot in the door jumping into college, but money was always tight.
To be honest, I joined the military so that I might have a better life, to live the American dream everyone strives so hard for. Most people have some inspirational story on why they signed the dotted line, but I didn’t. As selfish as it sounds, I just wanted the chance to make something of myself, to go to school, get a job, and maybe one day settle down. I can say that I started off on a pretty good note though, getting accepted to Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.
In the fall of 2005 I enrolled in college, majoring in Philosophical Studies with an undecided minor torn between Psychology and Small Business Management. Purdue was filled with diversity, academic success, and a prestige everyone hopes to claim. In an attempt to capture a piece of that success, I pledged to become apart of the Phi Delta Theta brotherhood.
Phi Delta Theta, the Indiana Theta Chapter, was a fraternity even the man who first stepped on the moon, Neil Armstrong, saw success in. Here I met society’s future leaders and am certain I will see them again as I strive to become successful. The fraternity life taught me the importance of camaraderie and gave me business-oriented skills that I will take with me for the rest of my life.
Aside from the fraternity, I can say I always learned something new from my classes on campus. Initially, most of my classes were generalized and it wasn’t until my second year, that things started getting subject specific. Getting to study what intrigued me the most gave me hope allowed me to see a flicker of light at the end of the long tunnel.
That flicker of light was quickly snuffed out.
During my second year at Purdue, life dealt me a poker player’s nightmare, the 7-2 split. My military-tuition assistance had been denied due to lack of state funds. It turns out that the Indiana Army Reserve utilizes a pooled fund for tuition assistance with a first-come first-serve policy. I had submitted my application with ample time, but my chain-of-command failed to process the application fast enough. This left me in a few words, up the creek without a paddle.
I wasn’t about to return home and I was determined to stay independent and become successful. So I contacted my local Marine Corps recruiter out of spite. I was furious. I wanted to stick it to the Army anyway that I could. So after working with my recruiter, I found a loop hole in my contract with the Indiana Army Reserve. If I enlisted as an active-duty Marine, my reserve contract with Army was no longer valid. So on my 20th birthday I shipped to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, California beginning the long, difficult, life-changing journey of becoming a United States Marine.
I enlisted as a combat correspondent, or military journalist, and was assigned to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California as my first duty station. I began writing for Camp Pendleton’s Scout Newspaper, the same paper I write for today.
While living in the barracks in 2006, I ran into problems. I began to drink constantly and carry on without a care. As a result, I ended up in legal trouble and was demoted because of my actions. Even though it felt like the world was coming down on me, if it wasn’t for these mistakes I would have never met the women that I love and am devoted to today, my wife.
I probably wouldn’t be here today if it was for her. As a young man, we often think of marriage as a life-ending decision, a choice that prevents us from attaining all that we had once set out to accomplish.
I can say from first-hand experience that my life has been nothing but better since. We have gone through arguments and glass-breaking fights, but we are still committed to each other till death do us part. Even my lowest of lows are better than being lost in a world all alone; in a world that wouldn’t miss you for a minute and would keep turning if you were here or not. As harsh as that sounds, it just goes to show that life really isn’t fair.
Life must have spent some time on the pitcher’s mound with Greg Maddox though; with all the curve balls I have been thrown. If you asked me a year ago where I would be today, I wouldn’t have even come close to guessing right. Just recently another curve ball sliced through my strike zone when I found out my wife is pregnant. Am I ready? I never am, but you had better believe this kid is going to know how to knock even the best of Life’s pitches out of the park.
Looking back on all that you have accomplished and the choices you’ve made are something we as a fast-paced society don’t do enough. Reflecting and reestablishing yourself is a tool everyone needs to use. This reflection is what the Greeks and Romans encouraged and what Southeast Asian cultures have developed religions around. The importance of this constant reflection is apparent throughout history and helps us learn even more from the mistakes we have already made.
We can’t change the past and we can’t predict the future, but we can change how we handle our obstacles today. Every day is another chance to change your life. If I had the chance to live my life all over, I wouldn’t change a thing. My only regret is that I didn’t make the same mistakes sooner.
I have made my share of mistakes in my life, we all have, but it is the understanding that these slip-ups make us who we are. Mistakes may become smaller or less frequent, but we are all human and are going to continue making them. It is not what we have done, but what we do to overcome.
I feel like I have had a lifetime full of experiences. I don’t know everything, my wife could tell you that, but I feel like I have experienced a full helping, while asking for seconds of the harsh realities of life. They say wisdom comes with age, but no one said how old you had to be.
As my story continues to unfold today, my recent experiences with the Southwest Veteran Business Center have become the cornerstone to any and all of my recent success. After writing and posting my first chapter of this novel, I was amazed at the response and support I received across the nation. Feeling the support of veterans and families from across the nation and hearing their responses encouraged me in ways I can not explain.
Because of this support and everything that I have been so fortunate to have access to at the center, I have been able to accomplish personal goals and dreams otherwise unattainable.
After only a few months of volunteering and involvement at the center, I was introduced to Dr. Richard Cloonan, a presidential-recognized dentist, fellow SWVBRC learner, and Vietnam veteran. Dr. Cloonan had recently started a corporation with a new product he invented and needed help marketing, so without hesitation I jumped on board.
There are only a few times in our lives we have opportunities that sound to good to be true, and this was one of them. I immediately started visiting with Dr. Cloonan at his plant in hopes of not only developing a strategy, but generating profit. This is what I wanted to do someday, create my own business, learn the inner workings of a corporation and be successful.
Only months later, we developed a marketing strategy and began penetrating the market. The experiences are priceless and the knowledge is endless and all because of a little center in Fallbrook, California called the Southwest Veteran Business Resource Center.
The center has been a family away from home, a band of brothers that guiding me through thick and thin, and has been the unwavering cornerstone in a world full of devastating storms.
Answering the question, "Who am I?" is something most of us will spend our whole life figuring out. I can’t change who I was, or the mistakes I’ve made, but I can look back and try to learn something new from each mistake.
Who am I? I am a future father, a loving husband, and a United States Marine.